Business In:Brief with Will Richardson (Giant Leap Fund)
Managing Partner of Giant Leap Fund, 2016 - present
Will Richardson is the managing director and co-founder of Giant Leap Fund, Australia's first venture capital fund dedicated to investing in impact-driven startups, or "startups as a force for good". Giant Leap Fund are 100% dedicated to investing in companies that combine profit-driven initiatives with positive changes such as sustainable living, mental and physical health and wellbeing and empowering people socially and within education.
Giant Leap Fund work with a number of well-known businesses including Sendle, Switch, Your Grocer and many more.
From his dedication to his work-life balance to his advice on starting from the bottom - Will has some fascinating takes on what it means to make it in his line of work, maintaining your ethics and making a positive impact in the world.
What was your first job?
In the mailroom at an accounting firm while I was studying commerce at University. Repetition isn't something I love so I moved to investments after about a year.
One of the most important things I did observe was how people treated administration staff compared to how they would treat clients or their peers. In many cases, the way people acted was stark and confronting.
Funny story: The one person who I remember from those days as being warm, friendly and equitable towards everyone now works at the same firm that I do. It took almost two decades to be reunited. His name is Jeremy Burke and is Head of Product and Strategy at Impact Investment Group -- the parent company of Giant Leap Fund.
What's your proudest achievement?
I have a few.
Family: Marrying my high school sweetheart and being a parent to two beautiful, healthy and joyful kids.
Work: Co-founding Giant Leap Fund in 2016 with Amanda Goodman, Adam Milgrom, Kylie Charlton and Peter Cameron. Giant Leap is Australia's first 100% impact VC fund. We seek to demonstrate incorporating impact into early-stage VC is good business.
What's something that you have learned in business that took you by surprise?
We all face self-doubt and doubt of others. I have found action to be one of the greatest cures to my own self-doubt.
Along this line, one of the big lessons I learned through working in the emerging market of impact investing for nearly seven years is that clarity is the child of courage. I used to think it was the other way around.
How do you plan on growing your business in the near future?
Doubling down on community: founders, investors, other Impact VC's and the ecosystem more broadly.
Our vision is to help create a generative, thriving ecosystem for early-stage founders creating innovative solutions and businesses to global social and environmental problems.
This is different to the approach of many. It can be hard at times as it requires an externally collaborative approach which can be in conflict with a competitive landscape.
We know Impact VC growing in Australia. While we're the first, we won't be the last. Personally, I'm learning about moving toward an abundance mindset from a traditional scarcity mindset which is common when founding new things.
I have taken a lot from Adam Grant's book Give and Take on this topic. I will clumsily paraphrase it: Essentially he suggests giving not taking as a truer path to success, as it lends itself to a positive outlook.
Giving more will hopefully encourage others to want to see you succeed. Also, by giving you develop bigger and deeper networks and become a better pattern matcher.
So my sermon is to be generous with relationships, help others without expectation. It feels good.
What other business leader do you most admire and why?
My mentor Peter Cameron for a multitude of reasons. Not limited to these attributes I admire:
His humility amidst success. Pete has had some great success but everyone who meets him remarks on how humble he is – this manifests at times into this semblance of calm. You can sit with Pete and he listens and gives incredible advice but his presence just exudes calm.
His continual learning. Pete is the busiest semi-retired guy I know. He still goes to conferences and workshops and furiously takes notes. He never rests on his laurels but also isn't learning to just be better or good enough rather a love of learning. A love of life.
His generosity of belief in others. Pete has an endless stream of incredible people looking to buy him coffee and lunch for his advice. His wisdom is a magnet to attract remarkable people wanting to work collaborate or simply hang out with him. We are also drawn to Pete because he is generous with his belief in others.
So find a mentor you can implicitly trust to help guide you. you will need different mentors for different stages of your life. Then once you have learned stuff, become a mentor to others.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
I found Patrick Lencioni's book The Advantage really important because work plays such an important role in the identity of people and their mental health. I feel leaders have a responsibility to create unification.
Practically that means having and articulating the dream for the company or organisation, communicating it clearly to people to give staff a tolerable level of ambiguity and empowering people to succeed. Doing this helps remove uncertainty and politics which can create toxic workplaces.
What advice would you pass on to someone starting out in your area?
I believe in beginning on the ground floor.
Do crappy jobs. You can best learn about a system from an entry-level role. This also allows you to ask questions you perceive may be dumb without blowback as people are forgiving of beginners.
Working up the chain means you are also more likely to understand a product or service intimately and its customer needs. It is also a reminder of how there are smart incredible people everywhere and in roles that aren't necessarily high status or profile.
Finally, don't be afraid to start again. Working from the ground-up, you'll have a good idea as to when you've mastered a new skill. That's the time to reset.
At some point, we all need to become beginners again and that means being willing to look foolish. It's hard but that's a potential ingredient into a life well-lived and one without regrets.
Business In:Brief is a regular interview feature that profiles a notable business leader each month. It is also included as part of our business newsletter, which you can sign up for below.