Interview with a Multi-Tasking Female Investor, Entrepreneur and Mentor

Jo GoodsonAs a business hero in her own right, she founded two companies and sold one, she invested in four other companies, she is non-executive director in various companies, such as Six to Start and First Flight (Placements); she has been managing director of the company that acquired her venture, and she had an interim COO role with Ariadne Capital of female internet hero Julie Meyer.

Jo Goodson is the real multitasking business women and mentor in The NextWomen mentoring programme.
In this interview, she talks about the various roles, the business plan she sees, the companies she advises, about the support of Business Link, and also about women looking for funding for their business and women investing in startups.

In general, I  feel that where possible, it is good to create as much value in the business as possible before looking for external investment otherwise as the entrepreneur you end up giving away a huge chunk of the equity at the outset.

Entrepreneur, Non-Executive Director,  Consultant, Investor, MD, Interim Manager... You have had many roles, what are the pro's and con's for each role?

I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the roles I have had and they have suited different stages in my life. When I ran Broderbund’s European Sales and set up MediaGold I was so driven to build those businesses and enjoyed the long hours and extensive travel.

Now, whilst there are some frustrations in the Non-Executive, mentoring and Investor/Advisory roles that you are not totally in the driving seat, the compensation for that is that it is easier to step back and find a work/life balance whilst still contributing to the growth and success of other businesses.

Although they appear very different roles, my approach for each of them has always been the same ….I have always become really actively involved in the companies I am working for and tried to pull everyone in the same direction…..

What always amazes me is how similar companies are when you get below the surface. They may be offering very different services, making or selling different things but the fundamental business principles are the same.

And what is your best skill?

I think if I had to choose one skill in the role I find myself in today, it would be my ability to cross the boundary from detail to strategy easily.

It is easy to get carried away with strategy or bogged down in detail (particularly in the finances) but the key is balancing these and helping the management teams of the companies I work with to do the same.

How do you work as an Investor?

Often, but not always, as an Investor, I will take a Non-Executive or Advisory role in the investee company so that I am able to manage my investment a little more closely and give help where required.

How many business plan do you see, and what are the criteria to invest for you?

I see maybe 2 to 3 business plans per month and they tend to be in the software/technology/entertainment space as I feel more comfortable investing in areas where I have expertise.

The real key for me, ahead of the plan and the numbers, is the people. Once I have met them and been convinced by them, I would then do a detailed due diligence on the company before putting any money in.

I will stay connected post-investment where I feel it has some value for me or the company.

With how much money?

I tend to look at smaller investments across a number of businesses rather than large single investments.

Did you already invest? Why and in whom? And what do you do with these companies after you invest?

I can't really say who I have invested in as we've agreed to keep it under wraps for now.

As far as what type of entrepreneurs I invest in, it has to be in people I would trust and could work with, but it also has to be entrepreneurs who want more than a lifestyle business...who really truly have an exit strategy at the outset and structure their businesses accordingly.

Most of my investments to date have come via contacts in the industry.

There are a number of reasons for investing. One investment I made because I believed in the business but also because it opened up a network of people for me who I knew could bring other opportunities my way.

Often the best opportunities come through contacts rather than through more traditional channels. The latest investment, however, was in a very young, high growth, exciting company in a very ‘hot’ space.

Do you see many women entrepreneurs asking for your money? Why?

I have seen a few women entrepreneurs but not as many as I would like and not in the technology area. I don’t think women traditionally have as much confidence in their ideas and ability to raise money but that does seem to be changing. The Astia Program and the work you are doing at NextWomen should really help to bring more women through.

How would you stimulate more women to become investors?

Women are more cautious investors and I think it would be very interesting to find a group of like-minded women who could look at investments as a group and bounce ideas off one another rather than operating in isolation.

It could be that such groups exist but I have yet to come across them. Perhaps that’s a project………The NextWomen Angel Investment Group!

You are starting again as entrepreneur, what do you know now that you did not know then?. And what do you do with that knowledge? Starting bootstrapped or with outside investors?

In general, I  feel that where possible, it is good to create as much value in the business as possible before looking for external investment otherwise as the entrepreneur you end up giving away a huge chunk of the equity at the outset. If you do need to get external investment early then I would recommend an investor who the 3 most important things:

An investor who has good connections and can also add huge value to your business as well as contribute cash.

What do you think about that the government wants to stop Business Link?

I think it is a shame they are going to cut this as it is always very difficult to find financing at the very outset. I raised my first money from Business Link and whilst it wasn’t very much, the free legal and accountancy advice they gave me really helped me on my way at a crucial time.

What does it mean for women entrepreneurs?

I think the government generally needs to look at how they encourage more female entrepreneurs in high growth areas and get more women involved on the Boards of existing businesses.

As a mentor, what do you teach/advise the entrepreneurs the most?

That everything is possible and every hurdle can be overcome with drive and determination!

And who is your mentor?

I have come across a couple of individuals over the years who I have worked closely with and have learnt an enormous amount from. It would be difficult to name one. I am happy to say that one of them was a woman!

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