Catch Up With Reece Chowdhry of RLC Ventures
Reece is a Venture capitalist, who having jumped off the Corporate gravy train that is EY to grind and build his own VC firm in 2005 at 26 years old. His firm invests in SMEs and provides support in ensuring the companies flourish and everyone’s a winner.
"Each company is individual"
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
RLC Ventures focuses on unique and wide-spread venture sectors such as property, leisure, sport, technology and media. Our approach to handling portfolio companies is specialist in that we provide them with the entire package – from operational support to strategic advice. We provide something that is invaluable – time. And we recognise that each company is individual so we tailor support to the companies’ requirements and creative ideas rather than being inflexible and unadaptable. We have taken this approach as it empowers, encourages and motivates founders to find their own style which in turn, consequently, helps investors. We recognise that you cannot run a successful business without passion and usually that comes from having an individual stamp on it. And, lastly, we often invest in ideas with a long- term approach. One thing we believe in is Berkshire Hathaway’s mentality of owning forever, which is unique in an industry that constantly looks for returns within a 3-5 year time horizon. If you want your business to be a lead innovator and change the world, then it doesn’t happen overnight. You need a strategy in place and longevity – and we help with that to ensure businesses are a long-term success and industry leader.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
Understanding your vision and purpose. The key to exceptional founders and businesses, is their understanding of where they are going and what problem they are trying to solve. A great example of this is my recent visit to Harvard University where Mark Zuckerberg gave an inspiring commencement speech. He mentioned that he was given a great offer to purchase Facebook prior to the IPO. All his management team wanted to take the offer, however it was not aligned to the Facebook vision and purpose to create a connected world. Having purpose will help you see clarity in the darkest of moments and allow you to make decisions quickly and decisively.
What’s the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
Meeting quality companies and founders at the earliest stage of their business life cycle. As you can imagine, our business is focused on seeing as many ideas and entrepreneurs as possible. Our team even have KPI’s to measure the performance of this. Great ideas and teams often get funded quickly and we want to be first to the table so we can really work with entrepreneurs to help grow their business from the seed stage.
What market techniques do you use to attract new customers?
RLC Ventures needs to ensure that start-up founders know about our brand and firm and want to work with us. We may be investing our money, but we want businesses as much as they need us. So, we sit on investor pitching panels at events like the Future of Proptech Conference to get the word out. We published article around our investment methodology and work the industry trade body UKBAA (UK Business Angels Association) which we are a part off. If you’re a fan of Dragon’s Den, we host pitch days for people looking for investments which gives us a chance to learn more about businesses out there. We also do pro-bono advising for early stage companies that may not fall into our investment remit; the most recent of which was featured on Dragons Den and received an offer from a Dragon.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
We firmly believe that you need to conquer your own market before exporting. One of our portfolio companies has global ambitions, which we will fully support once they have demonstrated traction in the UK. One step at a time – you have to walk before you can run.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
I have three:
Evernote – is my life-saver app. It does everything from scanning business cards, to saving websites on the go to taking all-important notes.
Trello – is an app our team would be lost without. It’s a simple, free app which we use for managing our team’s tasks.
Gust – helps us to manage our full due-diligence process in the Cloud.
Describe your company culture in three words ?
What would you like the government to do for small businesses?
We are very passionate about this subject given our field. The single most important thing the
government can do is to allow savers to invest directly into start-up companies via their ISA
accounts; something Neil Woodfood has proposed as well. This will allow the £259bn in cash ISA savings accounts to provide a new source of capital to start-up companies, which has been a great source of innovation in this country.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
Sunny Tuli is a man who came from nothing to build the Costa Coffee’s Ireland business from
scratch. He is a true inspiration to me.
Where do you want the business to be in three years’ time?
We want to grow our company portfolio at around four investments per year. We want to raise a large seed-stage fund to focus on helping budding entrepreneurs to achieve their ambitions.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making a profit?
The number one thing we look for is cashflow. Without an understanding of your cash burn rate and management of working capital, you will never survive your first few years, never mind achieving a profit. So, keep an eye on your cash-flow at all times!