An Oxford graduate with a degree in Mathematics, Simon Sacerdoti was one of the founders of Avalon in 1992, a multiplayer game world (RPG) in the very early days of the consumer internet. In 1997, Simon qualified as a chartered accountant, and moved into corporate finance, where he advised numerous startups during the dotcom boom. In 2011 he founded WeSwap with Jared Jesner. After a lengthy closed beta in which they ironed out many bugs and operational issues, they officially launched in July 2013, and are doing a brilliant job in disrupting the travel money sector!
Simon visited us at our office; we ate falafels and had a lovely -brief- chat where he shared some great insights from his experience in the startup world.
What made you take the decision to leave the corporate world and start your own business?
It has been a series of events, starting with me realising that the learning curve and level of challenge had flattened off in my corporate job! I took the decision to start looking around, and along the way I met Jared with whom I ended up founding WeSwap!
For me the tipping point to make the change was finding an idea and someone with complementary skills to take it forward.
WeSwap’s funding journey so far
3 Rounds of funding:
1. Backing up from family and friends.
During this stage we were presenting our idea to convince our family and friends that it is a viable one and that they should invest in us. (Tip: be blunt & honest to them. “Don’t invest if you cannot afford to lose your money!”)
2. Second round of investment came from angel funding (from the UK & the US) and contacts through networking
At this stage we proved that we can actually make it happen. We used the money that we raised to start signing partnerships and building the prototype, to build our team.
3. Third round came from some new, amazing investors and some of our old (also amazing) investors
We had a working product but still no significant revenue. We added members to our team and continued refining the product, building and adding new features.
3 advice tips to startup founders
1. Hiring: The characteristics we are looking for when recruiting are:
- Positive attitude
- Eagerness to learn
- Personal attributes
If you have these in place then relevant experience is not always important. There are agencies who specialise in placing top graduates from top universities, and WeSwap used such an agency to find several team members. Sure, it’s costly but we knew we wanted to recruit some of the brightest and most keen and they helped us achieve exactly that.
2. Open culture: encourage communication among all team members; open plan offices allow you to achieve that.
3. Structure/Procedure: Despite the loose startup culture, having some structure in place is beneficial. For instance, we use annual appraisals for all team members. The reason we do that is because it helps us collaboratively set targets and each one of us knows exactly what’s expected from them.
You can learn more about WeSwap journey here
Would you like to ask Simon anything else? Post your question below!
The enthuse.me Team :)