This story illustrates a couple of interesting strategic moves that have resulted in growth acceleration for Velocify. These kinds of strategic moves are critical to the evolution of a business.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What’s the back story of Velocify?
Nick Hedges: I was born in England where I lived for 30 years. I would say that I was expected to be a banker when I grew up. My father was a successful banker and his father was also a banker. I really disappointed my parents by going into the advertising industry after college. I went to Manchester University and graduated Valedictorian from school. I decided that I wanted to do something more creative than banking. I went into advertising and worked for Ogilvy & Mather for a couple of years. I enjoyed that but found it a bit limiting.
I was super interested in technology. I worked on the Ford account and one of the things that I got to do because no one else at that time cared about it was work with the Internet property—the ford.com domain. Most people in the agency at that time thought that Internet was just this experiment and really wouldn’t account for much in the advertising world. I got fascinated in technology but I didn’t do a Computer Science degree. I needed to understand technology better. I went to a company called Andersen Consulting and spent a couple of years learning about technology. I ended up setting up the e-procurement Centre of Excellence in London. This was in the late 90s.
I decided that I had an entrepreneurial itch that I had to scratch and wanted to do something with the knowledge that I had gained. I met a gentleman who was, arguably, the most successful hedge fund manager in Europe. His hobby was buying tea, rubber, and coffee estates around the world. In his portfolio, he was investing a lot in what we call dot-coms today. The combination of his interest which was buying these plantations and his growing knowledge of the Internet made him start to question whether or not he couldn’t create a more efficient market using the Internet for soft commodities that didn’t have a futures exchange.
I was introduced to him by a Partner of Andersen Consulting to see if there was an engagement in these ideas. It wasn’t really an engagement for Andersen Consulting but I told him that I’d love to come and help him do that. He gave me a large sum of money on day one to set this Internet marketplace up. We called it eteatrade. It was a soft commodity exchange primarily for the tea industry and we were trying to revolutionise the tea industry.
Sramana Mitra: What year was this happening?
Nick Hedges: We started at the beginning of 2000 and I ran it until 2003.