Mark Maloney on Balanced Success

In his latest interview for Techboard Robin Block from MitchelLake speaks with Mark Maloney, investor, advisor and entrepreneur. Mark is one of many high profile presenters who will be speaking at the upcoming Startup Investing Conference series brought to you by our friends at Capital Pitch in Sydney on 12 September and in Melbourne on 12 October. Read more about the Conference below.

Mark Maloney is an investor, advisor and entrepreneur. He spent 15 years working for Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan before becoming CEO & Managing Director of The MAC — a mining services group founded by his father in 1996. Under Mark’s stewardship, the firm grew to be the 150th largest on the ASX.

“I grew up in an extremely entrepreneurial environment. I witnessed my father go through the ups, downs and near bankruptcies of building businesses. I think I am lucky to have had those experiences as a kid because they gave me a head start. But, the road I have taken is not easy. I found in myself something I see in a lot of entrepreneurs — a desire to obtain significance behind the initial drive to build a business. Although you wouldn’t know it at the time, many entrepreneurs suffer from low self-esteem. I was looking for significance through achievement and wealth creation. That same thing that can create you, can burn you down in the end. If you are only driven by that ‘significance’, you end up taking bigger and bigger bets. I have seen that destroy people — it took me to pretty dark places myself.”    

Since 2011, Mark has pursued entrepreneurial investment, founding Intrepic in 2013. Mark has developed an investment strategy around well-being through which he aims to equip start-ups and entrepreneurs not only with funding, but with a psychological approach to business that empowers them for the long-haul. At the start of 2017, Mark invested in CapitalPitch — a company looking to change the way series A fundraising functions. Robin Block sat down with Mark to understand his philosophical approach to business and how his partnership with CapitalPitch is changing start-up culture in Australia.

Robin: Can you summarise your business philosophy — what are you working to achieve with Intrepic?

Mark: My catchphrase is ‘co-creating change.’ I am a big believer in the idea that change is achieved through collaboration. I like to describe Intrepic as entrepreneurs backing other entrepreneurs. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of earned experience. I think that there is an obligation to pay it forward and give back.

I believe that there is a scale that entrepreneurs sit on. On one end, you have ‘significance’ — profits and traditional success — and on the other, you have contribution and passion. You don’t want to be at the two extremes. Three-quarters contribution and one-quarter significance is the balance that has allowed me to continue to be successful, but also be happy with who I am and whole as a person. I think that the same qualities that are needed to be a successful leader or entrepreneur are exaggerated versions of what one needs to lead a good life. That was something it took me years to discover — pushing myself 7 days a week, 20 hours a day, but still not finding meaning or satisfaction in what I was doing.   

Mentorship is a substantial part of Intrepic, and is something I view as important to success. As a CEO, you end up stuck in the middle between your Board and investors on one side, and your management team on the other. There is a lot of stuff that you don’t want to discuss with either side and the key decisions fall squarely on you. I don’t think the use of the word mentorship is really accepted or embraced in Australia, particularly if you compare it to the US. It’s probably easier to sneak in the concept by calling it ‘an advisor.’ A lot of time a mentor is just someone to listen and reflect with more clarity what needs to be done. However, it can be hugely helpful. It is an outlet to which I attribute much of my success

I strongly believe that 80% of success comes from mindset. Having skills in marketing, finance or engineering are all important — but, they aren’t that hard to come by. What really makes the difference is being able to chart the ups and downs of that journey. I think where I can make a big difference for people is in coaching and mentoring. Most businesses fail. Getting the emotional psychology right gives you a much better chance.

Intrepic is my private advisory and investment firm. I try and keep about 9 or 10 reasonably big bets out there at any one time. That level of commitment takes an enormous amount of personal time and energy. I look for companies and people that I can really get behind. I look for businesses that contribute and make a difference.

Robin: Given that approach, your decision to invest in CapitalPitch must have come with some thought attached — what is your vision for that company?

Mark: I originally looked at the CapitalPitch platform because I was being overrun with people looking for funding. I had maybe 50 deals a week coming across my desk — I didn’t have time to even look at that many proposals. What drew me to CapitalPitch was their filtration system. It goes into a computer first, runs through a set of criteria and produces a list of suggestions. I think CapitalPitch has the potential to fundamentally change the way V.C. works for series A and pre-series A funding.

On a personal level, I like what they are trying to do. The biggest problem for most entrepreneurs is having the capital to exist. Jeremy and Emlyn are really working to solve that problem — but not just by handing out cash. They are overlaying an educational component. They work to get the start-ups they invest in ready for the next stage of funding. They want to give back just as much as they want to achieve significance. Through working with them, I felt I could expand a lot of what I was trying to do with Intrepic to the smaller end of the market and to a wider audience.

The most exciting thing about CapitalPitch, however, is the SaaS platform — this is what will add real value in the years to come. On the most basic level, this is the filtration process I mentioned. However, they are also working to solve one of the largest challenges investors face with small private companies — having regular access to account tracking — by accessing accounting reports through links with Xero. I think CapitalPitch is itself in a position to become the Xero of fundraising and capital provision by linking incubators and other funds together in an online ecosystem just as Xero has approached accountancy firms. CapitalPitch is already in discussions with ostensibly competing funds about using their filtration platform, educational services and tracking/managing systems.  

Robin: What’s next — what are you currently excited about?

Mark: In many ways, the whole tech-space is new to me. I have come to understand that it is essential. It’s important to look at how many people have missed the boat on big change. How the internet has impacted the media sector, for example. Denial turns straight into baffled confusion. More has changed in the last year than the last ten. If you are an entrepreneur, you can’t ignore that space because technology is where so much of the value creation is going to be. Changes that are happening now, ranging from V.R., A.I. and driverless cars, to subjects about which there is greater scepticism including blockchain, crypto currencies and commercial space travel — these are all things that are all going to be integral parts of our lives in the next few decades. Is going to live on the Moon or Mars really all that different than Captain Cook coming to Australia 250 years ago?

The question we need to be asking is what is the most sensible way to play this out without ripping up a whole load of money in the meantime? Blockchain, particularly, is something that I don’t feel I entirely understand — but I intend on putting some serious time aside before the end of the year to thoroughly wrap my head around that. It is something that must be done because it is going to be a major part of the landscape.

My goal and passion, however, is the concept I call ‘high-performance entrepreneurship.’ This comes back to the psychological and emotional balance that I have discussed. The more dynamic the world becomes, and the faster change takes place, the more important it is to be at the top of your game. My view is that the entrepreneur is really no different to an athlete — or any other high-performance individual. You need to be in that perfect body/mind/soul state, otherwise you are just going to get chewed up and spit out. This means being physically fit, on top of any psychological or addiction issues and in a state of stability, but still comfortable with uncertainty. You need to have an abundant mindset. I want to expand the advisory and education business of Intrepic around that, along with continuing my investment portfolio focusing on businesses that do good and that I believe in.

Read More Techboard Interviews

Startup Investing Conference

CapitalPitch, a venture capital startup dedicated to connecting great founders with sophisticated investors, is hosting two Startup Investing Conferences, taking place in Sydney on the 12th of September, and Melbourne on the 12th of October.

This event will feature elite networking opportunities and exclusive presentations from professional investors such as Elaine Stead (Blue Sky) and Mark Maloney (Tulla), and technology industry leaders including Sam Cawthorn (Speakers Institute) and Catriona Wallace (Flamingo).

Put simply, this is going to be an unmissable day, that will give you an unfair advantage. There are only a very limited number of tickets still available. Book your tickets now to avoid missing out, as these conferences WILL SELL OUT.

Book your tickets NOW