BUSINESS CHALLENGER Q&A: Jonny Laughton

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Jonny Laughton is owner and investor at Armada Ventures, which specialises in securing Series A to Series C funding for B2B SaaS companies in Europe.

 

How did you get to where you are today?

Early on in my career I founded Star Technology Services where I spent the best part of 10 years building the business. When I decided I needed a new challenge, I convinced the Messagelabs board to take me on as EMEA partner director for four years before leaving to take some time out. My next venture was totally left field; I teamed up with some healthcare guys and set up a new healthcare fund investing in cancer technology. After realising it wasn’t really my forte, I knew I needed to get back into the tech space where I could add some real value, so I started working on a consultancy basis with tech startups which was great but they never had any money to go and execute plans. So I put two and two together and made a few contacts in the VC space and went out to start raising money for them and advising them how to spend it. That quickly turned into fundraising, and so for the last four years, under a brand I set up called Armada Ventures, I fundraise between £1-7 million for early to mid-stage B2B SaaS companies.

 

What do you consider your biggest accomplishments to date?

Getting a small cancer fund up and running without having much clue how to do it – we managed to raise a little bit of money during in a difficult time (when the recession hit) and in a difficult sector – the business still ticks along and I’m still involved on a day-a-week basis. Since then, I think investing in fundraising and managing to get that business off the ground in addition to saying no to projects that I may not be able to deliver has been key to success – reputation is everything in a high-risk space.

 

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned over the years?

Starting a business in a sector I knew nothing about wasn’t necessarily a mistake in hindsight as it helped me get into the investment space, but at the time I had a lot of doubts. Would I do it again? It’s highly unlikely as it was very challenging. Another is get to know the teams – beyond the founder and the senior team – better before you invest. Remember, you’re fundraising for people not businesses, so look at it as a huge emotional and human process.

 

What do you think are the key things to focus on to build a truly transformational team?

It’s all about finding people with the drive, ambition, talent and vision. If you find people that complement each other and people that you can trust to get on with the job, you’ll drive the business forward.

 

Why did you use Kommol?

I’ve worked with many recruiters who don’t really listen to what you want, so often you get recommended the wrong people. But Michelle is different, she takes all the noise away. She understands you straight away and goes beyond finding people with the right qualifications and experience to find people who are going to culturally fit.