LFP232 – Learning from Entrepreneurial/Business Failure, Three Case Studies w/Jovi Overo MD BAAS Unlimit

This is a very unique (sic) in the long history of the podcast in that I have finally found a guest brave enough and kind enough to talk about the experience of business failure as well as the human journey through it. Naturally the LFP focuses on proven successes if only to provide North Stars and ideas for other entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs. But in business as in life – and after all the former is simply a subset of the latter – there is much we can learn from failure, painful as it always is. Painful as it is to recount and relive being wounded and scarred this is thus a very heartfelt sharing by Jovi in order to help others avoid incurring similar wounds and scars and thus prevent human suffering – there being no higher cause.

The other challenge with such an episode is avoiding the degree of abstraction that effectively says “work hard, have a great idea and a team” blah blah. Not that any such abstractions are wrong but our lives are more real and rich experiences than any words in a dictionary or clickbait article on “6 ways to guaranteed success”.

Jovi, MD of BAAS at the formidable Fintech Unlimit – formed in 2009 and with an impressive 16 offices in 5 continents – avoids this over-abstraction challenge by taking us on the journey through three businesses – the first of which, an FS brokerage, was an astonishing success for nigh on a decade and survived the 2008 crisis.

We also reference other case studies and life lessons/experiences – both of us for example having experienced that phenomenon when a Midas Touch suddenly becomes the reverse Midas Touch and everything one touches stops turning to Gold and turns to dust.

Overall an entrepreneurial episode from a very human perspective which is easily forgotten and/or glossed over in a world where having “great tech” can take you a long way.

Topics discussed include:

  • bravery and playing American Football
  • when did American Football change from being a version of rugby to a version of riot police scrapping
  • being sued for tackling someone in rugby
  • Jovi’s career journey to becoming an entrepreneur
  • starting cold calling in a brokerage
  • taking leaps of faith
  • starting a brokerage in 2004 and going from 2 founders to over 100 brokers
  • ’06-’08 “the perfect dream”
  • surviving 2008 and pivoting
  • Jovi taking a step back to do an MBA and handing over much to his co-founder
  • around a decade after its formation risk concentration and abnormal Swiss Franc markets, counterparty failure and loss of client funds as a result
  • the impossibility of making an aircraft carrier – or business – so strong it can resist almost any circumstances and still be able to move/make a profit
  • consequently running no risks or hedging them all out will never lead to profit and likewise one cannot build a business which is incapable of being wiped out by some unforeseen turn of events – most businesses that have ever existed have ceased to exist
  • other case studies of concentration risk in various dimensions
  • Jovi’s experience of the “reverse Midas Touch” and reaction to it
  • my experience of the same and insights from a Shamanic Journey as to the “why”
  • changes in governance structure/balance leading to challenges not previously experienced
  • doubling-down
  • Magnus Carlsen and winning at poker as well as being a long time world chess champion
  • client funds failure as a regulatory failure rather than business failure
  • Keith Floyd’s restaurant failure and consequent impact of business suppliers in Bristol
  • taking failure personally or as “one of those things”
  • different people take different periods of time to reboot after failure and “get back on a horse”
  • “God’s Plan” or “pre-life plans” and life’s vicissitudes
  • sheep and goats – the sensible people and the crazy innovators as an important balance for a society to maintain
  • relating romantic relationships to business risk and direction – the need to harmonise
  • founding KeepIt in 2015 and coming #2 in an entrepreneurial contest, being accepted by TechStars and having a bank want to sign you up right away only for time to keep passing before the bank backs out and the window for the idea had slipped way
  • case study of an Indian business and fund-raising “complexities” along with life happening
  • having strength in one’s convictions crossed with the need to feed a family
  • Case Study #3 and the painful lessons from that over a year and a half (you’ll have to listen to that one for the lessons…)
  • product areas and shoutouts for Unlimit (&its rebrand from Unlimint)
  • channels to market for BAAS and the concentrated nature of the marketplace
  • looking for innovative companies to partner with re BAAS

And much much more 🙂

Share and enjoy!