Monday, February 08, 2016

Dinner with the founder of Justgiving



Bela Hatvany was in town, He comes to Boston a lot since He has family and Business interests here as well as some history (although He now lives in the South of France). So we grabbed some Tapas at Tappeo on Newbury Street, where I used to live when I was taking my MBA. He's a fascinating guy. His dad lost his fortune in Hungary during the war. So He came to England & made another fortune as a bridge player, Buyer of art & backer of racehorses.

Anyhow Bela said that He was treating me as my dad bought him & his wife dinner at the Belvedere restaurant in Holland Park, London, last week. Bela told me a great story about when He was at Harvard Business School. He was asked by IBM to complete a data/software project at the end of the first year of his MBA.

IBM told him it would take 14 software programmers a year to complete. Bela explained that He figured out a way to do it much quicker - He actually completed the project alone, & in only 12 weeks. After that, he was in quite a lot of demand.

 Here's one of his other companies, Silverplatter, which He sold to Wolters Kluwer for $113 Million in 2000. These days He invests in a whole host of new companies, such as Justgiving, which has grown immensely as a business.

I remember clearly Bela telling me about his idea to set up this online giving site back in 2000. I was more than a bit skeptical at the time since the internet was still at quite an embryonic stage. However, his idea was spot on and they got first mover advantage in the market so everyone knows the Justgiving brand now.

It's now quite a few years since We met up in Boston and I actually had lunch with Bela in Holland Park recently. However, looking back, I realize that this did teach me a valuable lesson; to be more open-minded about start-up ideas. All the start-ups or early stage companies I have worked at have been successful and grown quickly, sometimes by 2 or 3 times in a year. One of them was acquired by a Multi-national, Nielsen. Another, Zscaler, the cyber security company, just had an IPO which now gives the company a Market Cap of $3.5 Billion

Bela Hatvany recently sold Just Giving for £95 Million. Now that's not a bad deal for a company Bela set up as a project after he had 'retired', to do some good in the world!

Newbury Street, in Boston's 'Back Bay', where I lived whilst studying for my MBA




















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