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 ate some steaks at Grill 23 near 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 ton of money as a bridge player, Buyer of art & backer of racehorses.

Bela told me 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 sceptical 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.

Looking back, I realise that this did teach me a valuable lesson; to be more open-minded about start-up ideas.

Since then, most of the start-ups or early-stage companies I have worked at have been successful and proliferated, sometimes by 2 or 3 times a year.

One of them, Visual IQ, 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 $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 while studying for my MBA