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Sharing her inspiring story with us this month is Cassandra Harris, a mentor and angel investor in a number of tech startups, and Founder of Venturespring. Transitioning from a corporate career, Cassandra reveals that she has “never looked back” and says achieving something for yourself will always trump achieving for others.

Cassandra Harris

Venturespring is about to launch; what is this new business about? Venturespring is what it says on the tin. We are a new ‘venture development studio’ that has launched to connect startups with big business, working with brands to develop and launch new digital companies. We work with corporate incubators, accelerators and venture divisions by providing unique services and an ecosystem that every startup needs in order to build, grow and scale. We bridge the gap between the corporate and startup world by showing big brands (Nike, PayPal, Bayer, Vodafone, BBC Worldwide, Coca Cola, and more) how they can support the startup movement for mutually beneficial gains.

Can you tell us more about the start of your entrepreneurial journey? I began my career within the property and financial services industry where I specialised in technology and digital strategy. After a switch of sector to the media, I went on to join global marketing company Mindshare Worldwide, where I led Unilever’s digital strategy globally. Subsequently, I developed Mindshare Worldwide’s in-house SEO department from scratch. As well as more than tripling the size of the team, I increased search revenues by 300% in my first year, with clients including HSBC, Jaguar, Bayer, Nestle and Kraft.

While still at Mindshare I started developing an ecommerce fashion proposition alongside a business partner. Mindshare knew about this startup that I had on the side and supported it. I had always wanted to build an ecommerce platform which was what interested me in the opportunity more so than the fashion angle.

So how did you develop this interest? I raised investment into it which made me realise there might be something there and my hunger for wanting my own business drove me to make the jump out of a corporate role into the startup world which I can honestly say was one of the biggest and scariest decisions that I have had to make! A certain kudos comes with working for a large well known global company such as Mindshare and the thing that I was most afraid of was jumping into a tiny startup which nobody had ever heard of before, but my dream of setting up my own thing overpowered this fear and I made the transition.

So you said the fashion aspect was not your ideal area to work in; can you elaborate? Not long afterwards I realised that the online fashion industry just wasn’t for me. I got bored of hearing conversations in the office about the latest season trends and garments which we needed to offer customers. I was way more interested in the geeky tech side of


ecommerce platforms and online acquisition marketing, so I told my business partner with the fashion business that I wanted to pursue another venture and exited after successfully launching in the market. I used the money that I had made to invest in a couple of angel investments, one of which is Taylor Morris Eyewear, a business led by Made in Chelsea celebrity and friend, Hugo Taylor. I thought that perhaps I was more cut out for investing in fashion propositions as opposed to focusing all my energy on them.

So then what happened? In 2012, I went on to pursue two more of my own ventures, co- founding two successful start-ups including a tech education social enterprise called Free:Formers and the UK operation of a global digital creative agency called Aumcore LLC.

I worked to create Aumcore’s UK operation from scratch (they have 5 other local market offices globally but they had no presence within the UK.), bringing some of Aumcore’s biggest clients, including a number of Unilever brands and Bayer as an example and I helped to get the Free:formers business model to where it is today and also spent lots of time researching and strategically planning out and implementing how the groups tech investment fund (DeepVC) was to be structured.

So why did you leave the businesses? I left Free:Formers and Aumcore to focus on my own venture as I was becoming frustrated about working on businesses as a co- founder without at least 50% equity in those startups. I felt that my energies needed to be focused into a venture that I had a majority stake in or else it wasn’t worth the time or effort, especially since I have also been a revenue generator, bringing in the revenues into a business is one of the most important components of success and if I could do it for all these businesses then surely I could do it for one which I owned a majority stake in!

So Venturespring was launched...? Both Free:formers and Aumcore now form part of the ecosystem that my newest business Venturespring draws upon. I launched Venturespring with the support of seven other proven entrepreneurs, finance and venture capital specialists, all of whom have invested in and built digital businesses before and are experts in their field. The team is supported by a number of key advisors at businesses like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn.

Plus this business model is a culmination of my experience to date allowing me to do what I am most passionate about, i.e. allowing me to create new ventures and drive them forward, still maintaining

JULY 2014 | SYB | 65

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