For AlbionVC, investing isn’t about quick wins.
As Jane Reddin, partner, platform and talent, tells UNLEASH, the firm is all about providing “patient capital” and finding the “technologies that will make a big difference and be a positive force for good in the world”.
For Reddin, one of the standout companies in AlbionVC’s portfolio is 5Mins – a next-generation microlearning tool.
“I love that that 5Mins delivers learning in bite-sized chunks in the format which appeals to the next generation of talent, particularly early-stage talent.”
This links closely with Reddin’s role at AlbionVC – the firm doesn’t just provide capital, they see investing as “‘money and more’”, and Reddin runs the ‘more’ bit of the business.
A core part of her role is encouraging startup founders to see “human capital as a lever of growth”.
Reddin tells UNLEASH: “Hiring people is core to startup life”, but it can be tricky. Startups aren’t for everybody.
“It’s a really hot kitchen,” she says.
So, Reddin’s job is to support portfolio companies and founders to “help create certainty that you’re hiring people who genuinely thrive in startups”.
UNLEASH is thrilled to welcome Reddin as our December VC Voice to give her unique, talent-first perspective on the investment and tech landscape.
Here’s how to be a great leader: one that leads with grace, humanity and EQ.
Allie Nawrat: How did you get into investing?
Jane Reddin: Being brave is the defining feature of my career, and my life. I’ve made peace with my choice of being on a road less travelled, and I definitely had a non-linear journey to get here.
I started recruiting at the beginning of the dot-com boom in 1997. At the time, it was such a seismic amount of newness, the pace was off the charts, and everything was chaotic. But I knew I loved solving problems and that I am a good first principles thinker – the hard stuff really attracts me.
I am a linguist and a mathematician by training. I actually love the jargon in the tech world; the acronyms. Much like learning a language is about grammar and vocab, I focused on ‘learning the vocab’, and tried to break things down into equations and formulas. This helped me gain early credibility.
I kept asking questions; tonnes of them. I was curious, I wanted to learn, I didn’t care that I might look silly or like I didn’t know the answer, and it unlocked so much understanding.
Then I pocketed what I learnt, by building replicable frameworks. For 13 years, this became my toolkit, and it served me well as I honed my craft as a recruiter.
To fast forward my career, after spending time in a startup as a Talent leader, I joined Balderton Capital as one of the first three Talent Directors in Europe, for early stage. That was back in in 2012. It was a brand-new function for VCs back then and there was no precedent.
That’s another defining feature of my career; I have always chosen quite complicated problems where there’s no precedent, when it’s not really formed yet. I love creating and building things from scratch.
Those who know me know that I’m a total geek when it comes to building useful frameworks; continuously building new mental models is play to me, it’s fun, not work.
AN: What is one piece of advice you would you give your younger self?
JR: If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to trust in the general direction of travel, rather than overthink.
To trust that I’m going to gain valuable wisdom from each quest and acknowledge that the courage required to dare to take that leap of faith is a feature, not a bug.
Being agile and adaptable is vital to thrive in today’s world of work, and that requires you to understand your mindset.
To my former self, I would say pay attention to mindset because it is our ability to adapt to context which helps us achieve extraordinary results.
As important as technical skills are, understand that mindset acts as an enabler for longevity.
AN: Who inspires you – and why?
JR: Talking personally, I continuously focus on the things I want to learn, which will help me develop. I decide ‘I really want to work on X, and then I go and find role models that really inspire me’.
At the moment, the two people I check out all the time because they’ve nailed a craft that I am interested in learning are Trinny Woodall and Steven Bartlett.
I think Trinny Woodall is a phenomenal role model for entrepreneurial women – she is deeply authentic, and the way she uses content to cultivate a community is fantastic.
I love Steven Bartlett’s podcasts, [they showcase] the art of asking good questions. It goes back to learning as one of my drivers – he’s curious about what makes people tick, and how they’ve been successful. You can see and feel that he’s honing his craft, and that’s very inspiring.
A female founder who I deeply admire is called Hannah Thomson, she’s the founder and CEO of The Joy Club, a platform aimed at helping those older in life to feel joy, connect and be less lonely.
For a 30-year-old, she’s a tremendous founder – she is deeply passionate about the mission, her work ethic is off the charts. But what I most admire about her is her adaptability.
Hannah integrates new learning all the time into her belief system as a leader. I’ve never come across someone who does it as fast as she does.
AN: What makes a great startup founder? – what are the essential skills and attributes they need to be successful?
JR: We’ve built a model – a scientific model – that asks four questions:
- Will they achieve extraordinary results?
- Can they inspire and lead?
- Will they grow and change?
- And at what pace? Pace is crucial – as a founder you’re on double speed in everything you do.
Those four questions really inform our prediction of their potential to scale from being an early-stage founder into a mature leader.
Our model, called the Albion 6Cs, predicts scaling factors in founders. We are able to measure the combination of commitment, credibility, contagious conviction, collaboration, change agility and coachability.
Building on this, I would say that a founder has to have vision and focus – they need to be able to see the big picture as well as decide what to prioritize and do today. It’s like flying at multiple altitudes every day.
They need to have an element of outlier exceptionalism, something which is rare.
A big part of the role of a founder is to convince others – they need to able to make others believe that it’s possible.
In order to build a team in today’s world, they need to have EQ as well as IQ, to collaborate with others who aren’t always like them, to listen well and adapt.
They need to be prepared to learn about themselves, to be curious and get feedback. Feedback loops are one of the core tenets of a modern high-performing team.
AN: What gets you in the morning, and what keeps you at night?
JR: My work is my vocation – I plan to be immersed in founder leadership for the rest of my life.
What gets me up in the morning is joy of all the baby steps towards a bigger vision. I am at my happiest when I am behind the scenes, doing the unseen work, and helping founders be their best.
Recently, I’ve been leaning into cultivating the work life design which is right for me. Time and energy are my own limited resources and I’m learning to be a bit wiser about how I expend them.
Graham Weaver said that his mid-life crisis centered on the realization that life isn’t a dress rehearsal, and this totally resonates with me. I feel bold because of it!
What keeps me up at night is that we are on the cusp of fairly seismic shifts in the world as we know it.
AI is a massive game changer, but I am worried about the negative consequences, if its power is misused.
We’ve also passed a point of no return on climate change, and I worry about the future, especially for my teenage daughter.
But I am a huge believer that the next generation of the world’s leading organizations will combine humanity and performance.
I listen to the way my daughter’s mindset is forming, and her generation is principled. If we can encourage this voice of not just standing by, to earn a paycheck, we’ve got a shot of turning the ship.
Change happens when systems and behaviors combine – I love what Barack and Michelle Obama say – think about the ‘we’ as opposed to the ‘I’.
We need to see the bigger picture, even if it means taking a hit and subjugating our own needs in the short term.
UNLEASH | VC Voices is a monthly Editorial interview series where we profile leading investors in the HR tech and future of work space. You can catch up on November’s VC Voice here, and stay tuned to see who next month’s voice will be!
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