Startup Focus – Stuart Minnaar

Full name:
Stuart Minnaar

IE program & graduation year:
IMBA 2017

What is the name of the company?
Fundie Ventures – an impact investment consultancy

What inspired you to start the company?
Being so fortunate to do an MBA at one Europe’s top-ranked business school I felt a sense of responsibility to actively influence the growth of next-generation companies, while they are still in their startup phase. I wanted to do something practical and relevant about shifting the way we use business as a vehicle to create value. I wanted to make sure that it had an element of
legacy so that it will exist beyond my time as being a student. I didn’t just to be part verbal analysis during MBA lectures of how business and corporates “should” be.

Business schools groom the future business leaders, which meant that my fellow MBA candidate would one day go on to be in influential and leadership positions in companies. I wanted to focus on impact investment and have conversations about the role business plays in society and the impact it has on the environment was (and still is) very important to me. I think it is important that future business leaders are aware of the unintended consequences when business leaders make
decisions. This starts in the lecture rooms.

How do you make sure you maintain a good work/life balance?
I have recently become a father in a few weeks time, so I don’t really think that I have that luxury. The only thing that really grounds me when I feel overloaded, is spending 15min with a dog and physically sitting on the ground. They have a really calming effect and it gives me a chance to get perspective of what is really important. No email or meeting is too important!! I am yet to have a dog of my own, so for now, everyone else’s dog is mine.

How did IE prepare you for your new business venture?
Definitely being surrounded by like-minded people with diverse backgrounds. I came to IE as an entrepreneur. I don’t have much of a corporate background. One of the main reasons for me wanting to do an MBA was to learn (or at least be exposed to) the skills that corporate experience gives you, that the startup world can’t teach. What I learnt is that I under-estimated how valuable real, pure and raw entrepreneurial skills are in any context. It made me appreciate the personal growth that came from the challenging times I went through when I had a startup. There were a few things that I learnt during MBA that I had to unlearn, like the aggressiveness that sometimes comes with needing to ‘win’ in business, and that the pursuit of profit is sometimes at the expense of people or planet.

The key takeaways that really prepared me is:

– The importance of understanding the macro and micro details of financial statements and how this is the foundation for key decision making. It is the backbone of any business. Prior to doing the MBA, finances was always someone else’s job. Now, I appreciate that I know how to unpack financial statements to understand where the gaps are in a business
– The importance of your team and how much of a positive difference it makes to have really diverse thinkers on your team. There are times when I am stuck in my own echo chamber and use that as a justification for my decisions. Just have a team member to challenge this is vital. The diversity can purely be gender too.

What do you like most about running your own business?
The people. Seeing the team members take initiative and create something that is absolutely needed, but far beyond what my limited capacity allows me to do. I love those moments, it gives me the reassurance than what we are doing is bigger that who we are.

What tip would you give to fellow alumni who are about to launch a startup?
Persistence pays! Keep going, even if the situation looks unpromising (there will be hordes of those), just keep going. In each situation is there to teach us something. A ‘no’ does not only mean a no! It also means: there is another way to get there and that this ‘NO’ is only one ‘NO’ closer to the ‘YES’. And tap into the alumni network, it becomes really handy in times of need.
To find out more about what Stuart is doing or to reach out, please visit his website.

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