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I’ve met Alex van Someren a couple of times before in his role at the Amadeus Seed Fund, and although I’ve read his bio before his talk this evening really brought his story to life – I thought I’d share some highlights, not least because I love the title:

The harder I work, the luckier I get! 

I think this really captures something important about entrepreneurship,  Any young company needs some luck to succeed, but “luck” tends to turn up for those who are out creating opportunities.

To summarise Alex’s story very briefly:

  • A first job with Acorn doing telephone support led indirectly to selling internet security software to Larry Ellison at Oracle
  • Alex’s  brother had a chance meeting with a VC, and he and Alex used this to found nCipher
  • Turning up at a conference with no booth booked, Alex took a hotel suite in the conference hotel and grabbed people in the corridors to demo to.  A case of mistaken identity led to a pitch to Fidelity
  • Fidelity opened up connections in Netscape to allow the integration of the nCipher product
  • nCipher floated on the stock exchange at the height of the tech boom, raising £110m in cash to be used for acquisitions
  • In the crash that followed, the company lost 99% of its value, but still had its cash pile
  • They made acquisitions using the interest from the £110m, and returned the full amount to shareholders
  • After a false start where a sale was blocked under anti-monopoly rules,  the company sold to Thales.

Alex rounded up by saying he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time addressing the right problem with the right people.   As I listened, it felt pretty clear to me that  hard work and good judgement played a huge role in placing Alex in situations where luck could work its magic.  A fantastic lesson for us all!

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