StartUs Presents: Four23 Management

Published on:

Nik Haidar, co-founder of the program Four23 Management, explains "active acceleration" and how it enables them to support startups throught Europe.

What is Four23 Management all about?

We believe in unleashing potential. So we provide everything a technology company needs to grow their UK and European markets. We call it “active acceleration”.

We don’t just deliver consultancy and advisory services. We provide the people, resources, planning, expertise and energy to open doors. We leverage our established networks (in internet, telcos, software, data and media companies) to give our clients a real entry into their target markets.

We get actively involved – either working alongside our clients or by working as their UK/European representation to build their brand, increase their market share and make sales for them.

What is your role at Four23 Management and how did you get involved?

I am one of the founders. We started up as a general business consultancy – helping firms with product development and go-to-market strategies. But after a couple of successful projects with teams trying to break into the UK market we knew we had found our niche. No looking back. No regrets.

Which technologies, industries or regions do you focus on?

A big part of our “value” is the existing networks and people we know after several years working in European corporations. So the main industries we can help our startups with – is getting into telcos, internet service providers, data center providers, data analysis and management, media and software companies. These are sectors where we have a lot of context and great connections. (Having said that we’ve just taken on a producer of fine wines as a client too – so we are happy to branch out!).

In terms of geography we are based in London – so the UK market is an obvious place for us to start. But we are a multi-national team, we have Italian, Russian and French speakers to hand and have networks, contacts and experience across Europe.

Tell us a bit about your programs – what can startups expect and what do you ask for in return?

The lifecycle of a startup falls into many phases. We see the real value to established startups in helping them get quicker into a target market – so we help with Market Readiness, Market Entry and Market Growth. That’s what we mean by “active acceleration”. We work with startups that have been funded and got their idea off the ground.

What can they expect? That we sit down with them and work out what areas they want to focus on, which markets – or even which customers they want to target. We agree on the level of involvement. For one Australian startup we are doing everything. Another client is relocating to London and want us to support. In return we look for a monthly retainer, share of revenues, equity stake or mix of any of these.

Why should a startup get involved with Four23 Management?

Our core values are integrity, intelligence and energy. We work on trust with everyone we work with. Without this nothing else is worth doing. We have wide industry networks that we call upon – so our startups get fast-tracked into the market and get doors opened for them. This also means, for example, we can help them hire the right team – not through a recruitment company – but from our network recommendations. We agree on a system of priorities which helps us understand who to target, in what order and how hard to push. But the key thing is this – we get involved. That’s why we tie our success absolutely to the objectives our startups have. We cannot be successful if they aren’t. We share the journey and the risk.

What do you think makes a startup successful? Which of the mentioned qualities are usually missing?

I can’t remember who it was who said this (I wish it was my theorem) – but I always use it anyway: the four pillars of value of any company are the People, the Base (customers), the Offer (product or service) and the Brand. Of these the one that is the most important for me is always – the People. Because a startup is an evolution – this is often the area that needs the most focus. Different people are good at different parts of a business’ growth. Getting that balance right is hard. One of the things we really focus on is helping our startups find the right individuals for their teams. We spend a lot of time keeping up to date with our high-calibre ex-colleagues – this is as much a value of our network as using it to build sales.

With the insane growth of acceleration programs joining the ecosystem in Europe – how do you make sure you stand out?

We don’t really worry too much about standing out. Because “active acceleration” means that we work alongside our startups – we have to be selective about how many and who we take on. Actually it can only be good that there are some many programs running – we all want there to be more successful startups.

However, the three factors that we believe help us stand out are these – (1) our acceleration is “active” because we become a part of the team (to whatever level the startup needs) (2) we are always looking to match the right people to the right startup, helping our startups build winning teams is key to their success and (3) we know that if our startups succeed we will have succeeded and there’s no better recommendation for us than that.

Which startups success stories do you have in your portfolio already?

We’ve worked with a number already. We helped an Indian mobile app provider choose the right markets to launch, we helped a med tech startup expand their customer base out of London across the UK. That was fun because we worked with their sales director to choose the areas to target and then provided their sales teams with all of the prospect data they needed to double their customer base. We’ve currently got a cyber security firm who we are helping get into some of the leading telcos and data centers across Europe.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

We are only successful if our clients are successful. It’s quite simple. Whatever their target – is our target. So for one, they wanted to know how to market into specific communities in the UK (parents, migrant communities etc.). Finding them the right partners and tools to market to these was success for them. For the med tech company who wanted to expand out of London – 400 new customers in less than 6 months was a good result. For a current client – they want us to get them into two or three major European telcos. We have a Proof of Concept already running with one of the biggest mobile operators for them and another one going in soon. So their goals are ours – and means we never lose track. It “keeps us honest” as they say in London!

If you had the chance to accept one particular startup right away, which one would it be?

That’s a great question. How do I answer it without offending all the others?! Nice challenge. Let me put it this way – as already mentioned, we evaluate the clients we work with on the four pillars of value – people, base, offer and brand. Of these – having the right people is always the most important. So a startup where the founders know what they want – and want partners like us (who are happy to jump into the battle with them) – that’s the right thing. Just as an example – we were approached by some producers of high quality fine wines – they know nothing about the UK market (and to be honest we know nothing about fine wine) – but we all got on really well – so we’re going to give it a go! Does that answer the question??

If there is one thing you can wish for improving the European startup ecosystem, what would it be?

The EU funding programs (e.g. Horizon2020) offer some very good incentives to European startups. The processes though are very onerous. On the one hand you can understand that the due diligence needs to be high. But on the other hand, entrepreneurs need everything to move quickly and these processes (the whole applications and approval procedure) certainly aren’t quick. Last year we were helping a client make an application. In the end they decided to stop because the timeframes for the potential funding were so long and drawn out that it started to become a short-term drain on resource with a potential prize too far away in the future to be of value.

What should an entrepreneur look for when choosing a partner to help them break into a new market?

First your entrepreneur must know what they want to achieve in that market. Their market-entry partner must ask them in detail about what this is. If the potential partner starts telling them about how great they are – without first asking the right questions, then alarm bells should ring. They should also ask in detail about the breadth and depth of the network that their potential partner has in the target market – who, how long, where, which areas, which companies, what level, how well they understand the the technology. The right network is critical. And it helps if you like the people you are working with too, of course!

What advice would you give entrepreneurs for their startup?

I read this quote the other day – “People always overestimate what they can achieve in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years”. There is a lot in that for startup founders. Both in my corporate life and in my work with entrepreneurs I see all too often the disparity between the first year business case and the on the ground reality. Getting traction in the market is hard. You have to be disciplined in your focus, open-minded in learning lessons and resilient in outlook. Always. But most of all – love what you do!


work in progress...

work in progress…



Sharing is caring so please share this post. Thank you!