Entrepreneur Rhys Jones’ life-long approach to tech investment opportunities has been to swerve them like ‘chuggers and survey takers on the high street’.
He’s the CEO of Davidson Gray and a popular vlogger and is regularly approached on LinkedIn to invest in businesses.
Until now he’s always resisted but he’s just made his first investment in HR tech startup Candidly at the age of 53 and says he couldn’t be happier.
Jones told BusinessCloud he was persuaded to invest by the quality of Candidly’s co-founders Alexandra Slater and Hannah Peet and the game-changing nature of their business.
Candidly’s all-in-one recruitment platform cuts through the time-consuming processes to guide clients through the whole hiring process.
Jones’ previous approach to investment opportunities has been to say ‘no’.
He said: “I know enough to know investing in tech startups is a minefield unless you know what you’re doing. My previous non exec once said ‘stick to your knitting’.
“A lot of money can be made in recruitment and I’m very good at it, so why go into a very high risk market I know nothing about?
“My opinion of the risk was based on the very high level of failed tech startups. Valuations are often subjective and a great idea can easily be lost to someone with more money and experience, mirroring your concept (and) stealing the market. I could go on, but it just seemed a no brainer to steer clear.”
However he changed the habit of a lifetime by investing in HR tech startup Candidly, which was founded by Alexandra Slater and Hannah Peet.
He said: “The first call with Hannah I found extremely reassuring. I went into it thinking ‘I’m not really interested, it’s a tech startup, but what have I got to lose? I was a very tough audience.
“However Hannah showed she is absolutely first class in presenting and overcoming objections during a proper grilling from me.
“This product is a big ticket sell as its direct to HR software companies so I needed to see some very high level skills in overcoming sceptical C level buyers.
“As I’m from a recruitment background I could see very quickly Candidly solves a very big headache for companies needing to hire great talent.”
Jones said he was also reassured by finding out who else had invested in the startup, some of whom he knew.
“I spoke to a few direct and the fact they invested in round one and two so that helped a lot,” he said.
“The icing on the cake was the valuation was still at the round two stage yet they’d literally just secured their first major deal, that took a lot of the risk out of the investment and sealed the deal for me.”
Jones said the co-founders Slater and Peet were ‘key’ to his decision to invest.
“Hannah and Alex have a proven track record in both recruitment and scaling successful businesses to the point of sale,” he said. “They have the resilience required to grow a business in a tough market, and also have a very clear plan on exactly what they need to do to succeed.
“As one of my previous businesses was an executive headhunting business I’ve interviewed loads of senior executives so I know what talent looks like, and both Alex and Hannah are insanely bright, talented and immensely driven.
“Candidly has an enormous opportunity right now and is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the changes within the HR tech industry.”
Jones hasn’t revealed the exact size of his investment and describes himself as a ‘second round investor’.
“I’m happy to remain silent,” he said. “However if either Hannah or Alex feel I can add value or insight I would be more than happy to help. Knowing the level of the other investors they have access to on an advisory capacity I doubt I’ll be needed.”
Jones said he wouldn’t be surprised to invest in other tech businesses.
“This was a great learning exercise for me so now I have set a tight criteria,” he said. “I need to have some insight into the sector, be impressed with whoever is on the cap table and really buy into the founders. These three are non-negotiable.”
Peet praised Jones’ ‘straight-talking advice and huge insight’.
Jones vlogs on growing businesses, with the focus on the recruitment sector. His channel is called ‘The Recruitment Podcast with Rhys Jones’.
Jones’ previous businesses have included Elliot Marsh and Executive Headhunters, which he sold in 2014.