Founder Series : Sam Rosenberg, Avione
In the first of our student founder interview series, Barbara Jiang, our VP Growth, spoke with Samantha Rosenberg, Co-founder of Avione, about her journey into entrepreneurships. Avione, an all-female founded WealthTtech start-up, recently closed a funding round and is currently in stealth mode, with a mission to revolutionise long-term wealth creation.
Thank you for the great advice Sam!
What drove you to become an entrepreneur rather than join a company that has similar values to yours?
I think people tend to think all entrepreneurs come to this profound decision point, a distinct moment of truth where everything comes into focus and the decision to take this proverbial leap is crystal clear. But to be honest, that wasn’t my experience.
The decision to go into entrepreneurship has been a series of smaller decisions, nudges in the right direction, conversations with the right people, that have compounded over time. I think I have also been fortunate enough to be surrounded by entrepreneurs for most of my life, my father, my brother, many of my close friends... so, in many ways entrepreneurship has been normalized. It never felt like this big leap, but all happened quite gradually and organically. One day I woke up in the middle of a global pandemic, while reading for my MBA, and I was a founder.
It has certainly been the most challenging year of my life in the best way possible. I have learnt more about myself and others and the world around me than I could ever have imagined. I have met the most phenomenal people and have been so blown away by how helpful people are, especially other founders in the broader UK or London tech space. Really impressive, successful, busy founders who definitely have better things to do than speak with me. There seems to be this culture of paying it forwards and having access to that community has been a great asset.
Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work…Building a business requires giving 150% of yourself, your energy, and your mental, emotional and spiritual capacity. But I really believe as long as the love and the passion is there, the good parts will always outweigh the difficult parts.
How did you break into the UK/London founder community?
There is this idea that the startup community is quite closed off and inaccessible. I haven’t found this to be the case. I “broke into the network” by meeting one person. I met the founder of Nutmeg who was the guest lecturer in one of our entrepreneurship classes. I reached out to him outside of class and we got chatting. He introduced me to two people, who introduced me to two people, etc.
One of the key learnings I have had over the last year is “just send the email”. There are so many people out there who are willing to help you, all it takes is for you to step forward and ask for help.
Do you have recommendations for people who are weighing their options?
I think this is about how we frame this in our minds. Just the language of “weighing up our options”... when we say “weighing up our options”, in a way, that is taking away our agency. I think what it really should be about is deciding what you want out of your life and then mapping out how you are going to get there. As soon as we are using this language of “options made available to us,” it almost becomes boxes we define ourselves and our journey by. This can block us from seeing our own true potential; this mentality can ultimately hold us back. It’s not the options that are available to us. It is figuring out what you want to do and how you can get there and then doing your best to execute on that plan.
How did you meet your co-founder?
I have been incredibly fortunate in this regard. Similar to the point I just made around you meet one person who person introduces you to someone else… This is how I met Avion, my co-founder, through a mutual friend and mentor.We just hit it off instantly.
My advice is to clearly define what your personal mission is and what you are trying to achieve. Then talk to as many people as you can about your story. Someone will know someone, who will know someone, who is on your page, and this is how you find, not just your co-founder, but your team, your community, your people and your tribe. You have to put your network to work.
As someone without a tech background, what was your journey starting a company in the fintech space like?
I think tech is here and it is here to stay, and to be relevant in this world, to be relevant to today’s generation, it is likely your business will have some sort of tech element to it. This shouldn’t be a scary thing, just because you don’t have the tech expertise. It just needs to be an inherent understanding that informs how you proceed with your business, and I think that is very much how I found myself in this position. I tried not to be intimidated by the “tech” part of WealthTech, and rather focus on the “wealth” part.
How did you take on the challenge of building a digital product?
We are pre-product. We raised this round solely on a mission and a vision and now we have to go out and build it. We are a team of non-tech founders building a WealthTech business. But this is so much more than a tech platform, and we never felt our lack of tech expertise was a barrier. At the end of the day we are the custodians of our business and our mission and our idea. We can always hire for the hard skills but, as founders, what is more important is we have the skills to attract the right talent and then ensure we are leading this team to our north star.
You don’t need a fully formed idea to test the entrepreneurial waters
If people offer to help it is usually because they can, so take them up on it
As a founder you don’t have to have all the skills. You just need to be really good at at least one thing and build a team around you for the rest.
In order to take full advantage of the entrepreneurship offerings at LBS, take classes with an idea already in mind to get valuable real-time feedback.
Sam Rosenberg (MBA2021)
Sam (MBA2021) is Co-Founder and COO of a new, UK-based WealthTech business funded by leading VCs. Prior to this, Sam worked for four years as a behavioural economics consultant, specialising in the financial services industry. In her spare time, Sam also co-founded and helped run a profitable e-commerce business, manufacturing and retailing women’s swimwear in the South African market.