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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Ong

Giants in conversation: How to build a successful Unicorn

Giants in conversation: How to build a successful Unicorn

“If I don’t trust you it doesn’t matter. Everything else you show, I’m not going to invest. And the trust comes from my gut…we can call it integrity. That’s the number one thing. It’s very, very important.” – Denes Ban

Unicorns for Good (UFG) and Social Innovation Park (SIP) were delighted to kick off the first of the “Giants in Conversation” series for the year. The event took place on 8 May 2023 at BLOCK71, Singapore’s vibrant startup hotspot. Together with NUS Enterprise (Innovation for Societal Impact), we were honoured to jointly host an interactive fireside chat with the esteemed Israeli investor, Mr Denes Ban, Managing Partner of OurCrowd, who has invested in more than 15 successful unicorns.

Mr. Ban shared his expertise and insights into how he selects his potential unicorns. The session covered an array of topics, such as the essential qualities he looks for in founders and startups, the determining factors that make a business attractive to investors, and his unique perspective on the current investment landscape. A notable insight from Mr Ban was how a CEO’s role has to evolve with his company throughout its development journey. “When you start a company, the CEO, in my vocabulary, stands for Chief Evangelist Officer…You start building a team, you start growing… Now, you’ve become a Chief Everything Officer: you do everything, you have to understand everything that’s happening. Then, if you get it right…you become the Chief Executive Officer – this is perhaps the biggest jump, the most difficult thing in leadership, because now you have to let go, (and) delegate. If you’re smart enough, you bring in people better than you. That’s… difficult. You have to trust that person’s decisions. Letting go is perhaps one of the most difficult things… most companies die there because of that.” Although it seemed intuitive to allow more competent people to take over a job, Mr Ban highlighted why so many companies fail at that stage. “Statistically,, the one who founded the company would be the one to take it all the way…. But 99% of the companies die because of that; the founder doesn’t realise there was a better person for this. (For example,) I don’t have the skills. I don’t have the charisma, I don’t have what it takes to take this company public. And it’s extremely difficult to step down.” Aside from the role of a CEO, Mr Ban also mentioned his three criteria when he looks out for companies to invest in: Integrity, The Promised Land, and Capability. These provided a clear picture of what an ideal company should provide when attracting investors. “The number one thing that actually I look for is: Can I trust this guy? If I don’t trust you (nothing matters, and whatever you show,) I’m not going to invest. We can call it integrity. That’s the number one thing. It’s very, very important.” “The number two? I would define it as the Promised Land… Every investor has a different Promised Land, and it’s your job to understand what it is. What do I look for? Corporates look for strategic benefit. Angels look for different things. So think about that.” “And the third thing is …capability. (Answer these questions:) Can I deliver? Do I have what it takes to deliver to get you into the promised land?” Finally, Mr Ban stressed the importance of communicating these three elements through the art of storytelling. He maintained that it was the most effective way to build charisma and credibility when pitching. He focused on the key features of storytelling, and validators are important elements to increase the likelihood of a successful pitch. “You need to identify those validators that will make me get the same feeling as you. You need to create, give me things that make me feel comfortable…(For example,) You came from a lower-middle class family, you had the opportunities at Wall Street…You gave up that amazing six-figure salary in order to build this. That means you have real skin in the game. That’s a validator.”

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Mr Denes Ban for his invaluable contribution. We also thank all attendees for their active participation and look forward to hosting more enriching discussions as part of our ‘Giants in Conversation’ series. Unicorns for Good remains dedicated to its mission of creating a global community of conscious leaders, businesses and changemakers to create impact unicorns that provide scalable and profitable solutions to generate returns to people, planet and prosperity. We believe that businesses are a powerful force for good, and by harnessing this force, we can make significant strides towards a thriving regenerative society and world for all. Join the UFG global community of like-minded leaders, investors, philanthropists and technologists, with global partnership opportunities – sign the pledge here.



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