Freespee

Anne de Kerckhove: How I Maintain Balance In Business

hackathon 2018

Anne de Kerckhove_Freespee CEOOur CEO, Anne de Kerckhove, shares her thoughts on growing a business with multiple teams in different countries and striking a balance despite geographical distance.


Managing teams remotely across borders

This is an exciting time for team building. Thanks to the accessibility provided by modern technology, we as a global community feel closer than ever. In business, communication with multiple teams across borders is commonplace and has changed the way we share ideas. While the management of cross-cultural teams comes with its challenges, keeping our core values consistent across all continents maintains unity and a common sense of purpose.

Beyond this, it’s important to remember that every office has its own culture and way of operating and these differences should be embraced and celebrated.

One way to bring it all together across locations is weekly touchpoints, on top of all the emails, Slack channels and other virtual tools. At Freespee we hold weekly video conference calls called “All Hands” where each European office dials in and share their achievements, successes and plans for the future and have a good laugh.

A love for travel and openness to movement is also essential to managing outside of email and chat. Team-facing meetings are great for morale and at times key decisions are better made and understood 1:1. We meet in person often and that will never be compromised.

Diversity

Gender and background diversity has been a major driving force throughout my career to date and I hope to continue to actively encourage women to join boards, and help both men and women from all backgrounds to develop the skills needed to succeed in fair and equal environments.

As a leader in tech, I believe that to make things change, you must start from within and lead by example. Only then can you really make an impact.

Maintaining a north star

Enterprises like ours are made of moving parts. In the technology ecosystem, development is lightning fast and ideas are constantly exchanged and implemented. Maintaining a north star amid this change is how we keep our feet on the ground.

The north star metric, first established in Silicon Valley, is essential to our long-term growth and is arguably the single most important aspect of any business’ growth model. For Freespee, our north star is “powering great conversations.”

Every aspect of what we do is in reverence to this common goal. How do we make every moment of a conversation valuable for both brand and consumer? This focus on value is what drives the creation of new features, the rejuvenation of our product and the care for our clients, both present and future.

Creating connection cross borders

When making deals internationally, I’m well aware that not all strategies translate. Creating connections with clients across borders boils down to adaptation and an empathy for pain points. If you’re serving international clientele, make sure your team reflects this diversity, translate your website and get to know the culture of business in every region you cater to.

Learn more about Anne’s vision for Freespee here.

Anne de Kerckhove: Freespee’s new CEO joins us on International Women’s Day

international women's day

I am incredibly excited to be joining Freespee as CEO.

It’s always wonderful to lead a very talented team of many backgrounds and nationalities.

What perfect timing: I join on International Women’s Day. I have worked hard over the last few years to promote diversity at all levels of organisations: mentoring and financing female entrepreneurs, coaching women to join boards and helping men and women from all backgrounds and skills succeed in fair and equal environments.  Diversity is an essential success factor of any company. And anybody with common sense finally recognises that. But we still have a long road to equality of gender, ethnicity, backgrounds, particularly in the Tech and startup world.

I have a confession to make: I am a tech startup addict.

Over the last 15 years, I have helped lead 5 tech start-ups to profitability and IPO.

I don’t have a pension plan or big savings: I reinvest all my money into the next generation of talent and innovation. I have personally invested in over 25 new tech companies and set up and invested in 3 tech early-stage funds. I mentor over 10 founders a year, as a way of giving back to our startup community. I am one of the few female executives in the UK to sit on 2 public company boards in the tech and gaming space.

I love it.

It’s as exhilarating today as it was when I started. In fact, it’s more exciting these days. AI, Bots, big data, UI/UX, virtual reality all enable us to create amazing new immersive and personalised experiences for customers in B2B and B2C.

I did not start up as a natural candidate for tech startups. Both my parents were diplomats and far removed from tech businesses. But my brother was a child model and with his earnings at 8 years old, he bought our first Apple computer. We played every game possible for weeks and then we took the computer apart out of curiosity. I was hooked from that day onwards. Our household was littered with decomposed computers and games over the years.

My mother always worked and made it to the top of her profession, having come from a very modest background where her schooling was stopped at age 14. My sister and I had a natural role model at home. We never questioned whether we could be leaders. We thought all women were naturally designed to lead. My sister was fearless and left the house at age 7 to pursue her career as a dancer. She became a prima ballerina and choreographer by the time she was 19.  Role models are so important. They drive our behaviour.

At 17, I set up my first company: a travelling theatre troupe whilst studying at McGill University. That’s how I made money to travel around the world and live my passion for discovery and new cultures.

Then I became a banker…Can you believe it? In fairness, it was a fantastic learning experience and I was surrounded by great mentors. One, in particular, noticed that I was always asking too many questions. He realised I was not fascinated by finance but by what we were financing. He transferred me to a new project and innovation financing division. It was amazing. Our role was only to finance things that had never been done or created before. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs and innovators in small and large companies.

I quit banking with his blessing and support and joined the camp of the MAKERS.

I have never looked back. It is very important to understand your true nature and your passions and to work in an environment where you can embrace them every day.

At Freespee, we are at the Inflection Point: when a company has found its market fit with a unique and superior product and is facing double-digit growth. It’s such an exciting time for us.

Our challenges will be to manage this hyper growth effectively:

We must stay true to our company DNA.

We must continue to recruit only the best.

We must continue to innovate to stay ahead of the curve.

We must continue to have our clients at the centre of everything we deliver.

We must empower our clients to have greater conversations with their customers.

We must continue to foster a culture of integrity and impact, of innovation and risk-taking and a culture obsessed with our clients and their businesses.

We must continue to grow the diversity within our business and promote young talent from all backgrounds.

We must push forward the best engineers, the best salespeople, the best customer service teams through constant training and empowerment.

We must drive a culture of joy and success amongst our teams and our clients.

We must create a culture where extraordinary things happen.

This is one of the biggest trends in tech currently across the world, pushing the boundaries to deliver the unimaginable. It’s not about a specific continent or country leading the startup scene.

From Elon Musk taking us to Mars, to Xavier Niel creating the world’ largest incubator in Paris: great people are making extraordinary things happen.

They refuse to believe in barriers and limitations. That’s the next generation of tech start ups and Freespee will be part of that.

Extraordinary requires risk. Risk requires diversity. Surrounding yourself as an executive or founder by people who think like you, who look like you, who come from the same school and neighbourhood as you, who share the same skin colour means you will never push the boundaries.

Worse – you will probably create a culture of exclusion and inequality, whether you wish to or not.

Creating true equality in Tech firms will require us to be courageous and bold, to stand up for what’s right, to make our common voices heard. Change won’t just happen. We men and women leading the tech world will make it happen.


Learn more about Anne on her blog here.