06.08.2015
By Terry Flanagan

Fintech Leader: Jock Percy, Perseus

Successful entrepreneurs are born, not made, according to conventional wisdom, possessed of unbounded energy, enthusiasm, and an uncanny instinct for determining some need in the market and capitalizing on it to the fullest.

While there are some who fit that description, most entrepreneurs owe their success to hard work, determination, and even early failure — in other words, the same ingredients that make for successful careers within organizations.

“Back 10 or 15 years ago an entrepreneur was somebody who went straight out of college and started their own thing,” said Jock Percy, CEO of Perseus, a provider of connectivity and managed services. “Nowadays, there are many more 30-something entrepreneurs who have had some sort of corporate or commercial experience, who have seen an inefficiency or an opportunity in either a specialization or niche in a broader segment, and have got either the resources or the support of others with resources to chase it.”

Percy will speak as a Fintech leader at Markets Media’s Summer Trading Network, which will be held at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Wednesday, July 15. The event will convene established financial technology firms, as well as start-up and emerging players and the venture capitalists that fund seedlings in the space.

Percy’s assessment of the fintech landscape might be truest for startups, especially business-to-business startups, where specialized knowledge is required that can only be acquired by working for a financial institution prior to launch. Such companies are more likely to follow a lower trajectory than, but have a higher success rate than business-to-consumer companies.

“Fintech is primarily B2B or B2C,” said Percy. “The B2C examples are going to potentially be a few big hits and many misses. There probably won’t be as many unicorns in the B2B space.”

Dr. Jock Percy, Perseus Telecom

Dr. Jock Percy, Perseus

In Percy’s view, these entrepreneurs represent modern entrepreneurialism. “A lot of fintech startups that I meet today have more or less come through the same channel in the last 10 years,” he said. “They include companies who are now beating the jungle drum and being successful globally, like Perseus, as well as those who’ve just really started up in their niche.”

Percy exemplifies this ‘new normal’ of entrepreneurs. He launched his career working for two large corporations, Sharp and BT. “What I recognized in those large organizations is that their problem solving ability was very slow,” he said. “It’s impressive, and they solve massive problems and challenges, but it’s very slow.”

During this first decade of his career, Percy began to identify some pain points in finance related to networking technology, and proceeded to ask how he might address them.

“I think that’s what a lot of fintech startup founders are doing today,” said Percy. “They’re identifying in their current jobs, or in their current world or marketplace, opportunities to do something a bit quicker, solve something more cost effectively, do something faster, and change the paradigm.”

In Perseus’ case, it involved Percy hiring a few junior people and going through the pain of launching a company: getting the legal documentation set up, applying for licenses, working 16-hour days 7 days a week, without earning a cent.

“You have to be prepared to do that,” he said. “Silicon Valley’s famous for the start-up culture mentality, which is where you can get by for a period of time, either on your savings, or with support of friends or your family. I had been working for a long time, so I had some resources. I’d been involved in an exit and so I had some capital. I was able to put that to work and live frugally.”

Now in its sixth year, and fresh off a $20.5 million investment from Goldman Sachs, Perseus is in a high-growth mode while staying true to its entrepreneurial roots. “We are 100% sticking to our start up culture IQ,” said Percy. “We’re trying to maintain that and ensure that we maintain that edge. But at the same time, we’re established an in a high growth phase.”

Perseus has an end game in sight, which is to connect to all the world’s tier one and tier two global financial markets, and provide it’s LiquidPath full managed service to them. “By the time we need to take a decision on whether we launch in Nairobi, we will have completed the service roll out,” said Percy. “We’ll be in high growth mode until we reach that end game.”

What happens when that end game is reached? “Then there’ll be opportunities to speedily add new product or a new service set on top of what we’ve already built,” said Percy.

Featured image by tonda55/Dollar Photo Club

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