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Meet our new co-founder, Alistair Baillie

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Where are you coming from?

I’ve worked in the UK and Buenos Aires, but spent much of my adult life in Sydney. Most recently I’ve been COO of a successful start-up but behind that is over two decades business management experience. First in consulting, then into Project Management, then I made the leap into sales, and that combination allowed me to step up to Director and COO. I have broad experience and I think I’ve made enough mistakes to have learned a thing or two. Always more to learn though!

Tell us more about your experience with working with startups.

I’ve worked on both sides of the fence re: start-ups and funding. Had some eye-opening experiences working in Credit for a major bank through 2009-2010. Later in 2014 I moved back to the UK from Australia and started working in Caplin Systems, an SME in FX. At the time it was FX that was the drawer, not the fact that it was an SME. But I was quickly drawn in to the SME world, and had a front-row view of the transaction as Caplin exited (was sold to ION Capital Management). I enjoyed that and wanted more.

Since then I’ve been Director at MarketFactory, a US start-up that successfully exited; I’ve helped several companies with their funding activities, before most recently being COO at a Regtech start-up TAINA Technology and completing the Series A raise.

So why funding as the business idea?

As COO, and in general drawing on over two decades of experience in business management, I know that funding is important and the time lost trying to fund is a drain to business success. Funding should not be as big a drain on resources as sales or product development, because at the end of the day they drive everything. And I love those driving activities, both being a salesman and also running product development particularly delivering IT product to a market. But at the end of the day funding is needed for everything to happen.

If you remember the classic film “The Right Stuff” an engineer is asked what makes a plane fly. The engineer starts on a long-winded answer and the interlocutor cuts him off saying “Funding. Funding is what makes the plane fly. No bucks, no Buck Rogers”.

How did you hear about Ship Shape? What made you interested in this work?

I had worked with Daniel previously and knew that he was a smart cookie. He told me he was flirting with an idea, which of itself made it interesting to me. As we stayed in touch it became clear that the idea had legs and so we could commit fully to it, and Miguel was doing more also.

I looked into it a little more and it ticked all my boxes: that it’s a great business idea, that the idea can be executed if the right skilled cohesive people are involved, and that we would be a great founding trio. That last part is the really important part to me, I admired and wanted to work in a start-up as part of a trio, single founder companies can move quickly to start with but the lack of diverse experience and opinion weighs them down after a while. Three, to quote De La Soul, is the magic number. And so together we founded the company.

Why are you interested in Ship Shape’s business?

The Ship Shape idea is a wonderful example of classic business disruption. And whilst it is based on its data and made available online, the fundamentals of why it’s a great idea aren’t new and it would be a good idea in whatever age.

I love successful disruptive businesses, and I truly believe Ship Shape can be just that. Change one vital thing about their business, one part of the customer offering which really makes a difference, that is both novel and executable.

If anyone already knows the classic example of Clarence Saunders and his Piggly-Wiggly stores, how he invented the modern supermarket in 1916, then skip a paragraph. For anyone that doesn’t Clarence changed only one thing, which was having his customers pick up their goods in a trolley and bring them to the clerk to checkout. To do this he got some chairs, stuck a basket on them, and added wheels. Initially the customers didn’t know what to do so he paid actors to wheel the trolleys about. Soon the idea caught on and Clarence was flying, selling more goods with less cost to serve. Soon he opened more stores, and though he exited the business in 1923 it continued to grow and had 3,500 stores in the 1930s.

There are businesses that try to introduce too much change, and the customer and/or the supply chain and/or the technology to support it aren’t ready. Then there are copycat businesses that say they’re doing something different but really they aren’t. These are both businesses I’d like to avoid.

The great growth businesses focus hard on the one vital change whilst making sure that the already understood and commoditised parts of the business are cleanly and efficiently executed. At Ship Shape we are introducing a vital change and we know the business area well in general, so I’m excited.

Tell us an interesting fact about you?

I’m a tango fanatic, it’s how I met my wife.

Tango has been the passion of my life and I’ve danced all through Australia, NZ, US, France, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Germany, Russia, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Hungary, Belarus, Georgia, Cyprus. Tango showed me the world.

What do you want to say to the readers of this article?

That the UK needs to get its funding activities Ship Shape, full stop. We are entering into a period of COVID-19 recovery, and Brexit reality. The government is talking up investment, and interest rates aren’t going to skyrocket until there’s inflationary growth so there’ll be a lot of private money looking also for returns. Whilst individual VCs in isolation do a good job, we need to do better as a nation in supporting start-ups. Ship Shape will be part of that, and we all need to pitch in.

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