Changing your career path is an important decision that takes courage. It’s comfortable to stay in a corporate job with a financial safety net. What happens when that’s not enough anymore? What if you follow your entrepreneurial spirit and leave the corporate world behind?
That’s the journey Nessim Goan has chosen. For the EWOR podcast, Nessim talked about what he learned from his biggest career change.
Nessim completed two Master’s degrees in Managerial and Financial Economics and Financial Engineering. With this finance and economics background, Nessim co-founded LIAN Group. It’s a Swiss direct investment firm that focuses on innovative tech companies. He later also founded Cowa, a sustainable blockchain infrastructure start-up.
In this article, you’ll learn what it takes to become an entrepreneur after pursuing a different career path first.
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What Sparked the Career Change to Entrepreneurship?
Thinking about a drastic career change is intimidating. How did Nessim discover his entrepreneurial spirit?
After his studies, Nessim worked for Goldman Sachs in London. While he enjoyed his responsibilities, he realised that his innovative ideas weren’t met with enthusiasm. Big organisations like Goldman Sachs have the reputation of being “an entrepreneurial cemetery.”
While it’s comfortable to stay with a secure and well-paid job, Nessim wanted more in his career. He identified gaps in the market and thought about building his own company. With an interest in crypto and investment, he tried to combine the two. How could he create a financial product that would allow traditional investors to invest in cryptocurrency?
The Birth of LIAN Group
Having a business idea is only the first step to entrepreneurship. How did Nessim turn a newfound passion into a viable business?
After less than a year with Goldman Sachs, Nessim quit his job and focused on his start-up idea. Given his interest in crypto, he attended a conference in Geneva on the topic. As conferences are great networking opportunities, Nessim met a banker there and pitched his idea to him. This man, Fiorenzo Manganiello, became the other founder of LIAN Group.
Using only personal funds, the two founders launched their company in 2017 and built it into a successful investment firm.
Nessim’s story showcases the simplicity of entrepreneurship. He identified a niche in the market and took a leap of faith.
Working With One Co-Founder
Most start-up founders have at least one co-founder. Sharing responsibilities makes the stress of the early stages of the new venture easier. Both founders found their entrepreneurial spirit and decided to commit to the journey together. Yet, having a co-founder can cause conflict as well and comes with a set of logistical decisions.
When people work on important decisions together, it’s natural to run into disagreements. Honest communication is key to solving these conflicts.
Nessim joked that he doesn’t ever agree with his partner on prototype iterations at first. After arguing about details and the best course of action, the two always find a common ground in the end. Compromise is essential in these instances. “You have to see your partner’s perspective,” Nessim explained.
Trust your gut, but be willing to accept when you’re wrong.
Discussing equity can be a tricky subject among founder groups. What’s fair? What’s the smartest split?
Nessim doesn’t believe in unequal splits among co-founders. If you have the right co-founder, they’ll contribute their fair share along the way. They’re worth just as much as your contributions, even if you work an unequal amount in the beginning.
Having an unequal share in equity can cause issues. If one partner gets less equity, they will also be less motivated. A lack of passion results in less meaningful contributions. Nessim encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to find the right co-founder and split equity evenly.
Human psychology plays an important role in determining equity and responsibilities. Be mindful of motivation and fairness when discussing this topic with your co-founders.
Recruitment and Team Building
Growing a start-up means investing time in finding the right people to work with you. Effective team building is the backbone of a successful company with fast-paced growth.
Nessim spends most of his time on recruitment at this stage. “Our business is based on people,” he explained this approach. “The value we have is the people we have with us.”
LIAN Group started with a small team that gained interest from students and volunteers in the beginning. Their COO, for example, was keen to start without pay at first, as he liked the challenge of growing the start-up. The students became the first interns for the company.
Nessim shared the recruitment principles he adopted over the years.
Recommendations are helpful at first because you don’t have to waste time on extensive background checks. There is trust that the person will deliver quality work based on what your friend or business partner experienced. Value those recommendations through prior relationships in your network.
Nessim believes in hiring people under 30 in the early stages of entrepreneurship. Young people tend to be more curious and will have completed a decent education around this time. A lot of them won’t have kids and spouses yet. It’s a great life stage to learn and grow, as motivation and optimism are high. After establishing your business, it’s wise to turn towards more experienced people, though. Their expertise will take your venture to the next level.
It’s important to be proactive in your recruitment efforts. Use your network and fight for the right candidate. You don’t want them to work for the competition. Convince talented and motivated people to work with you instead.
Grow your team with care and passion for a productive and pleasant work environment.
Tips and Advice
As someone who had no prior entrepreneurship knowledge, Nessim learned on the job. He shared his most valuable advice for young entrepreneurs who want to follow their entrepreneurial spirit.
Target the Right Market
Market research is key to selling your products and services. Thus, focus on customer centricity and listen to your target audience. Understand their needs and adapt your organisation based on your findings.
Learn How to Pivot
The right entrepreneurs are the ones that know how to pivot quickly. Think outside the box and embrace change. Every entrepreneur is passionate about their prototypes, but innovation is crucial for success.
One of Nessim’s biggest pieces of advice is to stay curious. You chose to follow your entrepreneurial spirit and let it guide you outside your comfort zone. Never stop learning from your co-workers and partners on this journey. Developing new skills and improving your knowledge are both valuable outcomes of curiosity.
Keep It Simple
Entrepreneurs want to sound sophisticated, but that doesn’t mean it’ll help you convince investors to trust you. Fancy words and complicated graphics won’t create the outcome you want in pitch situations.
Given his work with crypto and blockchain technology, Nessim has learned the value of making ideas easily digestible. Keep it simple.
Understand the Global Economy
Everything is connected in today’s globalised world. Understand the global economy in detail and follow current events.
In the aftermath of the 2022 Ukraine crisis, many countries were forced to rethink their energy strategies. Anticipate how events like this will affect the global economy to take action before your own company suffers from losses. Be proactive and figure out how to survive in the face of an unstable economy.
Nessim advised aspiring entrepreneurs to do their homework when it comes to education. Consult many sources of information and cross-reference across platforms. He recommended LinkedIn and Twitter as good sources for articles and interesting people. Plus, the use of podcasts, newspapers, social media, and your social network can enhance your marketing strategy.
“It’s important to keep your network alive,” Nessim said. He keeps in touch with past university peers, friends, and acquaintances across industries. Maintain healthy and professional relationships with people you cross paths with. You never know when you’ll need a consultant or investor.
Changing your career path from a secure job to entrepreneurship is risky, but it pays off. “Just by being an entrepreneur, you take a risk,” Nessim said. “It’s about taking the right risk.”
Nessim is living proof that with the right eye for the market and a sustainable business idea, nothing stands in the way of pursuing the career you want. Take a leap of faith and invest time into going out of your comfort zone. With the right people by your side, your entrepreneurial spirit will lead you towards success.