In September, Havas Australia launched Havas Ventures, a strategic consultancy designed to accelerate the growth of emerging ventures. Offering capital investment, marketing communications, and global network access to early stage growth ventures in Australia, the new initiative will act as a marketing enabler and potential investor for SMEs. Havas Ventures will be led by Eddie Wilson, its founder and executive director, who hails from a background in financial management and venture capital.
Eddie started his career as a commercial lawyer, later holding various senior roles in corporate and venture capital firms (before becoming an entrepreneur himself). Needless to say, emerging business is his passion. Below, Eddie tells us how he turned this passion into a hotbed of creativity and innovation at Havas.
The Mag: What was the impetus behind launching Havas Ventures?
EW: Some nine out of ten new ventures fail. I truly believe in the mantra of Peter Drucker, the legendary business consultant, who said that there are only two things in a business that make money—innovation and marketing; everything else is cost. I had been subletting space at Havas Melbourne back in 2014 and was amazed by all these hugely talented people, the brands they got to work with, and the tools and ideas they were developing. It was exciting.
It got me thinking that if we strategically partnered those skills with the right emerging ventures I was working with, these businesses would have a far greater chance of success. I struck up a friendship with James Wright, the Havas COO and CEO at Red Agency, who at the time was overseeing Melbourne, and we got discussing how we could work together. The ventures concept evolved, we got the rest of the Australian leadership on board, and here we are.
The Mag: What type of companies does Havas Ventures help?
EW: We are only working with emerging ventures, what we call Series A or beyond. So these aren’t businesses that are just starting out. They have already received one round of funding, they have a product or service that has been proven, and they have customers. Our job is then to accelerate their development through marketing smarts.
The Mag: Why Havas?
EW: The initial attraction is the culture and the people. When you come from more “cut throat” environments, those are two things that you never take for granted. The focus then shifted to the breadth and depth of internal capabilities and the potential significance of the wider Havas global network. The genesis of Havas Ventures was meshing my background with these features. The business model is predicated on creating a vehicle that can genuinely drive the performance of an emerging venture, while unlocking real potential value for the Havas Group.
The Mag: You were formerly an investment director with CVC, one of Australia’s pioneering VC firms. How has your first-hand experience prepared you for this venture?
EW: I have been immersed in the Australian start-up and emerging business community for many years now. And what I’ve gained from this experience is an understanding of the due diligence needed to ensure that the right opportunities are investigated and supported.
It’s such an exciting time for innovation and technology, so I knew as soon as we launched this with the Havas name attached to it there would be huge interest. The key is then to sort through them to find the ones that would warrant further investigation. In just six weeks, we have already been contacted by some forty ventures. I am working closely with the Havas executive leadership and the group managing director of Havas Melbourne, Matt Houltham, to find the ones we want to support. And not only is this a confirmation of our commitment to innovation, we have real substance behind our offer. We eventually want to see revenue returns into the Group and great entrepreneurial business stories.
Learn more at havasventures.com.au.