Entrepreneurs: Former London Metal Exchange boss Garry Jones talks corporate vs tech startup life - and learning from young talent

Naomi Ackerman
·4-min read
<p>Garry Jones now leads newly-rebranded tech platform Novafori - digital host of auctions for Christie’s </p> (Getty  )

Garry Jones now leads newly-rebranded tech platform Novafori - digital host of auctions for Christie’s

(Getty )

"I don't sleep, basically,' Garry Jones says, laughing. The former chief executive of the London Metal Exchange now heads up the newly re-branded Novafori - a tech startup offering a digital marketplace for clients including Christie's.

He also sits on the boards of several companies, and acts as chairman of the tech committee for ICBCS.

Jones previously headed up the London London Financial Futures Exchange and was global head of derivatives at NYSE Euronext. Why would someone with this much corporate experience swap the suit for short sleeves and a tech startup?

It turns out it's partly the lure of being part of a business hoping to be the next big thing, partly the absence of big corporate politics, and in large part the attraction of working every day with young, innovative 20-somethings who can share their energy.

"Having been a CEO of businesses that are enormous like NYSE Euronext, now you're here in a polo shirt rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it - but I guess that keeps you interested. And I'm learning every day too," Jones said.

“Having been a CEO of businesses that are enormous like NYSE Euronext, now you’re here in a polo shirt rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it”Novafori
“Having been a CEO of businesses that are enormous like NYSE Euronext, now you’re here in a polo shirt rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it”Novafori

Novafori, previously known as Perfect Channel, works B2B and has a London HQ in Bermondsey as well as a tech-focused base in Malaga. The company’s platform is a marketplace for dairy auctions in Asia as well as for Christie’s, and it works in AI-led data science.

Meetings take place on Teams or Zoom, and the company will have a hybrid working policy post-Covid.

"When you're in small companies there's no politics. You can make a decision in the morning and get on with it in the afternoon,” Jones said. “And to be honest what I'm learning is from the younger members of staff, because their technology and their use of social media and everything is so much greater than mine, and I'm getting down with the kids in these areas!

"Hopefully with a few gray hairs you know about the business and you know about the process, but every day I learn something new. People under the age of 30 [are] running our social media and communication and the whole relaunch - they've done so much work on that and I've learned so much from them."

Jones may be learning, but he also knows he is bringing the thing well-financed London tech startups are keen to hire - experience in managing the money.

He said: “I think with smaller tech companies people get carried away with the technology of the business, but you have to have the process around you. Most businesses fail on cash flow - you have to pay attention to that. You need to structure the regulatory environment, ensure you meet all the requirements."

Perfect Channel saw revenues grow by 41% revenue in 2020. It says its rebrand to Novafori - meaning "New Markets" in Latin - "represents its commitment to developing new markets at a time when analogue to digital transformation is accelerating globally".

Jones originally joined the company’s board to help revise their business plan and look at their plan for expansion goals, before being drawn into the CEO role. He now has big dreams for the little-known outfit.

He said: "I said 'look, I'm happy to run the company, but I want to be clear we really go for it’.

"People joke about becoming a unicorn, growing a small company and making it worth a billion - but why not? I think that what we've done now is that we have good underlying technology, and we can scale up that technology for different markets."

Jones is aware there is a long way to go before the company has the chance to become a unicorn, however.

Novafori is raising new funds to invest in its expansion in areas from cybersecurity to data protection, and hopes to get a boost from its "positive" and apt new name.

"All my life I've been focused on using systems and using technology, marketplaces. And I suppose having been CEO of three of the largest London based exchanges I'm used to running marketplaces,” Jones said. “Extending it from purely financial markets to a real economy businesses is really quite exciting.

"I have different challenges now... I've run very big businesses, and now a smaller technology businesses, and it is more exciting in a way. It's the politics of a big company that grinds you down. There's a freedom to this, and it's great working with young people who all want to get going.

“The energy and innovation is fantastic."

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