Susie Cummings, chief executive of Nurole, discusses working in the tech and headhunting sectors ...
What do you do?
After a career in headhunting, I’ve set up Nurole, a tech platform that is disrupting the industry. It’s an invitation-only online platform where executives can see board level vacancies and apply, or recommend their friends.
We’ve been going for four years and have more than 40% of FTSE-100 chairmen and over 20,000 members in 100+ countries.
I love being a tech entrepreneur. I get great satisfaction finding fantastic people who will transform organisations. It’s particularly rewarding putting brilliant executives into non-profits, where these individuals can make a huge difference not just to the charities but to their own sense of fulfilment. It’s also great being able to allow candidates to see roles they would otherwise never have seen. Like when Amazon UK chief Doug Gurr saw the Landmark Trust was seeking a trustee with digital expertise. As soon as he saw it, he knew it was perfect for him.
What do you dislike?
It’s really frustrating that some chairmen, CEOs and headhunters don’t see the benefits of what we’re doing. They want to keep with the old boy’s headhunting network. That really pisses me off. Am I allowed to say that?
What was your biggest break?
There were two really. Realising in 2014 that the headhunting model was broken; that encouraged me to set up Nurole. And when Advent Venture Partners, the venture capital firm I was working for at the time, rejected my idea of setting up an executive recruitment network.
I met Philippa Rose, one of the headhunting queens of the day, and she said come and join me. I said I was pregnant, but she said: that’s only temporary, and hired me anyway. It was the start of a 30 year career that saw me set up my own firm, Blackwood, in 1999.
Oh, lots. I hated authority. That got me kicked out of school. I didn’t go university, ran up horrible debts and had a gambling problem. Not going to university has given me a sense of insecurity, which makes me feel I have to prove myself every day. Even now at 60-years-old. Forgetting my passport when I was flying out to pitch for Morgan Stanley was a bad setback, too. I’d only just set up Blackwood and it was a £20,000 a month retainer. I had to cancel the trip. I still wince at that one.
It’s good now. After 40 years commuting in to the City on the tube, I now live in Notting Hill, five minutes from the office. Also, my son Oliver has joined Nurole from Goldman Sachs’ private equity arm and is my chief operating officer, while my youngest, Ned joined us from insurance broker Marsh and now heads our VC practice.
My daughter set up Potage.com, a meals delivery business, and every Friday we have Potage meals at work. To cap all that, my Anglo-Argentine partner whisks me off to Argentina every January and February. He’s set up wifi in the pampas so I can work there.
Be brave, follow your instincts and remember you’re never too old to start a company.