• Chelsea Wilkinson

A founder's journey

“I love talking with founders! They always have an exciting view of the world, and their motivators fascinate me.”

These were the opening comments from a fellow M&A service provider yesterday. And beyond them leading to an engaging conversation about data, private equity, and consulting, they also got me thinking.

Indeed, founders are a rare breed.

Female founders. Rarer still.

Data female founders. Hen’s teeth!

So, what motivated me to start a DataDiligence? Do I have a fascinating, contrarian, or just plain crazy view on the world?

The brutal truth is that my background doesn’t exactly scream founder. After all, I’d spent 19 years at Ethos Private Equity, a highly structured, deeply respected, ‘traditional’ private equity firm. Leaving Ethos – which had become as much a part of my identity as I had been instrumental in creating it’s – was hard. And in the months immediately after, I felt small beyond those ‘institutional’ walls.

But then, a foxtrot of circuitous steps led me to a conversation with Adam Votava, who – sparked by an article by Douglas Laney – asked me: why don’t the investment community assess data assets alongside other assets during M&A?

After an embarrassing silence, I had to agree. We didn’t.

And in that moment, we shared – well – a moment! A realisation that we’d spotted a gap, and our seemingly disparate backgrounds presented the perfect yin and yang to create a new category of due diligence: Data Due Diligence. A contemporary assessment of contemporary assets. Assets that don’t reside in the P&L, walk through the office door, or create widgets on a production line. Rather, assets that are often treated as a by-product of operations, or simply a reporting requirement.

Yet, these very assets fuel decisions, analysis, AI and machine learning, automation and optimisation, and entirely new business models. These assets are Data – and their supporting ecosystem.

And so, we got to work, devising a framework to assess the ‘intangible’. To extrapolate risks. Opportunities. And – vitally – economic value.

And the rest, as they say, is history. DataDiligence was born!

Talking with other founders, I too am fascinated by the steps that brought them to an idea and kept them going.

For myself, like I said, I never thought of myself as a founder.

Perhaps, an accidental founder. Or – more correctly – a true CO-founder.

A co-founder of an idea and the energy to keep it going. A co-founder of delegating tasks, even when we had no clients! A co-founder of conversations, and advocacy. Determination, and taking considered risks. Of learning every day and knowing we still have a long way to go.

Lastly, something I didn’t anticipate when starting a business was discovering a community of fellow founders, co-founders, and founders-to-be. Thank you all for supporting my (ad)venture. Being a founder could be a very lonely place. Yet, I’m blessed to be surrounded by a vibrant network of cheerleaders!