Sometimes, rather than trying to dig around yourself to find the next hidden gem, it is much easier to simply back the right management team. For instance when Steve Jobs re-joined Apple in July 1997, it was a niche computer manufacturer worth $3.5bn. 19 years later, after the launch of the iPad, iPhone and iTunes, the corporation is today one of the world’s largest, sporting a market cap of >$500bn.
We think that a similarly dramatic transformation, albeit on a more modest scale, is presently underway at high tech incubator, FastForward Innovations - who over the past 9 months has put together probably one of AIM’s most impressive boards.
First, serial entrepreneur and uber-smart investor Jim Mellon (8.0% stake) joined as Co-Chairman in September. Next on 27th January, the company appointed Lorne Abony (20.2%) as full-time CEO - who in our view has done for internet gaming what Steve Jobs did for consumer electronics. Mr Abony co-founded Cryptologic in 1994, which up until his departure in 2003 was considered as the granddaddy of online gambling. Mr Abony then repeated the same feat with FUN Technologies, which was sold in 2006 to Liberty Media for Cdn$484m. Afterwards he even found time to be CEO of Mood Media Corporation, the world's largest integrated provider of in-store customer experience solutions.
We reckon this unique experience over >20 years, together with his knowledge and passion about everything tech-related, should not only prove to be a key platform for FastForward’s future success, but also help the firm attract other ultra-high achievers. In fact this already seems to be the case, as online casino mogul Norbert Teufelberger (6.7%) - former CEO of Bwin.party entertainment – agreed to join as a Special Adviser on 14th April, working 20 hours/week to assist in business development.
But it doesn’t stop there. Fellow Co-Chairman Stephen Dattels (11.6%) was himself a director at Barrick Gold, and originally co-founded UraMin Inc, which was bought by Areva for $2.5bn in 2007. While CFO Ian Burns (ACA) is no shrinkingviolet either, having proven himself too as a serial entrepreneur and professional investor. The upshot being that we believe this newly formed group of multitalented individuals is extremely well placed to deliver substantial value for shareholders.
What’s more for investors, we understand these guys are not paying themselves hefty salaries either. There are no ‘management fees or carried interest charges’ as one would normally have to pay to Venture Capitalists in order to access such high quality, early stage privately owned entities.