A success story of why an entrepreneurial expatriate from South Africa came to London for a 2-year secondment in 1995, and why he stayed to lead the first company to IPO on AIM in London coming out of a national lockdown.
We spoke to Stephen Newton, Founder and CEO of Elixirr. Elixirr offers a wide range of expertise and capabilities to solve their clients’ toughest business problems, including defining strategy, driving business improvement and helping build new businesses. The firm provides advisory services to clients from all sectors, but works largely in Financial Services, Retail and Technology, Media & Telecommunications.
What does your company do and what led to you founding Elixirr?
After arriving in London from South Africa in 1995, originally on a 2-year secondment, I began a consultancy career at KPMG, IBM and Accenture. Having created 3 start-ups between these roles, I was used to the entrepreneurial way of thinking. But what drove me to founding Elixirr, was ultimately a desire to challenge and disrupt the very industry that I’d spent my career working my way up in.
Elixirr is a global, award-winning consultancy working across the value chain, from strategy to execution, including digital design and product development. Everyone in the firm has an entrepreneurial mindset, always striving to create value in the long term. Having recently listed on the London Stock Exchange, we’re currently pursuing both organic and inorganic growth plans, which include expanding our presence in the US, Europe and Australia.
We’re in the process of building a House of Brands, which involves us extending the capabilities we offer to clients by acquiring high quality, boutique firms. Having already acquired Den, a digital and design firm, we recently acquired Coast Digital, a digital marketing firm, and can now offer clients a unique, end-to-end digital service.
London is the perfect place to have founded Elixirr, with the international connectivity being a real advantage to build on from a client, talent and growth perspective.
I decided to come and stay in London for several reasons. I wanted a city with international connectivity and wanted to travel to see the world. I also wanted my children to grow up in a place with an international outlook and perspective. London was the perfect place to enable these things.
What are some other advantages to having your company in London?
London is a unique place. It’s a great place for business because of its location and connections to other financial centres around the world. London is not only one of the major financial centres but a major hub for business. If you are in the business of advising big international clients, then it’s the perfect spot. The city is a hub for phenomenal talent. Arguably some of the best talent in the world, from some of the best universities in the world, congregate all over London.
From a business perspective, London offers an unlimited intellect to tap into. Elixirr’s team is exclusively made up of talented, forward-thinking individuals that want to work like true entrepreneurs. Being in such a city has given us the opportunity to attract these types of people, and this has helped us to reinforce our culture of entrepreneurialism, collaboration and delivering beyond expectations.
There’s such an immeasurable draw to London for talent. Particularly for young talent. The arts, the culture… it all pulls people in. I thought about this when deciding where to start Elixirr. I wanted to attract the kinds of people that embodied this hustle and vibe. And with London being such a business and social hub, I knew it was the right place to be.
How significant was the IPO for Elixirr and yourself?
Undertaking the IPO in London was a major steppingstone for the company and we are already seeing a change within the organisation.
We have been able to embed our entrepreneurial culture further by listing, which saw all Elixirr employees become shareholders in the firm. Something we have focused on since founding Elixirr, is building an ownership mentality throughout the team, if we grow the business, the value can accrue, and that value is distributed right through the organisation. This aligns our vision and motivations and brings our team closer together.
The IPO has given us access to a vast ecosystem of innovation, expertise and opportunity that’ll help us to drive growth for ourselves and for our clients. And in London, we know we’ll always be working with the premier league of business.
The AIM market of the London Stock Exchange was the perfect platform for our growth plans. While it gives us the opportunity to strengthen our brand and position in international markets, it has also allowed us to align our vision and team, so we can continue offering clients the best possible service. We now have the resource, opportunity and platform necessary to reach and supercharge our vision of building the best consultancy in the world.
AIM was the place for us as we are a high-value consultancy serving some of the world’s biggest investor organisations. If we were going to be listing our company, we wanted to build credibility alongside these fortune 500 companies and the listing has done this for us. We found that there is no market like AIM, it has enabled us as a mid-cap company to get serious capital for serious growth.
Have your company expansion plans been affected by Covid-19 and how has being in London helped?
While the pandemic did throw some unexpected obstacles for everyone, our team looked at the challenges as opportunities, and we successfully pivoted our entire business as a result. Elixirr was founded in the wake of the 2009 global financial crisis, so we are used to thriving in uncertainty. For any business in the current environment. it’s actually an opportunity to get ahead. The market may be stop start, but change is happening fast, and businesses must adapt to ensure they don’t get left behind.
Alongside the increase in productivity and efficiency gains we have seen from employees; people need human interaction to be happy. In light of this, the City will always have a place and we are ready to help bring people back to the City. We as business leaders need to help people overcome their fears
While we proved we could run the business working entirely remotely, to me, human contact remains vital. It’s how you build relationships, and good relationships are the key to success in business. Of course, we are going to see more flexibility in how people work coming out of this crisis, but I don’t see this ever becoming entirely virtual. Business and talent will always congregate around London. London is where people can maximise their potential.