Alex Stephany is the CEO and founder of Beam, an enterprise where homeless people can crowdfund themselves to train for a job or find a new home. This East London-based company’s platform lets people donate directly to a homeless person or refugee, showing the goals and progress of the campaign. It has supported 1,935 people through its platform and that 81% of people go on to find work.
This is an extract from Alex Stephany’s interview (https://www.uktech.news/news/founder-interviews/beam-founder-alex-stephany-20230707).
What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?
Don’t raise funding unless you really need to! In the early days, the best strategy is usually to sweat it out and go as far as you possibly can without raising! Whether that means bootstrapping your business or doing another job on the side, hustle to show as much progress as fast as you can.
Then you’ll be further along your journey and have more proof points, which makes raising money a lot easier when you can’t hold out any longer.
When should a founder CEO pass the baton on to a new chief executive?
CEOs should pass on the baton as soon as it best serves the company’s mission. And not a month later. This requires self-awareness, which you can work on with a coach or by asking your colleagues for 360 feedback to illuminate your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
Surround yourself with the right people at a senior and board level too, who, when the time comes, are able to tap you on the shoulder and say it’s time to move on! Your job is to ensure the mission of your company remains front and centre and sometimes staying in a role for too long can jeopardise that.
Is there a technology that the world would be better without?
I think it’s time to question the value that social media brings to our lives. In the long run, I imagine government and regulators will catch up with social media in terms of the large negative externalities it causes to society, particularly the impact on people’s mental health.
In the meantime, I’d like to see tech companies like Meta financially contribute to the mental health epidemic. At Beam, we’re trying to flip this by building a different and more polsitive type of social network that puts marginalised people at the centre.
Who’s a leader you admire in your industry?
For me, the most outstanding, mission-driven founder and CEO is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. He’s torn up the corporate rulebook and put so much passion into building a truly iconic global business. As a fellow B Corp, I love that Yvon, and Patagonia are resolute that an amazing way to change the world is through the power of business. And now Patagonia has passed on ownership of the entire business to a charitable trust, which will allow them to have a huge impact on the climate crisis in the future. A true hero.