Meet the Founders: Lambro Anastasiou
StartupCFO is the UK’s leading network for CFOs and finance leaders in high growth companies. In this series, we’ll be interviewing the members to find out everything from their background to their highs and lows of leading some of the UK’s fastest growing businesses.
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In this post, we’ll be talking to Lambro Anastasiou. Lambro is CFO at The Modern Milkman, a plastic free grocery delivery service.
First up, some quick fire questions!
One person you’d love to meet in real life?
Preference: B2B or B2C?
Favourite challenger bank?
Index & Match or VLOOKUP?
Google sheets or Excel?
Now, let’s find out more about your career.
What attracted you to The Modern Milkman?
Plastic is my biggest bug bear and I wanted to do my bit to help reverse the damage we’ve done to the planet and the environment. The Modern Milkman fits perfectly with this as it’s built around reducing plastic waste.
Consumer sentiment has changed around this in the last few years. It really feels like we’re in the right place at the right time with it.
It’s also focused around food and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) which is an area that I’ve been in before, so I have a lot of relevant experience to draw on.
What’s your background?
I qualified with KPMG as an ACA in their audit and transaction advisory teams. Shortly after qualifying, I jumped ship into industry to work for Tesco in their commercial finance team.
My first venture into the startup world was prompted by my interest in meditation and mindfulness. I came across a new company called Headspace based in London and thought it was a really cool idea and aligned perfectly with my interests. I reached out to them asking if they had any finance jobs going, and to my delight, they said yes.
However, I didn’t quite feel ready to move jobs at that point so I decided to stick with where I was. It was on my mind, though, so two months later I reached out again asking if the job was still available. It was, and that became my first move into a startup.
Following my time at Headspace, I worked with a few more startups including Wonderbly, Midrive and Fronted, before settling into my current role at The Modern Milkman.
Headspace is based in Silicon Valley and has raised over $215m. What were they doing in London?
Not many people realise this, but Headspace was actually founded in London before they headed over to Silicon Valley and hit the big time. They figured it made more sense to be based on the US West Coast with access to a much larger addressable market. They were one of the early entrants into Silicon Beach (Venice, CA) just behind Snap. My contract with them was a 6 month interim FD role, and during that time I helped them to build out their core financial reporting, FP&A and KPI monitoring, but more interestingly helped them flip from a UK to US Topco before passing over the reins to a US based CFO.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to move from a corporate to a startup?
Make sure you fully understand the pros and cons of working for a startup, as they’re very different to their more mature corporate cousins. Early stage tech businesses typically move at a frighteningly (or exhilaratingly) rapid pace and there is minimal structure in place compared to a corporate environment.
There’s a wealth of information out there on corporate vs startup jobs and it’s difficult to do that justice in a short form interview. However, if on the balance of evidence you decide that your personality and skills are suited to startups then my advice is don’t hold back. Fortune favours the brave!
Find some companies that you’re interested in (ideally where your interests overlap with your passions and skills - see Ikigai) and reach out to the founders or hiring managers in the company via LinkedIn or, even better, via a connection from a 1st/2nd degree connection - you’ll be surprised about how receptive people are to this kind of outreach, particularly if you are bought into their vision and mission.
Additionally, there’s a vibrant startup ecosystem in London, so take the time to meet people and get to know as many people as you can. Get out there and meet people (virtually is fine), offer assistance, favours and generally try to be helpful and you will be surprised how quickly your network builds!
What does your day to day work look like?
Everyone says this, but it really does vary massively on a day to day basis. As a high level overview, the things I’d typically work on include:
funding round preparation (equity and venture debt)
creating and managing long/short range forecasts and budgets
developing a hiring plan across all business functions (including writing the job specs)
speaking to our lawyers for advice on various legal issues
preparing for board meetings
identifying and reporting on KPIs and other metrics
building out an option scheme for employees
looking at commercial decision support (gross margin optimisation, pricing and promotional strategies, growth plans etc).
What made you want to work at a startup originally?
One of the main reasons for considering a startup in the first place was the fact I could make decisions and see the output of those decisions in a relatively short time frame. You’re then able to assess the outcome and build it into your next decision.
It’s these rapid iterative feedback / learning cycles that enable your startup to work out the correct path forward as well as allowing you to personally develop at a much faster rate vs. a corporate environment. There the cycles are much slower and you are more disconnected from the ultimate results.
How does the London tech scene compare to Silicon Valley?
The ecosystem in London is about 15-20 years behind Silicon Valley. There is still far more funding available in the valley and the rounds are much bigger.
Historically, there is also more of a culture of growth over profitability in Silicon Valley, whereas London has been more on unit economic profitability and more controlled growth, although Covid has definitely driven a marked shift to solid unit economics/sensible operating cash burn on both sides of the Atlantic.
And that’s a wrap!