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Wed 19 Feb 2020 07:32 AM

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Entrepreneur of the Week: Match-making in corporate heaven?

Yann Mrazek has launched a platform connecting independent non-executive directors (NEDs) with regional companies to help them grow the right way

Entrepreneur of the Week: Match-making in corporate heaven?

Yann-Mrazek, managing partner of M/HQ.

Corporate governance is boring. Mention those two words at the most bustling of social events and you’ll be listening to chirping crickets in no time.

But corporate governance, like most boring things, is essential for corporate survival. This is why Yann Mrazek is making sure corporates find their match made in heaven when it comes to non-executive directors (NEDs).

The founder and managing partner of M/HQ, the region’s largest multi-services platform, launched initiative Get-NED to support regional entrepreneurial families operate their businesses, restructure their operational and non-operational assets and implement inter-generational legacy planning strategies and tools.

How did the idea for Get-NED come about?

Corporate governance has been rising in prominence worldwide and in high-growth economies in particular, having trickled down the corporate food chain from listed companies to SMEs. With the economic substance wave now upon the UAE, corporate governance is no longer a choice for high-growth companies; it is a necessity.

Non-executive directors (NEDs) play a critical role in the strategic oversight, culture and purpose of organisations and corporate governance in general. Yet, there has been no clear avenue outside of word-of-mouth for companies operating regionally to identify and retain a NED. This is where Get-NED comes into play.

What makes Get-NED unique?

Its carefully curated pool of highly-qualified NEDs with diverse profiles and skill sets...Get-NED enables companies eager to implement best-practice systems and to abide by rigorous compliance standards – be they domestic or international – to identify, select, connect with and ultimately retain the NED aligned with their needs, vision and philosophy.

Our NEDs are fiercely independent and bound by the same values – we call it the Get-NED credo – and passion to help businesses achieve their unique corporate objectives and grow the right way.

What is your business model?

Get-NED is a separate offering and a complement to M/HQ’s range of services.

Each match-making transaction occurs directly between the company and the selected NED. Get-NED charges a fraction of each transaction’s value on an annual basis over the term of the engagement, with the prime aim to cover the platform’s maintenance costs.

What are your main challenges when it comes to operating your start-up in the UAE?

Being incubated by M/HQ, infrastructure is not an issue. The key challenge is scale, both from an offer and demand standpoint.

While a number of high-growth businesses and entrepreneurs are aware of the importance of good governance, it is often too low on their list of priorities.

Education plays a key role to convert these businesses from “merely aware” to “proactive”. As demand for NEDs increases, attention will need to be paid to expand the pool of NEDs featured on the platform while ensuring their high qualification and diversity.

Tell us a little bit about your funding journey. How is the business funded and what has been your experience in attracting investors?

Similarly to M/HQ more than a decade ago, Get-NED is self-funded. While commercial in nature, the platform’s short-term profitability is not a concern. Promoting good governance is.

How has your start-up been performing since its launch?

The offering has been run privately for about two years. We are now in public soft-launch phase, having onboarded the first batch of NEDs and entertaining the first inquiries from corporate coming through the platform. We have received a number of expressions of interest from GCC-based professionals to get featured. We are in the process of evaluating and vetting these applications.

Any expansion plans in the UAE, GCC and beyond?

We have the ambition to rapidly expand our coverage to all Gulf countries, in particular Saudi Arabia.

What are some new trends in your particular sector in the region?

There is substantial momentum amongst domestic and regional entrepreneurial families over the past 12 months in using domestic foundations (ADGM and DIFC) to structure their regional assets, particularly shares and real estate. Per publicly available data, the 100 foundations milestone should be hit imminently.

With the Dubai Land Department’s  (DLD) standard practice towards foundations now clearly established, we project this number to triple in 2020 and then triple again in 2021. M/HQ has advised, set-up and/or is providing ongoing support to about two thirds of the structures registered to date.

If you could go back, what would you do differently with your start-up?

Implement a robust operating system as early as possible and qualify clients on a granular level from inception.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Know what your core business is, focus on it, refer the rest – making sure the recipient of the referral is made aware it comes from you.

What is it really like being an entrepreneur?

There is no better tool to channel one’s drive towards a bigger goal...

I am constantly fascinated by the delicate balance between aiming for excellence in delivery on a daily basis and being aware that one can never control all parameters impacting such delivery.