Georgia Stewart is CEO and co-founder of Tumelo – a multi award-winning impact focused fintech. Here she shares her entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I am CEO and Co-Founder of Tumelo. I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and have experience from across the sustainable investment sector including equity investment analysis at Jupiter, cleantech venture capital at IP Group and conservation projects at Fauna and Flora International. I now run financial technology scale-up, Tumelo.
Tumelo’s platform gives investors and pension members visibility of the companies they are invested in and a shareholder voice on the environmental and social issues those companies are facing. Through partnerships with the largest investment and pension platforms around the world, Tumelo is driving mass engagement with sustainable finance and a grass-roots movement towards true shareholder democracy.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
It all started back at Cambridge University. We were armed with a £6bn endowment fund but still had no visibility and no say in how climate, human rights, plastic, gender or pay issues were voted on by fund managers at the companies our funds were invested into. By all accounts we were a major contributor to the investment system, and yet we could hardly use our financial leverage to affect any change at all.
This “influence” problem extends well beyond university endowments: 25 million investors inject over £52 billion into workplace pension plans and investment products every year in the UK. Most of their money – trillions of pounds – has been invested into funds structures, whereby the companies held within them are influenced and voted on by fund managers.
Some fund managers have worked hard to drive progress on climate, deforestation, and public health at global companies like Exxon Mobil, P&G and Tesco in the past, but there’s no escaping that from 2009 to 2018, environmental, social and political shareholder proposals received only 21% support from shareholders on average.
I believe all investors should be inspired and able to use shareholder power to make a positive change.
How did you achieve awareness?
Building awareness has been a consistent objective at Tumelo. We are fortunate to have the support of fantastic partners such as Aviva Investors and Legal & General, who we work with very closely and who are helping us to spread the word of who we are and what we’re doing. This, combined with the consistent marketing initiatives which include appearing alongside industry leaders at well-established industry platforms and being a part of the big conversations have been crucial to driving awareness, although we still have a long road ahead of us.
Our social media channels along with our website, which we also use as an intelligence platform have been instrumental in driving awareness. Our talented team of researchers and data analysts play a crucial role in producing insightful pieces that summarise our user testing findings, providing an informative value-add for readers.
The numerous well respected industry awards that Tumelo received as a business so far, as well as the awards I have been recognised with to date also have put us in front of key industry stakeholders and enabled us to build our brand and what we stand for.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
In a short space of time, we have been able to forge strong relationships with some of the leading market players and establish commercial partnerships with key pension providers and investment platforms. We are also signficiantly backed by our investors and are just about to complete a successful round of Series A funding – watch this space! I have been building relationships with angel investors as well as some venture capitalist firms since Tumelo was founded so that we have a consistent pipeline of investors.
What are the key successes?
Having launched with multiple major UK pension providers we are rapidly expanding our platform reach to additional workplace schemes. Tumelo’s solution is set to cover the majority of the UK population’s pension members within the next 3 years.
Following the success of the initial platform build, Tumelo has expanded to the retail investment market. Tumelo’s easy-to-integrate transparency and voting features are being distributed as API solutions to various investment platforms to be used by retail investors.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Growing a team has been challenging especially at the pace and scale we are needing to move at Tumelo. However, this is significantly easier when you already have a great culture.
Changing hearts and minds of people in the finance industry is no small task and is sometimes met with push back and a lot of resistance, but we whole heartedly believe in our mission and the more and more people that get behind us make it easier to prove to others that this really is the future.
Raising funds was particularly difficult in the earlier stages of the company when we were less established, persistence is key!
What are your plans now/for the future?
Growth! We’re growing the team, continuously growing and enhancing the product, and scaling every aspect of the business. Our vision is that by 2030, every investor will be empowered to use their shareholder rights. I’m in New York at the moment, building out our US network and deciding how to approach the expansive opportunity here!
Can you share your top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Network is everything. Having started a business straight from university, I had limited connections to leverage. I had to build my network from scratch and work hard at it. I was incredibly fortunate to have come across others in the pensions space that were real champions of Tumelo and all that we were out here to achieve. These key individuals who believe in Tumelo’s mission have been completely instrumental in connecting me with valuable stakeholders in this space.
Focus on culture. It’s really helped with hiring, retention and just enjoying the day-to-day life of this company.
Learn to switch off. You need something that will take your mind away from work. For me it’s running. A physical challenge alongside the mental challenge helps me rest easier at night!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
My dad has always been a huge inspriration to me. He runs a marquee company and is inherently entrepreneurial and hard-working. As is my mum and both of my sisters. So for me, it’s family that is both my rock and biggest inspiration.
The graduates on my team always remind me what it means to be ambitious and keep me on my toes!
And then there are a tonne of amazing women in the FinTech space who make me feel at home and who energize me every day!
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“You only live once but, if you get it right, once is enough”. – Mae West
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
Linkedin: Georgia Stewart