This civic-minded founder and investor shows how to embark on political reform
It is a common complaint among those who support UK entrepreneurs that too much talent is being sucked into the big banks. Andrew Dixon, founder of ARC InterCapital, not only found a way out, but continued to support UK entrepreneurs and the company beyond in ways that cannot be easily measured in a balance sheet.
Prior to founding ARC InterCapital in 2001, Andrew Dixon was at Goldman Sachs and before that at SociÃ©tÃ© GÃ©nÃ©rale. He was always drawn to working with entrepreneurs because of his admiration for their creativity and vision, and the booming tech scene of the 1990s convinced him there was an opportunity.
Dixon wanted to invest in SociÃ©tÃ© GÃ©nÃ©rale. âI made my first investment in American Metals Recovery (AMR). It was an exceptionally naÃ¯ve investment that ultimately failed, but I really enjoyed the process and most importantly I learned a lot. There is no shame in failing as long as you can use the experience to progress. After AMR, I invested in IDM Limited, which was successful, selling almost at the peak of initial internet popularity.
More than two decades later, he has invested over Â£ 30million in more than 40 local UK companies. It has a diverse portfolio, including Infinitesima, the developer of the fast probe microscope for the semiconductor industry, and LIVE IT, a ticketing platform.
âI mainly focused on the technology and software space while tending to avoid retail. I’m always looking for companies that are doing something different in a growing market, âhe says. “But at the end of the day, I invest in people, not just ideas.”
He is looking for entrepreneurs who take a different approach and an unorthodox solution to the problem, as well as those with deep reserves of tenacity, energy and empathy, and with the vision to predict the ever-changing needs of consumers and of the market at large. He is also looking for strong communicators and the ability to prioritize what will really move the dial of the company.
When it comes to the business, âit’s very important that the business has the opportunity to build a strong and robust economic divide,â Dixon says. âI’m looking for companies that have a way to maintain their competitive advantages over time. We don’t want a competitor to just duplicate the business. Warren Buffett said it best, saying he was always on the lookout for investment in businesses surrounded by a large, long-lasting moat, protecting a formidable economic castle ruled by an honest lord.
Dixon is concerned about some of the gaps, however, particularly the dominance of global tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Apple. âGrowth is good, but they have become untouchable and something has to be done about it globally,â he says.
âFinding the right talent is also a huge challenge,â Dixon says. âAs the tech industry grows, the supply of skilled engineers and programmers cannot keep up. We are not investing enough in education to prepare this generation and the next for the jobs of tomorrow, and that is holding back businesses and, indeed, society at large.
Dixon would also like to see more clarity on the UK’s long-term economic strategy, as well as better economic relations with our closest trading partners. âI am all for free trade, but new trade deals with countries on the other side of the world will not be the savior of our economic woes. And it is clear that access to our closest and most important market, the EU, has become much more bureaucratic. “
Outside of entrepreneurship, Dixon founded the Woodhaven Trust and is passionate about prison reform. It supports nonprofit prisoner rehabilitation organizations such as Code 4000, which teaches programming skills to offenders, and Prosper 4 Group, which provides employment opportunities for ex-offenders. âThese are innovative and hard-working charities on the front lines that help inmates prepare to live beyond their sentence. Supporting offender rehabilitation may not be fashionable, but the evidence suggests that this is by far the most pragmatic approach to reducing recidivism rates, âhe says.
In 2020 Dixon created Fairer Share because he believes we have been plagued by an unfair and irrational property tax system for decades in the UK. While government after government recognizes the need for change, they have all kicked the road out of fear of upsetting voters.
According to Dixon: âOn the one hand, the council tax is still based on 1991 property values, so it leaves poorer areas, especially in the north and the Midlands, to pay a much higher rate than London and the southeast, where home values ââhave grown much faster. On the other hand, due to the tiered structure – where all properties in a specific tier pay the same amount – homes at the bottom of each tier pay proportionately more than those at the top of each tier. On top of that, we have the stamp duty which taxes real estate transactions, making it expensive for young people to move up the property ladder or for older couples to downsize. Taxes on transactions of this nature have always seemed special to me.
âThe result is an increase in regional and intergenerational inequalities,â adds the hse. âThe UK now has higher levels of regional inequality than 28 other developed countries, including the US, France and Germany, according to an analysis by the University of Sheffield. It is a scourge for our society.
While many entrepreneurs and investors shy away from it, Dixon is more than happy to find himself stuck in the thick of it all about politics and politics. It should serve as an inspiration. After all, the UK and the world in general need more of this civic spirit.