Getting to Know You: Jay Dias

What do you currently do?

I currently run Leela Capital which is a Search Fund investment firm. This is a new type of investment model where I am proud to be the fifth person in UK that is qualified to run one. Essentially this model allows me as an entrepreneur to acquire a business with the support of my investors where I am then able to run the business.

Leela Capital specialises in a number of specific industries, including financial services, technology, media & telecoms, industrial, transport and business support services. We aim to work closely with businesses to ensure that we take a hands-on, active management responsibility and ultimately our goal is to acquire businesses that we really believe in and ones that we can stick with in the long-term to help continue growing.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

Having exited my last business following which was a venture capital-backed tech startup, I didn’t have a clear direction that I knew I wanted to go in next. However, I did know two things – firstly I wanted to run a business where I can drive both the internal and external strategy. Secondly I didn’t want to join a founding team within an early stage venture capital backed business because I didn’t want to go back into the “how are we going to raise our next investment round” mentality of running of business.

Who do you admire?

I do not necessarily admire any particular person per say but there are some individuals who I admire based on certain characteristics that they possess.

For their ability to inspire their audiences I do admire figures such as Churchill, Obama, Ghandi and Martin Luther King. They were able to inspire masses with relevant material that holds sentiment and resonates with them.

I also admire business leaders such as Lanham Napier who placed company culture at the heart of his style of business. Placing the culture of the business at the heart of how you handle both customers and employees.  It is quite often mentioned and strived for but I have only seen it once work effectively which is at Rackspace that was driven by the CEO and founder and executed by his teams.

Growing up like many other families in London I came from a migrant family who tried to set up a new life with very little, if any, foundation in this country.  They used what is now called “Entrepreneurial Spirit”, to create and build their homes and families demonstrating the type of drive and work ethic that can simply only inspire.

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?

I have a mixture of conventional and unconventional parts to my background including gaining my MBA from London Business School; MPA from LSE and qualifying as an accountant through PwC (Insolvency, London). Having left school at 16, many people ask whether this is something I would change. However, it allowed me to get a wealth of experience in other industries which has enabled me to spend the majority of my post-MBA years working with innovative startups. I would say that choosing the right business and industry is essential which is something I had to learn along the way.

What defines your way of business?

People! People! People!  If I hire the right people whom I can coach, motivate and lead whatever area of the business they go into, the business will grow. Hiring is one of the hardest things to do, but retaining and training talent is also a great challenge.  It is a cliché, but you don’t want to be the smartest person in the room.

What advice will you give to someone who is just starting out?

You need conviction about what you want to do and have tenacity to keep at it.  Try and be aware of what your weaknesses are. Everybody has weaknesses but if you can honestly admit to what yours are, you can hire people to help you in those areas.