John Cushing, the founder and CEO of data platform mnAI tells us he admires Stephen Hawkins for the way he had redefined the world of physics and championed the rights of the disabled
What do you currently do at mnAI ?
I am the founder and CEO of mnAI – a data platform that provides insight, research and due diligence on all unlisted companies in the UK. We hold 7.5bn+ data points on 6.4m UK companies, applying a wide variety of machine learning algorithms and filters which enable users to access targeted information far more rapidly than is currently possible, completing what used to take months of work in minutes. Our target audience includes Private Equity, M&A, Wealth Management, Family Offices, Real Estate, Professional & Financial Services – although, in practice, you can extend this to anyone who requires information on companies and related people in the UK.
Initially the platform was designed to provide detailed insight and analytics at a company level only, but with an expanded dataset we added bespoke industry insights and analytics which a user can self-generate. The platform also offers detailed information on officers and shareholders which can further be filtered by gender, enabling very precise targeting of an industry, companies, directors, or shareholders.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Frustration! Over the years, I had looked for a way that would help me identify potential investment and acquisition opportunities and really struggled to find anything suitable that had the breadth and depth, let alone the speed, that I needed … and it became an obsession.
From conversations with friends in the industry and from my own research, it became apparent that I wasn’t the only one. From investment professionals to corporate analysts, and Private Equity firms to privately held companies looking to grow through acquisition, the overwhelming response was that most research was nothing more than a Google search and spreadsheets. Searches were manual and extremely time consuming. For example, the average length of time it took for a Private Equity analyst to produce a targeted shortlist based on various criteria was 126hrs…. and that was before moving on to the next stage of the process! So, I decided to do something about it.
Fast forward two years and mnAI is an award-winning business that’s backed and supported by fantastic people who continually deliver innovative solutions. We’ve been able to build a platform from scratch through a design-first approach that is both user-friendly and highly scalable.
Who do you admire?
Despite an unexceptional early education (he didn’t learn to read until he was eight) and a debilitating physical disease, by the time of his death at the age of 76, Stephen Hawking had redefined the world of physics; championed the rights of the disabled; been awarded the most major honours available in the scientific community; written numerous adult & children’s books; been included in the 100 greatest Britons of all time and still found time to supervise 39 PHD students. He did all of this despite being told by his doctors at the age of 21 that he had just two years to live.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
It would be easy to say yes, but that would negate the lessons learnt from mistakes.
What defines your way of doing business?
Honesty, recognise your limits, treat people well, and recruit people who are smarter than yourself.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Great companies are founded on sound principles. Research extensively, understand your market, make sure there’s a need for your product, recruit great people and work hard. Unexpected things will happen but have confidence in yourself, your team, your research and your business…..and don’t give up !