From Boston Consulting Group to Selling on Amazon | Adrian Johnston

Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Sponsored by GETIDA – Adrian Johnston Founder & Head of Strategy of Una-Brands - Una Brands uses significant growth capital to transform your e-commerce brand into a household name. and he will talk about going from Boston Consulting Group to Selling on Amazon, also more information about his life's journey. #AdrianJohnston #UnaBrands

About Adrian Johnston of Una-Brands Before Una Brands, Adrian spent several years as a Corporate Strategy Consultant for Boston Consulting Group (BCG) specializing in Consumer Goods and Private Equity. Previously, he was an Equity Trader at Goldman Sachs for over 3 years. Adrian graduated with an MPA from Harvard, an MBA from INSEAD, and a Masters's from Oxford.

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[Yoni Mazor] 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of prime talk today, I'm happy to have a special guest today I'm having Adrian Johnston. Adrian is the founder and head of strategy for Wonder brands. Wonder brands is a very special e-commerce aggregator. Because a few things a is based on Australia and Singapore, which is pretty unique. We're gonna you're gonna expand more about it later on in the episode, but also the focus on buying Amazon, and non-Amazon e-commerce businesses, which is also really cool. So Adrian, welcome to the show.

[Adrian Johnston] 0:36
Awesome. Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

[Yoni Mazor] 0:38
Our pleasure. So today is gonna be the story of Adrian Johnson. You can share with us everything you know, who are you? Where are you from? Where'd you grow up? Where'd you go to school? How do you begin your professional career, station to station until you reach where you are today with the world of E-commerce and especially with owner brands? So without further ado, let's jump right into it.

[Adrian Johnston] 0:59
Awesome. So let's start from the beginning.

[Yoni Mazor] 1:01
Yes, sir. Yeah. Awesome.

[Adrian Johnston] 1:03
All right. I'm from the UK. I spent the first five years of my life in South Africa under apartheid. Apartheid South Africa, my dad was helping to support the anti-apartheid movement.

[Yoni Mazor] 1:18
Just the back a little bit. So the UK, which part

[Adrian Johnston] 1:21
Of Facebook, Guilford, or shout

[Yoni Mazor] 1:23
Out water called again? Guilford. Gilbert, the London area and the UK and you when you're five years old, your father was an activist helping with the apartheid movement.

[Adrian Johnston] 1:34
Yeah, that's right. Yes. I moved to South Africa when I was very young when I was like one year old. And I was there for five years. My dad went to see Nelson Mandela being freed. It's a crazy man is so

[Yoni Mazor] 1:43
Wild. Wow. Okay, yeah. Just think start. Yeah,

[Adrian Johnston] 1:48
I've connected that back to South Africa several times. But I have like my kind of various family members there and all the rest of it. But the rest of my life is spent in the UK and other places. But yeah, so in terms of where I studied, so I did my undergrad at Oxford. I studied math for my undergrad. Before I went to university. I loved math. And then as soon as I got to university, I realized I hated it. Really

[Yoni Mazor] 2:16
Interesting twist. What happened was

[Adrian Johnston] 2:19
That I wasn't as good as everybody else in my class.

[Yoni Mazor] 2:25
Just talk to others that made you feel oh, I don't like it as much as because of the measurement.

[Adrian Johnston] 2:29
Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah. Like when I was in high school, I was like, the best in my class and all the rest of it. And then I got to university. And there's all these like, Math Olympiad, people from like Bulgaria and China and all this and, and I remember all of the Chinese students had done the whole of the first is the first year syllabus before they even got there. And then I saw the British kids at the back just what

[Yoni Mazor] 2:51
Was going on. There was a piece of cake, but Oxford, just for people to understand here. That's a major league, right? That's like the top university or one of the tops in the UK, United Kingdom, right?

[Adrian Johnston] 3:01
That's right. Yeah. So okay, so

[Yoni Mazor] 3:03
You are, I guess, a good student. But let's, before we touch base on your university, so growing up, it seems like your father was very charismatic, you know, in being involved with, you know, the freedom and so on data. So when you went back to the UK, what was his focus, and what kind of house environment that you grew up in? You know, during those years,

[Adrian Johnston] 3:23
When I was growing up, I never really reflected on my dad's job. But when I think back on it now, you had a remarkable career. So he was involved in international development for his whole career. So he worked for an organization called the Commonwealth Secretariat, which is the development arm of the Commonwealth of Nations. And so he said he lived in, he lived in Sri Lanka for five years, one of my brothers was born in Sri Lanka. Before I was born. They lived in South Africa for five years, he was then in London, doing various projects in Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, on local government initiatives. And then it was and then after I left home, they moved to Nepal for five years. And then my mom speaks fluent Nepalese, again, doing for doing development stuff. So, you know, building schools and hospitals and all those sorts of things. So loosely, like who caught

[Yoni Mazor] 4:15
Any of that, I guess, ability to you know, be very international, very global instead of cultures in San dynamics. Did that influence you at all? Is this more like your parents? I when I was professional?

[Adrian Johnston] 4:27
Yeah, I think I think it did influence me. Yeah, certainly. But also their outlook on life. I mean, to be honest, that they put me to shame in terms of what they've done with their careers. But, but more broadly, I guess, in the way that you know, you should get back and there's more to the world and money and all these sorts of things. I think it had a profound impact on the way that I look at the world. And yeah, the first job that I had out of university as I was a high school teacher working. So I did the teaching. The first program in the UK, which is

[Yoni Mazor] 5:02
Less surgery and I want to slap us into this. So it makes it a bit easier for a bit. I'm very concerned. So when did you graduate from Oxford University? What year?

[Adrian Johnston] 5:09
Yeah, so I graduated in 2009. I then took a gap year. So in the UK, it's quite common to take a year off. So I spent a year in France and Spain learning French and Spanish. I spent six months in France, in Montpellier in France, and various other places. And then I spent six months in Spain, in Madrid, but

[Yoni Mazor] 5:31
That’s common for UK students. Like, you know, graduating from Marshall University. That's kind of a popular thing.

[Adrian Johnston] 5:38
Yeah. Yeah. Not necessarily students, graduates from Oxford, but in general, I'd say probably 25 or 30%, or maybe more people would take a year off either they didn't before university or they do after university and use that time to some people would travel around Southeast Asia, some people would do

[Yoni Mazor] 5:58
In Spanish was you wanted to do that just to have it in your toolbox or there's more of a profound reason for that.

[Adrian Johnston] 6:05
Yeah, I wanted to put it in my toolbox. Also, I'm a passionate Europhile who very strongly believed in the European Union. And I was very disappointed when my country voted to leave the European Union but

[Yoni Mazor] 6:20
Okay, also known as Brexit. So you're not you were not a Brexit supporter.

[Adrian Johnston] 6:24
I was not a Brexit supporter. But it caused a big rift in our family. Generational lines. Yeah, cuz

[Yoni Mazor] 6:32
I want to jump into that for a moment because your parents were in the Commonwealth. What was your perspective there? There were for Europe or, you know, a Brexit what was there? Well,

[Adrian Johnston] 6:42
I'm sure they won't mind me sharing their purpose on this, but they, so they both Brexit supporters, and it's it, the Brexit divide in the UK is very similar to the Trump divide in America in a lot of ways, in that, in a lot of ways, it falls generationally. It's less, it's less kind of politically divided. It's not so well, it's in Brexit in the UK, it's not so much everybody on the right voted for Brexit, and everybody on the left voted to remain. It's, it's more

[Yoni Mazor] 7:15
a mishmash, it's, it's this thing, it's not a camp issue. It's just everybody has their stream of or logic to get there. It sounds to me, especially for fathers that working for the Commonwealth, you know, that was British Empire, the British Empire was not Europe, it was British, you know, by definitely by culture. So that is his background. And this is a kind of career that he developed with that domain. So for him was only natural to kind of feel that way. Independence is the thing for us. Right and for you, I guess you grew up in a different track being a maybe an Oxford or other AFL like more, you know, where you got your European or your affiliate tracks, but that's on YouTube, to determine. And that's why there's a kind of a different one family different mindsets.

[Adrian Johnston] 7:58
Yeah, that's a really interesting perspective. Could very well be the reason but

[Yoni Mazor] 8:05
Let’s go back to after the year off, so I wanted to in the toolbox, you are your feelings, later on, you discovered that Brexit was gonna be a thing. That's fine. We'll put it aside for now. So why did 2010 you begin your professional careers or what you mentioned as a school teacher or high school teacher?

[Adrian Johnston] 8:19
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I did the Teach First program, which is the same as Teach for America that you guys have, I think, so after you graduate, you spend two years working what they call a school in challenging circumstances. So basically, like an inner-city, a public school in London. And, yeah, so I was a high school math teacher for two years. Well, I've actually for three years. So I spent two years in the first one I was based that and then in my third year, I helped set up a new school in London, which was, which is

[Yoni Mazor] 8:48
Hollow graduate from Oxford with a mathematic mathematics degree. That's right. Yeah. And they know you because you mentioned you started liking liked in high school, but when you hit Oxford is more.

[Adrian Johnston] 8:59
So I ended up doing a master's in Bath only because so I didn't say in the UK. An undergraduate degree in three years. And then I didn't know what to do at the end of the three years. So I stayed on I did a fourth year, which gets your master's degree. And then after that, I

[Yoni Mazor] 9:16
Became a teacher. I became a teacher. Yes. So he did all that track. Not liking math that came after what was that point?

[Adrian Johnston] 9:23
You know, I hated it. I hated

[Yoni Mazor] 9:27
So how are you still able to kind of move that route? Unless there's a friction point later on that created? I assume it is because?

[Adrian Johnston] 9:36
Well, so So while I hated studying math, I loved teaching math, and I wanted to be a teacher right from when I applied to Oxford in the in. When I was 1516 years ago, I went back and reread my application essay, and it was along the lines of I want to study math so that I can become a high school math teacher. And then

[Yoni Mazor] 9:57
Let me put this to bed. I want to put this to bed your reasoning for not liking math was more because it was competitive as a subject all around, or there was a deeper meaning in terms of the actual subject itself, or the dynamics?

[Adrian Johnston] 10:07
Of it. Oh, it is just like, I remember understanding the first half an hour of the first lecture in my first year at Oxford, and then I would just sit in lectures and just understand absolutely nothing. Like, I was just blindly copying stuff, I should hasten to add as almost nobody did. And like you have to go into the library and like sit and study. So degrees in the UK are a little bit different from in America, in the sense that we don't have a broad, like liberal arts type curriculum, like when you're 18. So when I was 16, and 17, I studied maths, further maths, and physics. So that's when I was a high school. Like when I was at high school for the last two years of high school, I studied nothing apart from maths, further maths, and physics. And to, you have to study that to prepare yourself for university, and when I was at university, I studied math, I didn't study anything else. There's no other part of my curriculum that I like. And that's the same with all subjects in the UK. Like if you study ancient history in the UK, all you study is ancient history, you don't get to do a bit of, you know, pre-med,

[Yoni Mazor] 11:13
Whatever the subject or trail is, it seems like in the UK go deep

[Adrian Johnston] 11:18
To prepare people for academia, like I was very well prepared to go on to do a Ph.D. or going to academia or whatever. But for anything else, it was pretty much

[Yoni Mazor] 11:28
Like a dosage issue. I don't think I have a problem with math because you were able to survive and get a degree and do a Masters which is phenomenal. So that's one thing that's admirable even though you restarted something, finished it and I guess, finished successfully because you got your masters. And it just sounds to me like as dosage, the dosage was a little bit top. But you still were able to deal with that and you know, finish your assignment and your mission. Okay, so from 2010 to 2010 until 2013 you’re in the teaching game. For three years now you're teaching in inner cities. It's the program that third-year helped set up.

[Adrian Johnston] 12:04
It was quite a crazy school that I was that, to be honest. It was. Like, as I said, it was like a school in challenging circumstances. So

[Yoni Mazor] 12:13
Around the East London area, just as a side question.

[Adrian Johnston] 12:15
It wasn't any sign. It was more stuff that actually, but he also has various schools.

[Yoni Mazor] 12:22
I want to mention that we have done in McQuillan, we had him on the show if you ever get a chance to check out his episode. He's gonna Miss London. He had a whole thing where he was helping East London, you know, inner-city, youth, and stuff like that. So very admirable person, and wow. So he's also in the E-commerce game. I can also make an introduction later if needed. But yeah, just that was asking about East London happened to be the see if you guys are from the same region working on helping the community.

[Adrian Johnston] 12:45
Oh, wow. No, awesome. Stay on, check out the podcast. Yeah. But no. So my second, my second year teaching that we came back in after the summer holidays, and in 2011, we had a whole bunch of riots in London, kicked off by various things. And so a whole bunch of the kids had been that I was teaching were involved in gangs or recipe that be caught up in the violence and so a lot of came in with these police anklets around their ankles to track their movements. And they then spent the whole year in and out of juvenile detention centers. All the rest of it. There was a kid stabbed outside the front of the school that helicoptering to, to the local husbands to know what

[Yoni Mazor] 13:22
Are they writing about who's writing just to give us a little taste of that? What was happening there in London?

[Adrian Johnston] 13:28
Yeah, it was kicked off by shooting in Tottenham similar to I guess the Black Lives Matter movement in America, which was kicked off by the death of

[Yoni Mazor] 13:44
Guys, I guess there were police who were aggressive. They shot somebody from the community. It was either London or both or just London, North London. Yeah, North London Tottenham dynamic, this spurred a whole civil outbreak of the population there and a lot of the guys arrested got hurt.

[Adrian Johnston] 14:01
Yeah, I mean, it turned from like civil disobedience into wholesale writing so just fully like looting isolate start shops and you know, selling cars and fire and all the rest of it. And so yeah, it's pretty scary for a little moment but everything calmed down and but yeah, as I said, a lot of kids were involved in that so yeah, it did make it challenging teaching under those circumstances,

[Yoni Mazor] 14:28
progress teaching them you know, able to give them things that you know, later on, help them in life and education routes, or what was your I have to do three years in the community.

[Adrian Johnston] 14:38
Oh, yeah, I feel super proud. I guess the three years I spent teaching, and particularly in the last year I spent teaching where I was helping set up a school because the school that we set up went on to become incredibly successful is based on a model in America which is called Kip, which stands for the Knowledge is Power Program, which has a particular philosophy of teaching and

[Yoni Mazor] 15:01
App. Now, our program,

[Adrian Johnston] 15:04
Yeah, nice and hadn't been tried in the UK. And so we've seen the success of it in the in New York. And so we decided to try it in the UK

[Yoni Mazor] 15:15
Or somebody else but he said, I want you to kind of join this program.

[Adrian Johnston] 15:18
Someone else wanted it. So they want to want to join. But now I can

[Yoni Mazor] 15:22
Already see the resemblance between yourself and your parents, they work with communities. They did on a global level and also in South Africa. You mentioned that, but also you did that at least you know, closer to home on underneath your nose. No in London, so that's admirable. So don't overlook that. But it's good.

[Adrian Johnston] 15:38
Yeah. Yeah, so that was my teaching.

[Yoni Mazor] 15:44
13 What's the next station? What's the next move for you?

[Adrian Johnston] 15:47
So anyways, Goldman Sachs? Finally, okay, good.

[Yoni Mazor] 15:53
Good. Ranking.

[Adrian Johnston] 15:54
Exactly. Yeah. So

[Yoni Mazor] 15:55
What was that period? What was the dynamic that brought you there?

[Adrian Johnston] 15:59
So I mean, the thing we're teaching is that, like, it's very rewarding. If for very brief moments, like, you know, once a fortnight a kid might say thanks about you healthy. But the rest of the time, to be honest, it's a massive grind, particularly teaching in the UK, because there's so much pressure put on teachers in terms of the reporting requirements that you have to do. And just a whole bunch of crazy stuff that you're required to do as a teacher in the UK is not very well paid. And it's very under-appreciated. It was also extremely long hours. So I was well, I mean, I guess no longer than, you know, anybody doing a long hour job, but I would start it my first contact time with students in the morning was seven o'clock in the morning, which means that I would get screwed up by six. And then I would be at sports to help us nine, kind of marketing and planning for next day. And then over the weekend, I would do marketing. So that's kind of like a 15 hour day. Monday, Thursday, Friday, I

[Yoni Mazor] 17:01
Mentioned incessantly my full disclosure, my wife is a math teacher, even till today. Oh, wow. Cool. Yeah. So I'm poking to see your experience kind of complete with tears because I have some insider trading here with this. But okay, good. So Goldman Sachs presented itself as an opportunity, how they just, you apply, they reached out to what was the point of Connect? Yeah, it

[Adrian Johnston] 17:22
was so weird part of my story is that I interned at the bank, Lehman Brothers in the summer of 2008, right before they collapsed, went and took the whole world down into the global financial crisis, which was a very interesting, slash weird time to be on the trading floor of Lehman Brothers. But because of that, I've got exposure to investment banking. The following summer, I also interned at the more, by the way, that was the highest-paid week of work that I've ever worked. The reason why is because, so so when i. So when Lehman Brothers went bust, they didn't pay me for the last week that I was there. So they OB about 1000 pounds. And so, but like, six months later, the government said, Okay, if you're owed money, then we'll compensate you for the money that you wrote if you're an employee. So I got the money back from the government. And then a year later in Santa Barbara, and the more I didn't realize that we or they knew that some of us would be paid, but they just said, Okay, we're just gonna pay everybody again, because we realized some of you weren't paid. So they paid everybody another 1000 pounds for the week that they were there. And then five years later, I got sponsored content by PwC. Who was doing the administration for the school? Yeah, yeah, they were saying and they said to me, you know, as one of the four employees, you're a senior creditor, we're going to give you $100 800 pounds on the 80% on the dollar, whatever. So

[Yoni Mazor] 18:49
you got a 3x Multiple and you're weak with Lehman Brothers after the collapse that's pretty good to know that in the financial world, even though this collapses there are other institutions that kind of come in and sit with so that's pretty good to know. Yeah.

[Adrian Johnston] 19:04
Yeah. I mean, I'm not sure if we have necessarily the most deserving group of financial beneficiaries but anyway

[Yoni Mazor] 19:11
Ended up on the good side so that that was your exposure to the finance role the realizing Goldman Sachs is a pretty major player there. And why apply because he had in the back of your mind or

[Adrian Johnston] 19:21
Yeah, exactly. So I didn't I applied for an internship during the summer holidays of teaching in the previous year. And so I was I did an internship I was offered three different positions on the trading floor of Goldman Sachs, I was offered a position as a quantitative strategist, they call it which is an Akoto doing like, like quant trading as well. Also a wonder to macro trading, which basically indices and futures and then also warrants which is basically like kind of

[Yoni Mazor] 19:51
These three options or these three roles. Those were the three options.

[Adrian Johnston] 19:55
Yeah, so I decided to go to the middle one, which is the one Delta macro trading which is trading, like futures, index futures, swaps ETFs, which are exchange-traded fund funds, and PT, which has the portfolio trading. So it's a whole bunch of stuff. It's basically, it's trading it's like trading the footsie 100 Rather than trading stock. So, yeah, I did that for three years working at Goldman, it was a super interesting experience.

[Yoni Mazor] 20:32
This is kind of on the rebound from 2013 until 2016, was pretty much rebound years when you know, the stock market and financial world is getting back kind of the losses amid the meltdown of 2008. And,

[Adrian Johnston] 20:45
And also, there was a massive shift in the market towards what's called passive money rather than active money towards index trackers. And so, so people were getting fed up with hedge funds. When you looked at the statistics, people realize that on average hedge funds make less money than just putting your money, into an index fund. And so there was a huge shift in money from Alpha tracking funds to what they up to tracking funds it from, like active hedge funds into the passive, passive fund

[Yoni Mazor] 21:18
And Goldman Sachs provided that instruments are an index. Yeah. These index funds mimic the actual, let's say, let's take the NASDAQ, s&p 500, or whatever s&p 500. Your common SAS comes in and creates a portfolio that mimics the same reaction as s&p 100 500. So if it goes up a percent, then it goes up a percent this way, it's kind of mimicking, you're betting on the index in a very low-cost way, because it's the way that it's structured, it's very low cost, not too many fees to pay, you know, contrary to a hedge fund, which can, you can have a good yield, that's a very good year, but it's 30%, but didn't take a third of your earnings or something like that. So that's kind of the ratios are the pros and cons of these methods or investment strategies. So you were involved with that kind of inflow of funds into the index funds and ETFs.

[Adrian Johnston] 22:13
Yeah, that's right. And one of the big things that we would manage is that is the rebalances of the indices. So say, for example, a new company gets added to the s&p 500. Well, that suddenly means that like, everybody who tracks the s&p 500 suddenly has to buy stocks in that

[Yoni Mazor] 22:30
You got to re-measure for so you got to re-measure, I guess it's where the math comes in for yourself, right? You got to re-measure all the balances, the whole checks and balances, and ratios. And once that is done, then you take action to make the purchases as the rifle for the actual and embedded into the to every dollar pound that comes in, you gotta buy the same ratio is in a formula. It's a whole exactly.

[Adrian Johnston] 22:52
Yeah, it was a super, super quantitative another math-driven role, which I which I've enjoyed, to be honest. So yeah,

[Yoni Mazor] 23:02
That’s it. That was you're in when you're dealing with a team, basically, all these ratios, all these financial instruments, banishment, balances. That's it. That was your genius within Goldman Sachs. Yeah.

[Adrian Johnston] 23:13
Yeah, that's very. Yeah, I did a few things there. So I was part of the, the, what they called the straight-up program at the time. So they have straps that use code, and you have traders who are not allowed to have access to code, but they manage risk. But they wanted to experiment with giving some of the traders access to the code so that you could write your stuff. And so these people were called traders, like strat and trader. So I was part of the straighter program. And so I got access to the code, which was good fun. And I managed to write some very successful trading strategies. So that was

[Yoni Mazor] 23:49
Probably actually computer code. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Does it automate kind of the way money comes in the whole buying process, or what is it? What does it automate?

[Adrian Johnston] 24:00
Yeah, exactly. Right. So when, when Goldman is trying to unwind this risk, or take on risky positions, it does that through a whole bunch of algorithms and kind of automated trading processes and, and if you can do that more efficiently, then then you can make all this money.

[Yoni Mazor] 24:20
And got it. Okay. Let's put that aside for now. Topic I, I'm curious, but that's not what we're here today. Okay, so 2016 what’s your next question? What do you what do you go?

[Adrian Johnston] 24:32
So, I enjoyed working in government, but it was very, very narrowing. So like, I can tell you everything there is to know about how to prize a, you know, a global ETF or whatever, but anything outside of that, like I don't have that much, you know, transferable knowledge from the government. And I found myself getting like, narrowed into a tiny segment of knowledge. So I decided to broaden out my skill set and I went into management consulting. So I went to Boston Consulting Group, which was kind of the opposite. Calling yeah, yeah, BCG. That's right. So there's kind of the opposite, which is that you get exposure to everything that is super transferable, you learn a whole bunch of really useful skills. So yeah, I was based in London, I was focused on, I did a few private equity cases, I did a few banking well

[Yoni Mazor] 25:20
Worth mentioning on a global scale.

[Adrian Johnston] 25:24
No, nothing, nothing that people would have heard of. But they're just basically private equity firms of buying companies, they typically will engage either BCG, McKinsey, or Bain to do a study of the company and study the market. So I did a few of those,

[Yoni Mazor] 25:42
I guess, advantage and benefits of using BCG Boston Consulting Group is the ability of the group and its specialists or consultants like yourself to kind of look at a model of a company and break it down to the bones, and an extra vision of what's going on? What's the dynamic? And then the private equity can decide if you know fits your strategy, or their thesis or not, or expect to get?

[Adrian Johnston] 26:03
Yeah, that's a really good description of it. Yeah. And not only the company, but also the market, you know, the competitive landscape, the growth lever, the growth, drivers. And

[Yoni Mazor] 26:15
So you enjoy that that's kind of you that's actually on the business side and the market size and working with people how they explain their business numbers with words all that stuff. And then you got to translate that to the end customer. Different than all the mathematics and the code of ETFs. And index funds. It's an interesting transition that you made. Very good. I'm really

[Adrian Johnston] 26:37
I'm really glad I did that. Because yeah, as I say this, I feel like the skills I learned there are so much more useful and so much more transferable than, than the kind of trading skillset that I acquired that there was some interesting, like transferrable things like, you know, how to evaluate risk in a methodical, logical way. But realistically, wasn't that transferable. Whereas a BCG, you know, you interact with clients all the time, you're, you know, you're working out storylines, and how to communicate, you're, you know, researching the market. It's very, very useful for anything that you would want to do afterward. Yeah, I

[Yoni Mazor] 27:11
Think it's a killer combination of what's coming next. We're not there yet. But we'll get there. What are you doing today with, you know, with, basically, aggregation is merging new businesses into your infrastructure all the time, and then you gotta have you got to make an educated decision if you should do it or not. I don't want to jump the gun on this. But yeah, you were saying?

[Adrian Johnston] 27:30
Yeah, well, so the cool thing about BCG Is that there's a whole bunch of opportunities as well, I would say more so than in banking, in terms of like, traveling, either working so I worked in, you know, Amsterdam, France, and Scotland, doing work trips to the US and Spain and Germany, Hungary,

[Yoni Mazor] 27:52
Croatia industries where the all these companies are looking into, you know, your, your old PC for your clients, any industrial engineer, you've kind of mastered or had more interested in, or you were more impressed with.

[Adrian Johnston] 28:06
Yeah, so I did. Banking, as well as kind of consumer goods, basically was my two, two big things. And

[Yoni Mazor] 28:15
I wonder if there's any risk involved or any liquor alcohol

[Adrian Johnston] 28:18
That was about such a bank that is based in Scotland? But, yeah, I guess one of the other cool things about businesses that they will sponsor, there will sponsor you to go back and do a master's so. So through BCG, I was sponsored to do my MBA by MPA so I did a one-year MBA at INSEAD Business School, which is the best business school in Europe. And then I took all again, INSEAD Yeah, where is it located? It's well, so it's actually what they call a global business school. So it has four campuses, one in Paris, one in Singapore, one in San Francisco, and one in Abu Dhabi. So it's very, so you can spend time on any of those campuses. So I spent the first four months in Singapore and then the last six months in Paris. So it's Yeah, I mean it's been ranked the top business school in the world for the last for three of the last five years by the Financial Times in

[Yoni Mazor] 29:19
The Harvard Business School, that's kind of the tug of war out there on business school levels. Yeah, that's right. Yeah, that's right.

[Adrian Johnston] 29:25
Yeah. Yeah, it was, it was probably the best year of my life, to be honest, or one-off. It was, by the way, I was 2018 to 19. So within

[Yoni Mazor] 29:40
After two years with Boston Consulting Group, they already opened up that option for you. So you're working with them and also doing your, your masters?

[Adrian Johnston] 29:47
Exactly. Yeah. Well, so you take a full sabbatical. So you do two years working and then

[Yoni Mazor] 29:52
You have to pay your salary and pay for school.

[Adrian Johnston] 29:56
They pay you a living expense. It's not a salary. It's like 1010 grand living it 1000 euros. So 20,200 $30,000 Whatever.

[Yoni Mazor] 30:04
Wow, that's very impressive. And then they compel you or you're supposed to come back and then you can continue. Yeah, exactly.

[Adrian Johnston] 30:10
Yeah, exactly. You're supposed to come back. Yeah. So I decided to take another year studying. So I went to Harvard to do the MPA, which is a Master's in Public Administration, which is very similar to an MBA, except that it's focused on public policy and politics, rather

[Yoni Mazor] 30:24
Then it will be for that I was at your funding, or I got a full scholarship.

[Adrian Johnston] 30:29
So Harvard just has an enormous amount of money. So they gave me a full scholarship, which was called the John F. Kennedy Fellowship, which covered the

[Yoni Mazor] 30:41
The United States your move to Massachusetts, Boston air.

[Adrian Johnston] 30:44
Yeah. Yeah. So it was right before COVID. So to do it, do it in Boston

[Yoni Mazor] 30:51
Guy and he did it still with Stanford BCG already left or was that dynamic there

[Adrian Johnston] 30:56
Was that they gave me a one-year sabbatical. So they didn't pay for it. But they said, you can have another year off, which typically, but when they will do MBAs, they will typically do a two-year MBA the Harvard MBAs two year program. So they weren't particularly bothered about letting me have a year off is kind of in line with how it works in the US.

[Yoni Mazor] 31:17
So let me get straight to 16 until 218 visitors and BCG and then one year with the European Etihad was called INSEAD. It sounds like an Arabic word. What does it mean?

[Adrian Johnston] 31:30
No, it's an acronym. It's a European thing.

[Yoni Mazor] 31:34
That maybe it's related to Abu Dhabi, but it's Yeah. Okay. So we did a year there a year in Harvard, that already puts us at 218 to 19. And to 2020. That's right. Yeah. Okay, so what happened? 2020. Let's take it from there.

[Adrian Johnston] 31:49
So I came back to say I say my partner's Australian. So his family bits. They're all from Sydney or whatever. And so we decided to move to Australia to be with his family and all the rest of it. And so I transferred with BCG. They were very, very kind to me. And I visited with extremely kind and helpful to me throughout my whole time there. And so I was locked in with this GT for two years. But then basically, in January, so six months after I came to Australia, I started looking into the kind of aggregator business model, and then decided to leave VGC. So

[Yoni Mazor] 32:28
I was pretty dramatic. So this is you. 2020. You're saying? Yeah, January so before the pandemic? Oh, ended? 2020.

[Adrian Johnston] 32:36
Yeah. So I came to Australia in July of 2020. And then I was planning to work during the pandemic. Yeah, yeah. It was very, I was very difficult. The process. I had, I was rejected five times from the visa process, but then eventually, I was uploaded,

[Yoni Mazor] 32:53
Like, persistent. Okay, so and appointed 20, kind of, I guess, January 2021, this year that we're in today. You said what? BCG, BCG, but you look into the aggregator model. And when you took a look and you have the BCG look meaning you know how to look at this. So take us there like what compelled you what do you see? And what's the dynamic as far as you understand it today?

[Adrian Johnston] 33:14
I'm sure. So I mean, I guess I was looking at, I guess I was looking at fasciae, which was the fastest ever company to become a unicorn. And trying to dissect the

[Yoni Mazor] 33:25
Anatomy, let me help you with this, as far as I understand that the fastest company to become a unicorn is profitable, right that can be profitable because that's very rare. Yeah.

[Adrian Johnston] 33:35
Yeah. And so, and I was trying to dissect kind of how they, how they did it, and what the value they bring to investors, and there's kind of two, two pieces of value they bring to investors one is, or two ways that they win. One is what they call multiple arbitrages, which is that Russia will buy companies for, you know, more or less one time, maybe a bit more nowadays, more or less one times revenue. If you look at where they're currently valued, they're valued at about 10 times revenue, which means that you take you to buy a business that is worth one times revenue, and purely by smashing them together. They tend it's been about 10 times revenue. So this is what people for multiple arbitrages.

[Yoni Mazor] 34:19
This is revenue, not EBIT, da, there's not EBIT, da same

[Adrian Johnston] 34:23
thing EBIT da same thing, so that they buy businesses for 4434 or five times what they call SDE sellers, discretionary earnings, which is a measure of EBIT da and they. And so currently, they now work, they're now trading around 30 or 40 times 3040 times EBIT, da. So yeah, then it's almost arbitrage on every purchase on every purchase. Exactly. Right.

[Yoni Mazor] 34:49
That's where you're able to because this is a new technique. This is the first time I hear about this angle that you're gonna explain to me I never looked at those goggles and those lenses So it's very, very interesting.

[Adrian Johnston] 35:01
Think about it when Thrasher buys a company now, and it has $5 million of EBIT, da, their valuation increases by, like

[Yoni Mazor] 35:11
49. so that's what you spotted in January are you really

[Adrian Johnston] 35:17
Are. Yeah, and by the way, this is not a new thing as it's called, in the private equity space, it's called the roll-up model. And it's been applied across a whole bunch of different categories, famously with gyms and doctors, surgeries, dentists, hairdressers, where you buy up individual hairdressers, and you, you put them under one brand or the one management structure, and then you have a larger company with that with a higher multiple. And by the way, the reason why large companies trade for higher multiples is more companies is that they're a lower risk. Because if you buy one business, and it goes fast, then you're out of pocket. But if you buy a company that has 10 businesses, and one of them goes bust, then hopefully you're compensated by

[Yoni Mazor] 36:02
Less risk to yourself, because you get 10 times more of a premium if you want to get in.

[Adrian Johnston] 36:06
Yeah, makes sense. Yeah, so there's a diversification angle. There are also other things like large businesses tend to have processes in place to prevent fraud. And, you know,

[Yoni Mazor] 36:14
Economies of scale, you know,

[Adrian Johnston] 36:17
The economies of scale are the second kind of lever that you bring to investors, which is that there's when you merge these companies, you benefit from local arbitrage. But you also benefit hugely from, you know, the scale benefits around the operations in terms of procurement, supply chain logistics, fulfillment. And on the growth side, you can invest the turbo charge in terms of, you know, geographical expansion, product expansion, channel expansion, marketing, optimization. And so when you take these two levers together and combine them, you get the golden, winning magical formula, which is the ecommerce rollout model. And so, you know, nobody, nobody was doing it in the E-commerce space up until trustees started doing it in a big way.

[Adrian Johnston] 37:07
And, and so I kind of looked at the economics around that the success and, and realized that there was a huge opportunity. So I then started doing some, research in Australia, I spoke to the head of Amazon FBA here, I spoke to probably 10 or 20 people at Amazon and eBay, and other places, and try to kind of identify the size of the pocket here is, and just realize that there's a colossal opportunity in Australia. And so, so how did that evolve? Well, it's a slightly random story in that so I've got an identical twin brother, who works from McKinsey in Dubai. And so funny. Yeah. So it was, it was my brother, who, who kind of got me looking into this as well. So he was approached by some investors from Rocket Internet. So if you're familiar with Rocket Internet, it's, it's an incubator based in Berlin. It's been very successful. Like, there are probably 15 or 20 companies that I would name Hello Fresh that makes these food boxes. And so that's one of their businesses. They're like a unicorn factory. And so they, they

[Yoni Mazor] 38:17
Reached out to be like Sequoia and obstacle is a good example for that. And based on German

[Adrian Johnston] 38:21
Different, they're different because they stayed much earlier. Yeah. They, they, what they typically will do is they scour the globe for fast-growing successful business models, and then they replicate them immediately everywhere, with enormous amounts of capital. And sometimes they can beat their competition. Sometimes they can't. A famous example of where they failed to beat the competition was with Airbnb, so they spotted Airbnb. They invested $90 million to launch it everywhere in the world, and they failed. They were knocked out.

[Yoni Mazor] 38:52
Airbnb brand or another brand. Or Airbnb. They feel with Airbnb in Holland did Airbnb.

[Adrian Johnston] 38:59
They say that they saw Airbnb being successful. And they created a copy. Yeah, their brand is known to run. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

[Yoni Mazor] 39:10
That's your model. Okay. And so your brother McKenzie, he said in Dubai, he got approached by them.

[Adrian Johnston] 39:16
Exactly. Right. Yeah, to kick off the kind of Africa version of this business model. So he left McKinsey to become the CEO of a company called Tia, which is, which an e-commerce aggregator based in Dubai is covering. I think they're now in four countries in Turkey, Poland, Saudi and Dubai, and the UAE. But I was kind of talking to him. And so I said, you know, can you put me in touch with your investors, I'd love to pitch them the kind of Australian version of this. And so he put me in touch and through his investors, I got put in touch with my co-founder is, they said to me, we love the idea. We think it's a great potential. And but we've already invested in a guy called Kiran based in Singapore. So maybe you guys should talk together and maybe you can pair up so that's what happens. So Cut up.

[Yoni Mazor] 40:00
And when did this happen? This is this gentleman right away, within a few weeks this whole transpired or what was this mambu kind of look extra was?

[Adrian Johnston] 40:10
The whole thing was incredibly quick. Yeah. I had one interview with the investors that are kind of Rocket Internet guys. And then I had one conversation with Kieran. And then I quit my job. But it was a few weeks. No, no, it was one of those too good to pass up opportunities.

[Yoni Mazor] 40:29
What about race? I guess the way your partner or your co-founder or you got a raise from them, or that came later on?

[Adrian Johnston] 40:37
Yeah, exactly. Right. So my co-founder is an incredibly experienced entrepreneur. And so he founded two Rocket Internet ventures previously, so one of them so both based in Singapore. So one of them is called, is called Food Panda, which is, I don't know which ones you have, like, which delivery things do you have in America like

[Yoni Mazor] 40:58
UberEATS, we got Door Dash yet.

[Adrian Johnston] 41:01
So it's Door Dash, for Asia. So it's the biggest food delivery network in Asia. So he sold that after two years for $600 million. He then was at McKinsey for five years before that he then went to become the CEO of Rocket Internet Asia for two years. He then founded another Rocket Internet venture called Zen rooms, which is sold after 300 for multi multi-million dollars. And then this is his next big thing is that startup. So he's a very credible entrepreneur. And so it's really through care and through his network that we have been able to get access to the amount of capital that we have. So So yeah, we raised a $40 million seed round in April, May time. And then we've just closed the series a funding round. Yesterday. It's not public yet, but I'll

[Yoni Mazor] 42:02
Be here in a few weeks to granulations on that, and probably tomorrow is going to be public. So Congrats. Thanks. Okay, and U DUB that una-brands, right? That's kind of the name of the firm the organization. And I guess what your focus within that is? It's you're going to bring the BCG flair and glare of dissecting ecommerce businesses, of course, Amazon businesses, you know, Amazon, third party accounts and brands, and but also, you know, other platforms. So what's your role in this? What's your focus or mission at this point with the winter brands?

[Adrian Johnston] 42:35
Yeah, so so. So I focused on two things. One, I'm head of the Australia office, and how, you know, probably half of the businesses that we've acquired in our portfolio so far have been based in Australia. So that kind of keeps me busy, overseeing acquisitions, growth, and all the rest of it. And then the second part of my portfolio is, by my title is head of the strategy, which I never really liked this kind of head of the strategy, title. But essentially, what I do is I work on a kind of group-wide project. So I, for example, recently, I've just been building up their group management reporting, so that we can have clear oversight of the whole business. I'm also looking at how we can set up our employee equity structure, currently working on some investor stuff. So So yeah, that's my that's really what I focus on.

[Yoni Mazor] 43:28
Yeah, yeah, you got to build this empire. So it sounds like you got to bring a lot of know-how and stay dynamic and be a kind of a source of energy also for the whole organization that you're trying to build up.

[Adrian Johnston] 43:40
Exactly. And, you know, for example, I launched a couple of weeks ago out on a mission and vision, our two-year roadmap, to the roadmap to a unicorn, and all the rest of the

[Yoni Mazor] 43:53
Two-year business plans to become a unicorn. That's, that's exciting, man. That's exciting.

[Adrian Johnston] 43:58
I mean, that's the plan.

[Yoni Mazor] 44:02
Yeah, you put out the map, this is a destination, while we're another this show that can be later on, figure it out. But as long as you know, this is a destination, and all the organization is calibrated towards the same goal and target, you'll find the way you know, you might think all these paths, but sometimes you see other levels and other paths, get you there. If especially for unexpected things happen or challenges transpire. That's just a reality of business and being an entrepreneur. I guess I want to kind of package the episode see what we got so far. So we can come to the closing chapter. And of course, there's anything else you want to mention, just feel free to do that. But because of the Bourne version UK, your little experience with South Africa, because your father was on a grand mission, and then you graduated and then you went to Oxford University, graduated there around 2009. It took a year off, you know, study French studies, Spanish 2010 You kind of started your career, you know, focusing on teaching, being a math teacher, you did this to your program, and then the third year already helped create a new School and this is all around the North London area, the inner city, youth and such.

[Yoni Mazor] 45:05
And then your next step was basically or Goldman Sachs, you find the opportunity there, you worked there for between 313 until 216, about three years, you know, focused on ETFs derivatives in the index funds and a lot of mathematics and also coding involved 2016 until 2018, I believe this is already with Boston Consulting Group with actual work that you do to 18 to 19. Up to kind of to 2020 to kind of three years you're ready studying, again, you're doing your master's degree there with the European business school, then Harvard Business School, and then you find yourself all of a sudden, Australia. Ready in during the pandemic in July coming in, I have to try five times to get in. You said oh, they're around January of 2021. You know, being a Boston Consulting Group consultant with the ability to dive in into models and you know, things that, you know, work or don't work. And you found out that this model of aggregating and roll-ups in the space of E-commerce is a kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, there's no other way to say it. And because of that, you put your moves on, you're able to find you know, you know the rocky guys in business in Europe, and then you really see that they kind of have a play that's coming up, or they're ready, put their chips on it, you tag along and let's say you're part of Hoonah brands, you're gonna inlet the to your business plan to become a unicorn, a billion-dollar organization, that we get everything correctly so far.

[Adrian Johnston] 46:32
That's it. That's exactly right. Yeah. Very exciting stuff, man. This is, I feel like I'm on Oprah, this has been a fun

[Yoni Mazor] 46:41
Day, you got to kind of touch her at the stations that you got you so far into the space. Okay, so now I want to kind of focus on two last things. The first one will be somebody who wants to reach out and connect and learn and discuss more this whole thing. Where can they find you? So give them a handoff. But the last thing will be is what is your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there.

[Adrian Johnston] 47:02
My message of hope and inspiration is I guess, keep your eyes open. Like you never know when the next opportunity is around the corner like, like, when I was a PCG, I knew that I wanted to try something. I didn't know what it was going to be. But, but I just hadn't had my eyes open the whole time for what the what, what the next big trend was going to be. And as soon as I spotted it, I jumped as quickly as I could basically. And so I'd say like, keep your eyes open wide. Keep looking around you. And you never know what the next-next big thing is going to be.

[Yoni Mazor] 47:37
Now keep your eyes open for opportunities, the more we can identify a jump on it. You're a living example, Boston Consulting Group, BCG careers is great. Nevertheless, you're able to see such an opportunity you, you know, transitioned out of it and focus on your mission and this opportunity. And you live, you know, by example to this to this recommendation, so this message is very, very good. And if somebody wants to reach out and connect, where can they find you on social media? Where are you?

[Adrian Johnston] 48:03
Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. So you can add me there or message me there. Or you can email me directly to Mr. so my email is Adrian at no dash brands.com that’s about you and a dash brands.com.

[Yoni Mazor] 48:22
Beautiful, great stuff. Adrian, thank you so much. I hope everybody enjoyed it and there's something new I sure did. Stay safe and help everybody the next time.

[Adrian Johnston] 48:30
Awesome. Thanks, Danny.