“Most recently, James has been CFO at Soulfresh and before that he previously spent a number of years as part of True’s PE team in London. He has also spent time with PWC and began his career at THG – so a long history in consumer. He’s also quite clever, as anybody who has enjoyed a conversation with James over the years will have quickly gathered… In short, I am a huge James fan!” — Paul Cocker
James was born in Yorkshire and currently lives in Melbourne. He started his career in industry before moving to M&A Advisory and then joining True’s PE team in 2016. James was part of the deal team that led our investments in Ribble and The Cotswold Company. After a brief stint as a Founder of a hospitality start-up, timed perfectly to coincide with COVID, he has most recently been the Portfolio CFO for our first Australian investment at Soulfresh.
I think it was more that I was lucky True chose me back when I was a 25-year-old with a handful of years’ experience. What I did love at the time however, and still do, is that True invests only in Consumer, versus being a generalist, and brings a new model to a well-trodden industry. I also loved the entrepreneurial spirit of the Founders, Matt and Paul, whose approach has taken me from investing in companies, which is a hugely privileged job, to sitting on Boards at a young age, backing my own start-up, becoming a CFO at one of the portfolio businesses in Melbourne - Soulfresh
I invest in companies and work alongside the teams that run them to hopefully turn them into bigger / better companies, with the aim to sell them for more than we bought them for.
Born to Run, a book about a South American running tribe. I used to love sport but hate running and regularly got injured until reading this book.
I pitched a version of Hello Fresh to a VC fund when I was fresh out of University. They said it would never take off. Hello Fresh is great but still has challenges around the cost of final mile delivery, acquiring customers and high churn rate that make it expensive, with sub-optimal portion sizes. A company that gave you exactly the right food to eat for every meal with no-prep required and simple / fresh ingredients would be so helpful Monday – Friday!
Retail has had three major leap forwards, with a bit of rounding, every 20 years. The first was the shift from small grocery shopping to big box retail in the ‘70s led by Wal-Mart / Tesco; the second in the ‘90s the rise of e-commerce led by Amazon / Google; the third in the ‘10s the rise of mobile, digital marketing and user-generated content led by Apple / Facebook. I’m not sure what the fourth is going to be in the ~‘30s, but there are plenty of contenders. There has been a lot of promise / overhype around virtual / augmented reality, blockchain technology, Web 3.0 (whatever that is…) and most recently AI. Each leap forward typically had some big incumbent losers that didn’t see it coming, and the creation of new industries after the dust settled. Our job at True is to help existing corporates not be the next victims of this creative disruption on one side, and then picking out and backing the future winners on the other.
A well-balanced team, who are focused, in a category that is big enough / growing, with the right economics, and are trading ahead of their plan.
This is our first investment in the food and beverage sector - so why have we chosen Antipodean healthy food group Soulfresh? We take a look at the market and the reasons why we believe we can help support the Soulfresh team on its journey.
True has invested £26m in Soulfresh, a food and drinks brand that’s disrupting the market with alternative options for consumers focused on healthy and sustainable lifestyles.