Greensill Capital founder, Lex Greensill, has been named overall winner in the 2019 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his work building a global software platform that democratises access to capital.
ounded in 2011, the company delivers ultralow-cost capital to more than eight million customers in over 150 countries. Greensill was chosen from a field of 24 finalists in five categories, including Didier Elzinga whose company Culture Amp became the latest Australian tech unicorn after a capital raise earlier this year pushed its valuation past $A1 billion.
Greensill first started thinking about the issue of access to capital as a teenager on his parents' sugarcane farm outside the coastal Queensland town of Bundaberg, just under 400km north of Brisbane.
“My parents couldn’t afford to send me to university because the people they sold their fruit to didn’t pay their bills,” Greensill says. “That started the question for me of how do we make the system better?”
His solution was to create a technology platform that uses artificial intelligence to price and issue bonds into the global market. The organisation has since become one of the largest bond issuers in the world, with annual turnover in excess of $A150 billion, funding everything from mobile phone handsets to prompt payments for pharmacists who provide life-saving care in the UK.
Where banks and traditional lenders will readily provide capital to large or established borrowers, many small to medium sized enterprises, and mum and dad businesses are rejected. It means small suppliers, such as his parents in Bundaberg were, are often unduly subjected to the impact of inefficient financial supply chains and long payment terms of large companies.
“From an office in Bundaberg in Queensland, Lex has managed to become a true global disruptor, democratising capital and in the process helping 2.3 million SMEs and more than 9 million consumers,” the EY independent judging panel said of his win. “His reach is global and his influence is expanding at an exponential rate. His organisation is one of the largest bond issuers in the world.
“With so much more to the story than first meets the eye, he has also managed to embed social impact at the heart of his model, which all combine to make him a standout candidate.”
Greensill says the solution came from realising that technology and capital could be used collectively to do things at a price and scale that works economically. “We are democratising capital and we’ve been able to do that for millions of people, some of them battlers in every corner of the globe.
“But when you consider just how many people and businesses there are around the world we have a very long way to go,” he says of the company’s 0.1 per cent market share.
Greensill’s company also owns a bank, based in Bremen, Germany, and has more than $A6 billion of assets under management in a suite of supply chain finance investment funds operated by leading fund management organisations.
He says his success as an entrepreneur comes from being irrationally fearless. “If you were rational and thought of all the things you should be afraid of, you wouldn’t have had a go in the first place.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by winner of the Emerging Female category for 2019, Hana Krawchuck of Love to Dream, whose baby swaddle product went viral after she realised babies sleep better, and longer, in swaddles that let their arms move freely.
“I’ve never been scared to try something new,” she says of her attitude towards entrepreneurialism, founded in her experience growing up as the child of industrious immigrant parents.
Mark Sullivan, who built Medicines Development for Global Health from his Melbourne base was named Social winner for his work developing drugs to treat illnesses commonly ignored by large pharmaceutical companies.
“Mark’s ability to build a business that has a massive social impact addressing significant global health issues fuelled by an inspired commercial engine to ensure its sustainability, sets him apart,” the judges said.
“He leverages the synergy of strong relationships and collaborations with the pharmaceutical industry and innovative research and development organisations. He is leading by example demonstrating that every pharma company around the world could be making a similar impact without trying too hard.”
Angus Kennard was recognised for his achievements in the Sustained entrepreneurialism category, having built his own business during his early career and then taking the reins at family business Kennards Hire, using AI and new technologies to transform what would otherwise be an asset constrained business to stay ahead of the curve.