Les

_

Szekely

// Partner

Les

_

Szekely

// Partner
"
Les was the first investor in SiteMinder and has supported it for over 14 years. His support has been constant – he’s never missed a single board meeting! He puts the business first and has always been fair to other shareholders. We do not always agree, but he is always constructive. Over the years, I have found Les to be an excellent sounding board on many of the big decisions I have faced, both on a business and a personal level. We are deeply grateful to have had his support throughout the whole journey of building SiteMinder from an idea to a unicorn.
"
// Mike Ford, Co-founder & MD of SiteMinder

My parents came to Australia as refugees when I was 4 years old. They worked 24x7 so I spent a lot of time alone. I was an outsider, and instead of playing sports, I grew an independent imagination. I cared less about being popular than about achieving. I relate to the Henry Ford quote “If I’d asked people what they wanted they would have said a better horse.” 

As “refos'' my family had no choice but to be frugal and hard working. These adversities became my values. I confess a bias in favor of Founders from migrant backgrounds who often share these values.

Many of the great things that have happened to me have come from helping others. If someone comes to me for help, I help. No questions asked. I’m almost superstitious in believing that “what goes around comes around”. New Amsterdam is one of my favorite Netflix series because the lead character responds to everyone who approaches him with “how can I help”. Good investors authentically have this “how can I help?” predisposition. 

I became an “angel investor” at a time when that term was still unknown in Australia. I met Leon Kamanev when he was newly arrived from Russia. Our daughters were school friends and I tried to help him find work. He was delivering pizzas to make ends meet. Years later, in 1999, Leon came to see me with the then crazy idea of taking hotel bookings online. At the time people said that no-one would give their credit card details online! We did a business plan on Lotus123 and a spiral bound pitch deck. Then the .com bubble burst and I ended up putting my own savings into the Hotelclub business. 

Working with Leon was my lucky break. After >4 years of intensive work Hotelclub was sold. Leon went on to found other businesses, the most famous being Menulog. I went on to become an angel and then a VC investor. We are still friends.

Before I was an investor, I was a tax lawyer and adviser – a career I absolutely loved. I wrote several books on tax planning. I always put the client first, ahead of self interest. Decades later I still have relationships with many of the people I worked with. Some of my former colleagues and clients who never considered VC investing have invested in our VC funds “because we trust you Les.”

The right business model, the right timing and the right Founders. As an investor I have learned that you need these three things to align for any chance of success. If you have a commercial background, identifying winning business models is the easiest of these must haves. The right timing means you need to distinguish fads from trends and not follow the herd. Meeting the right Founders at the right time is a matter of luck and deciding who to back is the hardest part.

My parents came to Australia as refugees when I was 4 years old. They worked 24x7 so I spent a lot of time alone. I was an outsider, and instead of playing sports, I grew an independent imagination. I cared less about being popular than about achieving. I relate to the Henry Ford quote “If I’d asked people what they wanted they would have said a better horse.” 

As “refos'' my family had no choice but to be frugal and hard working. These adversities became my values. I confess a bias in favor of Founders from migrant backgrounds who often share these values.

Many of the great things that have happened to me have come from helping others. If someone comes to me for help, I help. No questions asked. I’m almost superstitious in believing that “what goes around comes around”. New Amsterdam is one of my favorite Netflix series because the lead character responds to everyone who approaches him with “how can I help”. Good investors authentically have this “how can I help?” predisposition. 

I became an “angel investor” at a time when that term was still unknown in Australia. I met Leon Kamanev when he was newly arrived from Russia. Our daughters were school friends and I tried to help him find work. He was delivering pizzas to make ends meet. Years later, in 1999, Leon came to see me with the then crazy idea of taking hotel bookings online. At the time people said that no-one would give their credit card details online! We did a business plan on Lotus123 and a spiral bound pitch deck. Then the .com bubble burst and I ended up putting my own savings into the Hotelclub business. 

Working with Leon was my lucky break. After >4 years of intensive work Hotelclub was sold. Leon went on to found other businesses, the most famous being Menulog. I went on to become an angel and then a VC investor. We are still friends.

Before I was an investor, I was a tax lawyer and adviser – a career I absolutely loved. I wrote several books on tax planning. I always put the client first, ahead of self interest. Decades later I still have relationships with many of the people I worked with. Some of my former colleagues and clients who never considered VC investing have invested in our VC funds “because we trust you Les.”

The right business model, the right timing and the right Founders. As an investor I have learned that you need these three things to align for any chance of success. If you have a commercial background, identifying winning business models is the easiest of these must haves. The right timing means you need to distinguish fads from trends and not follow the herd. Meeting the right Founders at the right time is a matter of luck and deciding who to back is the hardest part.