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Investment Bankers Turned Entrepreneurs: The Critical Skills Required to Succeed


There are many reasons why investment bankers make the switch towards becoming entrepreneurs. These include retaining total company profits, the satisfaction of creative freedom, independence from a line manager or company and working flexible hours.  

Many investment bankers will start a business from passion for what they do and a belief that they have the qualities to succeed in the cutthroat world of business. Furthermore, running a business gives the owner a sense of accomplishment and pride in building a company and its brand from the ground up.

Case Studies

In 2000,Girish Sannappanavar and Anshuman Subhedhar started working in Mumbai as investment bankers at Pioneer Investcorp. In June 2005, after five years, they left their jobs and started a flower company called Dewdrops Agritech alongside Hiraji Dhanwatay. Girish believed that “There is a big demand for high-quality flowers in offices and homes”, and that is what pushed him to start his business alongside his partners.

Founders Girish (left) and Anshuman (right). Source: SMB Story

The partners had an initial investment of 40 million Rupees (approx $910,00), and the company started cultivating roses in protected environments like greenhouses. The company has been a great success and is now an industry leader in agriculture. 

The entrepreneurs set their sights on entering the retail market to achieve the highest value returns. In late 2018, this idea culminated in creating “The Flora”, a flower retail brand that also saw great success. 

Soletron Founders with Tom Austin (centre) of sports footwear specialist AND1

Pictured above, Shane Robinson (left) started working for Merrill Lynch in 2007, aged 24. Less than six months later, he was made redundant due to the financial crash of 2008, which created difficult economic conditions for the financial sector. Together with colleague A.J. Steigman (right), the two fundraised to start a new sneakers business.  

They spent three years fundraising and creating the core technology needed for their business, visiting multiple cities and staying with friends for months at a time.

Finally, in 2010, the duo secured $265,000 from investors to turn their vision into a reality, and Soletron was born. When speaking about their business, they said, “We are the world’s first social streetwear site, allowing consumers to discover and interact with the hottest indie brands worldwide”. In that sense, the duo found an opening in the market and capitalised on the opportunity. 

Soletron was eventually sold in 2014 to online streetwear retail giant Karmaloop. Since then, Robinson has gone on to work for software companies Wevr and HappyFunCorp. Steigman is currently CEO of Steignet, a real estate tech startup based in Florida.

Pictured below, Zachary Prell started his investment banking journey working as an analyst at Credit Suisse, where he was part of the mergers & acquisitions team.

Through his job, he began to work with smaller businesses and directly impacted growth in their companies whilst transitioning his interest from investment banking to venture capital.

He spent the next five years working in venture capital for Polaris Venture Partners, after which he started a fashion brand called ZACHARY PRELL, exclusively using top European fabrics.  

A Leap from Finance to Fashion Startup to Lifestyle Brand- Zachary Prell '05BUS - Columbia Entrepreneurship
Zachary Prell. Credit: Columbia Entrepreneurship

Zachary self-funded his business for over four years, fully believing there was a gap in the market for high-quality clothing. He even liquidated his 401k to raise the capital necessary to make his business a success. The company’s starting point was producing men’s sports shirts and has since gradually evolved to selling a lifestyle collection with a range of quality essential clothing items. 

Essential skills the investment bankers have

There are many crucial skills that entrepreneurial investment bankers need in order to create successful businesses. These includeleadership, communication skills, time management, problem-solving, risk management, negotiation skills, and motivating a team. All of these skills fall under the umbrella of project management.  

Project management skills are the competencies and characteristics a person requires to organise a project from start to finish effectively. The project manager has to execute and deliver a successful business plan, including but not limited to drafting timelines and correctly administering each project phase. 

Strong leadership skills are crucial, providing the entrepreneur with the ability to motivate, coordinate, and create an environment where a team can successfully exchange ideas, develop effective plans, and complete any task at hand. 

Communication skills are also critical for any leader as they communicate and share ideas internally and externally with various groups through the project’s different stages. 

All projects have a deadline, as has each task within the project. Therefore, excellent time management is key to keeping the project on time and running smoothly. The project manager’s responsibility thus includes creating timelines for the project and ensuring that the whole team meets deadlines.  

All projects carry some form of risk. A person with skilled risk management capabilities will predict potential hazards, and prepare or create workarounds to help mitigate risk. Risk management starts during the planning process to identify likely issues that could arise throughout the project’s lifetime. 

Project managers have to use their problem-solving skills to eliminate unexpected obstacles. They should assemble and analyse information to develop a solution, using a structured outline for practical problem-solving. 

Negotiation skills are also vital in managing the company’s operations successfully. For example, an entrepreneur might have to negotiate a price with a retailer or negotiate with shareholders over expectations on what the company can achieve. Diplomacy is essential to communicate an opposing point of view respectfully, whilst ensuring that all parties feel they are benefitting. 

Motivational encouragement can inspire and stimulate individuals and teams to achieve significant accomplishments beyond their original expectations. In addition, motivation can create an environment that encourages teamwork and collective initiatives to distinctly improve a team’s work ethic, producing higher quality work to complete a task or project.


There are many critical skills an investment banker must have to be successful as an entrepreneur in business. Having strong project management skills supports entrepreneurship and ensures that new businesses have the best chance of success.  

The case studies above are evidence of how diverse businesses can be, as therefore, the success of a business is determined more by the skills an entrepreneur has rather than the industry they decide to enter – though both are relevant.

Regardless of the range of skills needed to become successful, the one constant is the entrepreneur’s outstanding project management skills that help create success, whichever opportunity presents itself. 

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