Meet the Turquoise team: Desmond Astley-Cooper

28 Mar 2017 | Desmond Astley-Cooper

Turquoise team members share their thoughts on business issues and give some career insights.

 

Business

What has been the most significant technological development of recent years?

Quantum computing because it has the potential to revolutionise the way computers work and how data is stored and transmitted. In terms of process, it’s Blockchain because it has so many uses that simplify the way of doing business.

What has been the most influential legislative change in recent years?

The creation of the Enterprise Investment Scheme. It encourages people with capital to invest in ground-breaking technology. I’m in favour of keeping the focus tight so that established businesses with ‘normal’ commercial risk are excluded.

How do you see the legislative environment changing through to 2040/2050?

Where to begin? At the minute, there’s an irrationalist political backlash against the liberal consensus somewhat reminiscent of the Middle Ages! Obscurantism is not a great driver of economic growth so I just hope distrust of scientific evidence doesn’t become embedded in our legislation. On a different point, I also feel that the rules around tax havens have to change which is about my only area of agreement with nationalists.

How has the perception of cleantech, energy, environment and efficiency evolved in your view in recent years? What do you envisage for the future of the sector?

Despite the many setbacks, its adoption has become irreversible. I see the insurance industry becoming key, providing the data to drive change. I also hope that miners and oil producers will come to see recycling as the new mining and develop, or commission others to develop, the processes to make it work.

From an investment point of view, what do you see as the key challenges for emerging technologies attracting finance? How do you see those being overcome in the coming decades?

Look at it the other way round: what do most investors prefer? High-yielding bank deposits in my experience! However, there’s a body of people who will take risk in developing technology and they need to be encouraged. After all, huge fortunes can be made if you get it right. But it’s a Darwinian system and only a small number of enterprises will succeed regardless of the underlying technology. So you need a combination of an accommodative tax system which encourages risk taking, entrepreneurial managers and experienced NEDs to guide them.

From a global point of view, what impact (if any) do you think political change is having on the energy, environment and efficiency sectors? How do you think this will change?

I think it’s time to shift to a bottom-up approach rather than just relying on government rules. For example, it’s now dawning on some parents that the fumes from the 4X4s they drive little Johnny or Jane to school in actually aggravates their children’s asthma. And that realisation is a positive thing. Likewise, not taking measures to slow the flow of rainwater off the hills often leads to flooding downstream. It’s time for people to realise that everything they do has a consequence for someone, including themselves!

 

Career

Describe your career journey in less than 100 words

After driving trucks in the Omani desert for a year, I became a journalist with a specialist oil and finance publication based in Cyprus. Four years later, I decided to try my hand at something else and switched to stockbroking in London with de Zoete & Bevan (later BZW) before moving to Robert Fleming (now JP Morgan). Then I spent thirteen years working for a Saudi family in Bahrain before returning to London to manage a venture capital fund on their behalf. I joined Turquoise four years ago.

What are the key ingredients to delivering innovation?

That magic moment when a new idea finds a ready market. But it takes self-belief to raise the funds to exploit that idea and skill to turn it into a business.

What’s been your biggest business challenge?

Finding the right environment to work in.

What is your proudest business moment?

Buying 5% stake of GW Pharmaceutical shortly after it was set up. Although the company has raised a lot of capital since, its market capitalisation is now $3bn.

Who would you like to have dinner with – and why?

Don Corleone. Because he teaches you what business schools don’t: “Hold your friends close and your enemies even closer.”

Desmond Astley-Cooper

Director

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