Anne-Marie Huby is the co-founder of JustGiving, the charitable giving platform. Having raised over $4.5bn for non-profits, the company was acquired by Blackbaud Inc. in October 2017. Prior to JustGiving, she was the co-founder and executive director of humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (UK), where she worked in humanitarian crises from the former Yugoslavia to Rwanda. She is now the chair of education business MyTutor.
1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
One of JustGiving’s key backers used to encourage us to ‘stay in the question’ for longer, and give time better answers to emerge. In the early days of the business, with our nose to the grindstone, this felt like luxury on a cosmic scale. But over time I came to see the value of that advice. You have to move fast to make progress every day but remember that the puzzle is never solved and asking the fundamental questions – what market are we really in, who are our key customers, do we truly understand their needs? – is what enables the company to stay both humble and relevant.
2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given?
Growing up in Belgium in the 80s I was told that not having a clear career plan would result in abject failure. I am very happy that I completely ignored this and was willing to grasp the totally random opportunities that came along.
3. What would you tell your younger self?
Pace yourself and enjoy the journey. Nothing can quite prepare you for the relentless and obsessive bend you embark on when founding a company. And while there are great examples of meteoric rises and fast exits, most great businesses take a long time to fulfil their potential, and that’s true of people too. Many young execs I meet feel utterly dejected if their CV does not go up a notch every six months or so. Yet to gain deep experience takes time. I had a blast at JustGiving but with hindsight I wish I’d taken the time to come up for air more often and enjoy the highs and lows of the journey even more.
4. What excites you most about the future of your industry?
The way wider society views tech has fundamentally changed. We are collectively only beginning to figure out what being a responsible tech company entails. I like to believe that companies that will be able to combine genuine social impact with financial performance will gain considerable competitive advantage. In education, we will see a faster shift towards personalisation, with companies like MyTutor providing one-to-one coaching and inspiration for pupils at a price that all parents, and all schools, can afford.
5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Fiction and history – on the surface, reading for pleasure has no relevance to solving business problems, but at a deeper level I believe it has. Most business books (with a few exception) are crushingly dull..