CEO of social enterprise consultancy Ninety on the firm's future

05 November 2018 4 min. read
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Founded in 2011, Ninety is an agile digital transformation & customer experience firm based in London. The consultancy helps brands adapt to a world of changing technology, innovation & digital disruption, but in a marked difference with the broader industry, while the digital transformation market booms, 90% of Ninety’s distributable profits go to charity. According to the firm’s CEO Dan White, the company’s distinct social enterprise model has far from compromised its competitive capabilities.

“We take new insurance ideas to market in 60 days. No-one else can do that with such credibility, confidence and subject matter knowledge in the insurance sector. Our secret sauce is bringing Silicon Valley startup techniques and our own entrepreneurs into the big financial services corporates we work with. Ninety has won major insurance awards in the last few months for innovation and customer-centricity.”

A former Head of Digital Marketing at RSA and a Partner with CACI, Dan White co-founded Ninety in 2011. White explained that his upbringing was what persuaded him to finally launch the project. He stated, “I grew up in Burundi, the world's poorest country by GDP per capita, but now work in London's square mile, one of the wealthiest places on earth. The team at Ninety and I are trying to build a business that can rectify some of that imbalance.”

CEO of social enterprise consultancy Ninety on the firm's future

He added, “For me, it was a personal change of heart: from pursuing personal wealth to pursuing social impact. I believe in business as the most sustainable and scalable way of changing things, so it was natural to build a business that could create a significant social impact. Ninety is very much a commercial business by day, but we give away 90% of our distributable profits to charitable causes, predominantly in developing countries, to address key causes of poverty. Hence the name ‘Ninety’. We've given over £250,000 to good causes in our first 5 years, and are targeting significant increases over the coming years.”

Ninety was self-funded from its inception, and has yet to take any form of finance. This is out of necessity, rather than virtue, however, and White pointed out that as a social enterprise, giving its profits away, all but the most socially conscious of lenders find the firm “unappetising”. The CEO then proceeded to request that if indeed there were any socially-conscious angel investors out there, “do please get in touch!”

When asked how he managed to survive moments of doubt, even when it has proven difficult to get others to invest in his vision, White said that at one point a couple of years ago, it genuinely did look like the firm would throw in the towel. “Were it not for wise words from Geoff, one of my trusted Directors,” he confirmed, “I probably would have done.”

White said his Director told him, “‘When times are good, look ahead to much ground you still have to take. When times are bad, look back at how far you've already come.’ It gave me the perspective to carry on.” He further added, “Moments of doubt have got to come with that territory. Being able to handle them is the sign of an entrepreneur.”

Having put aside those doubts for now, Ninety now plans to kick on with a period of significant change in the next year. The firm has been selected for acceleration through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme, run by the University of Oxford's Said Business School. That process is leading the team to re-think its focus, plans and investments. According to White, this will also see Ninety investing hard in marketing, events, delivery teams, and product innovation, with the hope that the firm can double its 90% charitable donation from 2017, increasing its social impact.

With the technology space growing consistently, White believes the sweeping changes are a major opportunity for Ninety and its industry. He concluded, “Ninety sees technology in insurance as moving from being merely an ‘enabler of service’ towards a ‘re-definer of products’. We're at the fore-front, for example, of working with insurers to use the Internet of Things in commercial properties to fundamentally shift how commercial property managers maintain and protect their building assets. That shift from insurance being about restitution after loss, to being an active preventer of loss, is enabled entirely by evolving technologies. We're passionate about that, and about helping insurers to innovate in these areas more effectively and more quickly. Everything we do is geared around this.”