We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Peter Bryant a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Peter, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Risking taking is a huge part of most people’s story but too often society overlooks those risks and only focuses on where you are today. Can you talk to us about a risk you’ve taken – it could be a big risk or a small one – but walk us through the backstory.
I embrace risk and as a result have found myself being a serial entrepreneur! Why may you ask – so here is the context. I am a son of refugees – my Mum was a holocaust survivor and with dad migrated, under the refugee program, from Israel to New Zealand (NZ) in the early 50s. They say migrating to a new country is the greatest risk one can take – so i followed that path first migrating to Australia in 1979 and than to the USA in 1996. I migrated to Australia after 3 years as an auditor with Coopers & Lybrand in NZ with $200 – one bag and no job! Within 18 months i had pivoted from accounting to the emerging enterprise software industry becoming one of the first employees in Australia of Boston based Software International, than owned by GE. It was than sold to NY based Computer Associates(CA) who had no presence in Asia Pacific – we grew quickly in before I knew it I was COO whilst still in my 20s! I had a wonderful mentor who gave me chances because he believed in me not because of my resume. Looking back now I realized what I was most passionate about and good at was creating and growing new businesses – at that time in the corporate world in the highly competitive and some would say ‘cut throat’ software industry of the 80s and 90s.
In 1996 the opportunity to start a new business for CA in the US was compelling so I migrated again and after a couple of years at CA I went on to run a couple of early stage software companies. Since 2006, when I founded by strategy consulting business now called, www.clareo.com, (after failing to get my original idea of starting Venture Fund focused on APAC innovation off the ground) I have co-founded a non profit, focused on improving social and economic outcomes for communities from resource development projects www.dpimining.org and the soon to be spun out software company Forest Software www.forestsoftware.com. – it is currently part of Clareo.
Taking all these risks personally and professionally can be scary but the sense of freedom and achievement far outweighs those risks – and the many failures along the way have been important learnings for me. My Mum I realized instilled the spirit of resilience and risk taking and my Dad curiosity – my Mum told me always walk through an open door and don’t over think it like most people! And even though it may not be the right door the path to the right door only lies beyond that door. I never knew until recently that she was guiding me to be an entrepreneur.
Finally they say because immigration is the highest risk thing a person can do that is why so many founders and entrepreneurs in the US are in fact immigrants – never a truer sentiment and further no matter the headwinds and failures I try and keep perspective – I acknowledge that these are upsetting but than remember what my Mum experienced and move on as nothing compares.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I and Clareo provide expert advise to companies in O&G, mining and power sectors on key areas like optimizing innovation performance; ESG strategy and approach; a just energy transition. I speak globally, at conferences and at organizations, on sustainability; the energy transition with a focus on a just transition & the criticality of the minerals value chain and more broadly innovation/digital transformation; most recently speaking at COP26; Future Minerals Forum (FMF) 2022 in Saudi Arabia and CERAweek 2022 in Houston. Prior to Covid I also spoke at the Baker Hughes 2020 Annual Energy Forward Meeting in Italy with 1750 global O&G leaders plus gave a keynote at the New Zealand Prime Ministers 2019 Just Transition to Net Zero Emissions Summit.
My opinion pieces have been published in the Journal of Petroleum Technology, Mining Global Review and Chief Executive and am often quoted in the Wall St Journal. And have appeared on Bloomberg and CNBC Arabia.
I love the world of venture and start ups and stay connected by being on the Board of Advisors for two leading VC Funds, Chrysalix and Foundamental, and also various emerging tech companies including Lilac Solutions, Symboticware and Safe.AI. In addition, I have served on the Innovation Councils for multiple mining and energy companies.
Clareo advises leading brands in these sectors on many of their intractable challenges including Anglo American, BHP, Rio Tinto, Teck Resources, JCI, BP, GE O&G, Baker Hughes, Castrol, Edison International and Goldcorp.
My passion for making a difference in the world extended Peter to Co-Found , along with Mark Cutifani the CEO of Anglo American, the Development Partner Institute, a nonprofit focused on improved social, economic and environmental outcomes for communities from resource development projects. As a result of this I was also an invited participant in the joint Rockefeller Foundation and Brookings Institute 17 Rooms program, that is focused on accelerating the 17 UN established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and regular participant the WEF’s annual Mine Minsters Summit and the FMF Ministerial Roundtable.
He also co-authored The Growth Champions –The Battle for Sustained Innovation Leadership published in 2012.
I live in Southern California and have two daughters, one a junior at SMU in Dallas and the youngest a sophomore in high school.
Educationally I have a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand plus hold a CA from the NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants and am a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Also a co-founder of The World Innovation Network (formerly The Kellogg Innovation Network) www.twinglobal.org
Can you open up about a time when you had a really close call with the business?
I was CEO of a software company that had developed a breakthrough business process automation platform and we were about to close our first major software deal with a UK insurer – it was a $35m multi year deal. However delays caused the firm to hit a cash crunch and we did not know how we were going to meet payroll. I was living in Denver at the time so I flew and met with all our shareholders including in London – and I remember the feeling of dread walking around with cap in hand seeking bridge funding and the enormous pressure not to fail the team of 50 people back home. Eventually some investors agreed to provide short term funding at relatively easier terms than the other investors. It came a t a huge price and I always say you are never truly an entrepreneur until you have experienced the dread of not being able to meet payroll.
Several months later I sat in a lounge at Heathrow airport, after camping out in the UK for a few weeks, and signed that software deal over breakfast with the CIO of that insurance company!
I went from a very big low to a significant sense of achievement and learned from this to never give up; be creative and seek advise from everywhere – as leaders we don’t have all the answers!
Can you tell us the story behind how you met your business partner?
I merged my consulting firm with that of two other gentlemen ten years ago and this became what is Clareo today! How I met them was complete serendipity. I was with a CEO of a client visiting the CIO of Motorola discussing how they approached innovation and Toby Redshaw (whom I was connected to by a good friend in the Bay area) said “oh innovation – you must visit Prof. Rob Wolcott at Kellogg as we are about to start an innovation network” I visited with Rob and we hit it off and he invited me to be a co-founder of the Kellogg Innovation Network) which I embraced wholeheartedly. And than he connected me to his consulting business partner Allan Platt. I liked what they did so I invited them to do some work on one of my firms projects – that started a few years of ‘dating’ working on each others projects and than finally we decided based both upon success and our friendships that we should get married – and after a year of negotiation we merged.
Our relationship did not start with that intent – it was where the journey took us – and all along the way walked through those open doors!