Meet the mentor: Symeon Breen

‘Getting your team right is business critical’- Symeon Breen, CTO at Nivo

Symeon Breen has over 20 years of experience in the tech startup industry. With a background as a software engineer, he has gone on to grow and exit his own business and become CTO at multiple top global tech businesses.

He is now turning his hand to guiding early-stage tech start-ups as a mentor on the Exchange programme, alongside serving as CTO at Nivo. Symeon is undeniably passionate about start-ups and is committing his time to supporting the founders in tackling the hurdles of beginning a start-up. Whilst he may no longer want to grow his own start-up, he wants in on the action.

One of the main pieces of guidance he wants to assimilate through the cohort is that the right people are fundamental. Whether that be team members or funding partners, everyone needs to be chosen wisely through a considered process. The beauty of Exchange is that this process doesn’t have to be done by the founder alone, they can seek the advice of fellow founders around them, alumni from past cohorts, mentors like Symeon, and the scheme’s specialist partners, to avoid rushing into a wrong decision.

Breen said: “For me, when meeting a start-up founder the proposition and their passion is everything. As ultimately this is what investors and stakeholders are buying into. We recognise that the product will probably change over time. But having the right people around you, that carry your same attitude is paramount. The technology can change, but the foundations shouldn’t.

“This makes those first few hires critical. The founders are always well committed and want to drive the company forward. But when it comes to hiring, likeminded people should be valued. At the early stage, there is arguably no worse decision that making a poor hiring decision. You need people that will support you through thick and thin. Getting it wrong can be really damaging. This will not be ‘just another job’, the first 10 or so hires need to be as committed as the founder if the business is going to achieve its full potential.”

Symeon has called Manchester home for most of his career, despite some international stints including Datalex, he has always returned. He continued: “Manchester is a thriving tech-hub, it’s big and diverse without losing its sense of community. It has been able to start a sustain a number of unicorns and this is only going to continue in the future”

This diversity within the industry is something he champions with previous experiences across various tech sectors, including big data, travel-tech, martech, and fintech. Now as a mentor, he is keen to explore more exciting opportunities, as he encourages any member to test his broad and technical knowledge-base and see how he might be able to help.