Hiring Circle meets Alessandro Robustelli Test, Corporate Development Lead at Pollen
Alessandro shares insights into the variety of his role, how his M&A background provided a solid skills foundation and how the modern culture at Pollen is a world away from his investment banking days.
Corporate Development roles can vary considerably in terms of what they entail. Can you tell us more about the day to day of your role at Pollen?
Corporate Development is surely broad in terms of role and responsibilities – especially at Pollen. Given the fast-growing pace and dynamic nature of the business, I do not have a routine or specific daily tasks but instead, it is key to embrace change and be part of it.
However, on a macro level, these are the areas my role covers and the main tasks I have been working on:
M&A – our business grows through inorganic channels as well as through established organic channels. We target companies to foster growth through: supply relationships, demand penetration, technology enhancement and other strategic perspectives. I get involved in deals from beginning to end, leading financial diligence, interacting with the legal team to iron out commercial blockers, modelling our offer price and running sensitivities
Capital raise / monitoring financial needs of the company – key member during capital raise working directly with the Leadership team within several transactions including equity, venture debt and a convertible note. Main responsibilities included negotiation of price through sensitivity analyses and cap table modelling, financial modelling, overarching company positioning and leading financial diligence and investor dialogue
“Given the fast-growing pace and dynamic nature of the business, I do not have a routine or specific daily tasks but instead, it is key to embrace change and be part of it.”
FP&A and budgeting – this role allowed me to interact with several stakeholders within the company in order to prepare budget models to submit to the Board. Rewarding activity given its strategic centrality which informs business decisions by delivering insightful metrics, forecasts and operational finance support
Preparation of Board materials for offsites, trading updates and regular quarterly meetings. This includes preparing financial sections and giving a clear and concise overview of business performance, key initiatives and opportunities
Broader strategic projects including cross functional projects. This translates into wearing multiple hats working in a start-up. I worked on initiatives to drive value and to create structure / facilitate future automation
2020 must have been a challenging year in your sector - how has the business coped and what does the future hold?
Needless to say, 2020 was a very difficult year for several companies – the hospitality sector has been hit severely COVID; stress, pressure, uncertainty and disappointment have featured in this year. However, at Pollen we made lemonade out of a lemon.
Pollen has two business lines – one is called Pollen +, which offers world class festivals and events (e.g. Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits). The other is Pollen Presents, our own brand products only available through us. We create the content, tailor and thoroughly curate the events through data to deliver incredible experiences to our target demographic.
“Pollen Presents has experienced great success during the last months. This product line is the result of a hard-working team and our resilience and eagerness to find solutions in such a difficult time.”
By packaging top tier artists with appealing destinations and coupling this with advantageous payments plans to offer financial flexibility, Pollen Presents has experienced great success during the last months. This product line is the result of a hard-working team and our resilience and eagerness to find solutions in such a difficult time.
We have cooperated with top tier artists – such as Ozuna, Nicky Jam, Duran Duran and DaBaby and have many more in our pipeline. Our multi-billion TAM is clearly underpenetrated – the future is bright, and we hope to deliver great experiences, create a solid ecosystem and an end-to-end solution for our customers through the Pollen app.
You previously worked in Investment Banking – what have been the key transferable skills that have helped you in your current role?
I am a strong believer that we are owners of our careers and we can develop several skills based on our ambitions and career aspirations. There is always time to learn and headroom for improvement – however, Investment Banking has been an opportunity to get equipped with strong, reliable and recognised skill sets, mostly in corporate finance / strategy. Discipline and bureaucracy can be extreme, but you will get a lot out of it.
Transferable skills I am using day-to-day at Pollen are:
Financial modelling skills – key during capital raise and when positioning the company. Advanced Excel skills are needed
Accounting skills – essential during budgeting processes
Business development skills – reviewing agreements, client management skills and strong communication and argumentation skills when selecting a list of buyers or acquisition targets
Qualitative skills such as writing structured teasers and presentations
Analytics mindset – essential to be able to turn unstructured information into granular models to take data driven decisions
Teamwork skills – it is very important to always remember we are all working towards the same goal: creating value as a company
“Pollen’s culture is unique and forward-looking. We are a results focused company, so we can choose our own working hours and take as much vacation as needed to drive results and perform at best.”
What drew you to Pollen and what kind of person do you think does well in a fast-growing start-up?
At Arma Partners I developed a strong passion towards the tech industry, especially towards the start-up / scale-up ecosystem. Pollen was a great opportunity to get into this and touch this world directly as opposed to solely being an advisor.
Additionally, at Pollen I have a great degree of responsibilities and own many projects and their results. I have always wanted to disrupt an industry by participating on a big project supported by an outstanding and international team: this is what Pollen is to me.
Last but not least, Pollen’s culture is unique and forward-looking. We are a results focused company, so we can choose our own working hours and take as much vacation as needed to drive results and perform at best.
Start-up jobs are very demanding and challenging. You have a higher degree of responsibility and things keep on changing daily. A good fit should embrace change and be happy to work on an ever-changing environment. Flexibility and adaptability are key skills for success. Also, a candidate should have initiative, passion for the product and eagerness to make a change!