Private companies

Alexander Nicolier

Investment manager

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Nicolier Alexander standing while leaning against a table.
It’s impossible to fully comprehend how all the exponential trends we’re experiencing are interlinked or deduce what will emerge. There are too many second- and third-order effects involved. But as investors, we can try. 
I believe the conditions are in place to create the next trillion-dollar companies. And we’re here to find them at the earliest stage possible.

Great companies can come from anywhere

The most valuable ideas and enriching experiences happen when we uproot ourselves and lean into uncertainty with a growth mindset. This is what I discovered from having lived in three continents and being an investor in six different strategies within Baillie Gifford. Experiencing constant change has made me not only radically open-minded about the future but also a fan of imperfection and a relentless optimist.

Extraordinary companies can arise in unexpected places. So I cast my net wide and am ready to explore unconventional ideas to find and invest in businesses with transformative potential.

Aligned with the (playful) underdogs

I greatly admire Elon Musk and Richard Branson in the way they have both created multiple businesses through first-principles thinking. Each venture they launch focuses on being unique and delighting customers by putting them at the centre of everything. There’s also a clear underdog spirit to them, a twinkle in the eye and a playfulness that keeps them going decades on. As Branson sees it: “Fun is one of the most important - and underrated - ingredients in any successful venture. If you’re not having fun, then it’s probably time to call it quits and try something else.”

Three legs to getting to ‘yes’

I look for three qualities in founders: trustworthiness, skin in the game and humility. We’re privileged to meet some of the smartest and best-connected people on the planet. But we only invest our clients’ capital if we trust those leaders will retain their integrity and guard against complacency.

We back companies for the long term. And this is much easier a rollercoaster to stomach if founders are aligned with significant skin in the game. As the late Charlie Munger said: “Show me the incentive, and I will show you the outcome.”

Of course, the cone of uncertainty couldn’t be wider for these young companies. We’re dealing with exponential changes, complex adaptive systems and S-curves piled on top of one another. Despite the enormous pressure founders are in to seemingly have all the answers, I have a lot of respect for those who answer, “I don’t know”. If they are on the path to creating something exceptional, chances are nobody else does either.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Favourite book

Gary Klein: Seeing What Others Don’t

Get in touch

Send a message to Alexander, or email the Private Companies Team directly.