A Week in My Life: Sabine Vanderlinden, CEO of Rainmaking
Sabine Vanderlinden is CEO of Rainmaking, the InsurTech division of Startupbootcamp, a global accelerator programme.
She works with leading insurers, investors and mentors to bring the innovation of cohorts of startups to market within a three month period.
Here, Sabine shares what a week in her life is really like...
Typically, Monday’s are my ‘working from home’ day, where I am online by 8am with a cup of coffee. After checking my LinkedIn and Twitter feeds, I make sure I’ve had a chance to reply to everyone that I hadn’t got to responding to on Friday, making sure I have all my admin sorted and that I have my schedule for the week locked down.
This Monday is quite different. I am awake at 5am through the light streaming into my Cairo hotel room. I’d flown over for the Startupbootcamp-Pride Fintech Cairo programme, which saw me spending two days coaching a group of Egyptian fintech startups and giving them one-on-one mentoring on effective sales and marketing strategies. Unfortunately, my trip had been inadvertently extended as British Airways had cancelled flights because of security concerns. Luckily the hotel had availability, the Wi-Fi was working well, and it was looking like flights would be resumed today – fingers crossed!
After a fresh fruit breakfast, it was systems as usual; clearing that email back-log, running my Monday team kick-off call and leading a number of weekly key client calls to ensure everyone is aligned on what needs to be achieved this week.
I get the call that a flight should be available by mid-afternoon, so it’s time to pack up and get to the airport. As a seasoned traveller, I am very accustomed to the pain of waiting around on standby, but needs must and it is reassuring to know that I’ll soon be back on home soil and I haven’t missed any important meetings.
Home sweet home! Alarm goes off at the normal time of 6:30am. After my obligatory wake-up routine of scouring my social networks on my iPhone in bed (where I comment on a number of very interesting LinkedIn articles), I am showered, changed and caffeine-ed up by 8am and in an Uber on the way to work.
Within 15 minutes I am in our offices in Shoreditch. I always love the buzz of entering our offices – we always have at least a couple of startups using our space and the energy they exude is infectious. I know I have back-to-back meetings today, so it’s a quick log-in and coffee while I get on the phone to review how our biggest CoLab is performing (whereby a corporate insurer client has been well matched to a number of start-ups to help them solve a specific business challenge). It’s going really well, and I feel very motivated for the day ahead.
The day flies by in a haze of meetings – including a presentation from a new partner who is reverse pitching one of their pressing priority to our startups, a meeting with a potential new startup that has a great product relevant for digital banking, a coffee with a charity that is focused on enhancing diversity and inclusion in insurance and lastly a catch-up with all the programme directors of our various accelerator programmes. I sign off for the day at 7pm and take the Northern line home, but not before I text my husband to let him know I’ll be home soon and see what he fancies for dinner – I am absolutely starving!
In previous years I used to leave my diary open so that people could book meetings, but unfortunately, that used to result in me not even having 15 minutes spare to take a quick walk to clear my head – let alone grab any lunch. I have now got much better at blocking out time.
This morning I have blocked out three hours for content – I need to write a presentation for an event where I am delivering a keynote on the changing world of InsurTech. It’s quite futuristic and I need to give it some thought. I know lots of CEOs just delegate tasks like this; but I find it so much authentic to speak in my voice, and I genuinely think that having time like this to think long-term and strategically makes me better at my job. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take as long as I expect, so I have time to review an array of content that’s sitting in my inbox – proposals, tenders and articles – it feels good to be on top of everything.
I head out of the office for a late lunch with a lady who has just relocated to UAE to London and is looking at her career options. She has great insurance and tech experience and I am keen to give her some suggestions – I feel passionately that helping each other and paying it forward is key to help address the gender imbalance in tech.
The afternoon is spent with a key insurance client running through an innovation programme they want to kick-off. An innovation strategy is not business as usual corporate strategy. During the meeting, we explore how forces of change are impacting their business and sector and where possible directions of growth lie.
It’s late by the time we finish so I’m looking forward to popping over to have dinner with friends at my local member’s club, the Eight Members Club – its wine list is exquisite, but it will only one glass as I have an early start tomorrow.
I am in the office by 8am (tube today). The insurance client I met yesterday is in to continue our meeting. There’s a lot of white-boarding outlining their customer journey, technology stack, value chain, pain points, growth ambitions and existing initiatives etc. After they leave I brief the team on what we need to get started - I am really looking forward to kicking off the programme!
The day finishes early for our monthly team catch-up. We talk over snacks and beer, and there’s a packed agenda where the startups share details on new projects they are running, the programme directors share feedback on client experiences and we all learn something new.
Thursday’s are normally a fun night whereby anyone who is available heads out for a fun activity. This week’s choice is darts – but not the typical kind; we are talking cocktails, electric boards and a fabulous atmosphere. Turns out I am no Phil Taylor, but I have great night.
Today I am back in my element delivering training. We are currently running our first ItalianTech acceleration programme. We have 11 startups who will be with us for three months, during that time we will be doing corporate introductions for collaborations and giving them the support they need to successfully launch operations in the UK. The training I am giving today is focused on how to build a user base in a new market.
It’s a really lively session that goes late into the afternoon – I am pleased I had the foresight to order in lunch for us all. I close the meeting at 4pm and spend a few hours whittling down my emails so I am left with just essential tasks for my Monday admin day. After a 6pm call with my US division I sign off, ready for some well-earned rest!