Shaper: Pablo Ettinger

Show aired on 3rd March 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
This is Jazz Shapers here on Jazz FM with me, Elliot Moss. Thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and right alongside them very luckily for you we put someone who is shaping the world of business; we call them a Business Shaper. I am really pleased to say my Business Shaper today is the co-founder of Caffé Nero and chairman of Talentbanq none other than Pablo Ettinger and Pablo has been an entrepreneur for many, many years and you are going to be hearing all about his various journeys in various businesses. In addition to hearing from Pablo you’ll also be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business.

This is Jazz Shapers as I said earlier and my Business Shaper today is Pablo Ettinger; co-found of Caffé Nero – I am sure you’ve heard of them – over eight hundred lovely Caffé Nero’s around the world and quite a few in the UK as well and chairman of Talentbanq and Talentbanq looks at unsigned artists, brings them to light, brings them into the big wide world and arranges live events. Pablo it’s brilliant to have you here, thank you so much for joining.

Pablo Ettinger
Thank you very much.

Elliot Moss
Now you have done all sorts of things and we are going to do a little bit of going back into your dim and distant past – as he rolls his eyes thinking what’s he going to ask me? Nothing too dodgy, don’t worry. Tell me about Caffé Nero though, just a little brief thing about how this man came into your life, Gerry Ford, an American…

Pablo Ettinger
Yep.

Elliot Moss
…and how you ended up opening these restaurants or rather, sorry would you call them actually café’s? You’d call them café’s right?

Pablo Ettinger
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Stores?

Pablo Ettinger
Stores usually yeah.

Elliot Moss
Stores. How you came to open five of them in the late 90s? How does that happen to a man like you?

Pablo Ettinger
Well it was really by chance in a way because I had a rather unusual career early on in my life and ended up wandering around a desert as an explosives expert in Libya actually, I was working in the Libyan desert.

Elliot Moss
When was this?

Pablo Ettinger
Well after University so that would have been 1981/2 I guess and they then, I was promoted to mine clearance which was a remarkable job to do for a few months at which point I realised that this probably wasn’t a great career for life so I then after a lot of research ended up doing an MBA at Insead in France. So a great school and it was there that I met Gerry Ford and we became good friends and we just stayed in contact. After Insead I went off into the chemical industry.

Elliot Moss
Because your first Degree is in physics and electronics?

Pablo Ettinger
That’s right. So I used my physics degree well as a scientist. I was in the chemical industry for thirteen years and he went off and became a venture capitalist really but we kept talking and we, he would always come with some new ideas every now and then and we would talk them through and one of them was coffee and neither of us understood why there was no coffee in the UK. At that time there were no decent coffee bars at all. There was no decent coffee. And he was, although he’s American, he was brought up in Europe so he had seen the Starbucks explosion in America but he had also experienced the European coffee house and I was brought up in France and Germany and in Austria as well as English so I knew sort of the European coffee house culture very well and we just didn’t understand why it didn’t exist in England, in the UK. So we talked about this for a while and then there was a point where he actually went off and found five small coffee bars for sale. They were in London and together with some friends we bought those five coffee bars. At that time I was still running a chemical company actually in Germany, I was working in Germany and he just rang me up one day and he said ‘Pablo you know about food don’t you?’. That was the…

Elliot Moss
And what was the honest answer? Obviously you said yes.

Pablo Ettinger
Well no I have two passions, sort of passions in life, hobbies if you like. One is cooking and the other is music and I was the only person he knew who had an MBA and knew about food.

Elliot Moss
You see some times these qualifications and passions come perfectly together and they have in this case. Stay with me for much more from Pablo Ettinger, my Business Shaper today; co-founder of Caffé Nero just because he liked food and music and also and we are coming on to this later, he is chairman of the Talentbanq.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday I am lucky as I always say because I meet someone who is doing something interesting, shaping the world of business, making things happen that other people wish they’d done themselves. If you would like to listen to any of my previous guests I believe most of them are in iTunes; put in the words ‘jazz’ and ‘shapers’ in there. British Airways is another destination for you on the Highlife channel or even CityAM.com. Right now, right here it’s Pablo Ettinger and he is my Business Shaper; co-founder of Caffé Nero. Most of us at some point will have gone and had a cup of coffee in there and maybe more if they are feeling cheeky and also chairman of Talentbanq and a number of other things and I know I have said it a few times I am going to say, the number of other things – so just tell me in brief Talentbanq and then a little bit about the fact that you do… you have a portfolio of businesses that you are involved with?

Pablo Ettinger
I do. I mean I do a number of things, some of which happened by accident and some of which were by design. I spent about five or six years building up a social network which is called Streetlife which was very successful, I mean we ended up with close to one and a half million users around the UK and it was a community social network so it was about talking to your neighbours about ‘do you know a good plumber, you know, I’ve lost my cat, have you heard about a new restaurant opening on the High Street’ so I did that for about five or six years but we sold that last year to an American company. So that sort of went away and that gave me a bit more time to do other things and I’ve been a tech investor for a while, investing in tech for various different types of tech company and some of them I sit on the Board, some of the I am just really a passive investor so there is sort of…

Elliot Moss
A variety and the Talentbanq thing, just briefly?

Pablo Ettinger
And then we, I mean I have been working in music because of the Caffé Nero music programme which I really developed over eighteen years.

Elliot Moss
And you are a musician as well?

Pablo Ettinger
And I am a musician, an amateur musician but I love playing blues and jazz and boogie on the piano and so the idea came about of actually taking what I do at Nero which is developing unsigned musicians and trying to make, if you like, more professional and being able to continue the journey because obviously you get to a point where you are playing in the coffee bars, either on the sound system or we put on a lot of live music as well and we have, we have music showcases every month and we have a permanent stage at Heathrow and we sponsor various music festivals but there is a limit you know, I mean we are a coffee bar and I just wanted to sort of really take that to the next step. And then almost by chance I ended up meeting a guy called Ray Jones who had been running Time Out events for five years. Amazing guy, a real extrovert but he loves music and he also loves developing unsigned musicians so we got talking and then at the same time by chance I was introduced to an extraordinary guy called Mervyn Davis or actually Lord Mervyn Davis to give him his full title.

Elliot Moss
Call me Lord he says, don’t call me Mervyn.

Pablo Ettinger
No he’s a very cool individual.

Elliot Moss
I am sure he doesn’t say that.

Pablo Ettinger
And he loves music, absolutely loves music and he ended up inviting me to a fundraising party at the Royal Academy where he is chairman of the fundraising committee as one is and it was an extraordinary party full of music because of his love for music and the special guest with Jamie Cullum and halfway through the evening Jamie is on stage with his trio – who are brilliant, I love him and his live act is extraordinary – and he said ‘right who is going to join me on stage?’ So I stuck my hand up and he said ‘right get up here’. So he allowed me to play three notes and he started playing a boogie base and he said ‘right Pablo, play those notes’ so I played the three notes and he said ‘that was very good, just do it again a few times’ and then of course I launch into a full boogie woogie right hand – Jamie goes ‘wow, carry on’ and we ended up playing together for, I don’t know, maybe five minutes more maybe and of course the crowd couldn’t believe this guy just being pulled up and they thought it was all a big fix but yeah, we had never played together before.

Elliot Moss
I mean it is obvious to me that your eyes light up when you talk about music and it is often the case with people’s passions. You’ve managed to craft out a life of fun and joy where you are doing lots of different things. Is it really important to you that you’ve intelligently pursued those passions because the non-exec piece is tricky but you obviously like the variety?

Pablo Ettinger
I like the variety. I am probably quite good at a lot of different things. I might not be the best in the world at anything but I can, you know, food, music, business whatever you know, I can turn my hand to a number of things and I like doing that.

Elliot Moss
And you don’t feel overwhelmed either, you are quite… it’s the opposite it looks to me?

Pablo Ettinger
I, you know, I am reasonably well organised. At times it does become crazy and I think my brain is a bit overwhelmed at times but I love the creativity of doing different things and working with people who are creative and building business. I mean, it is really about building businesses, that’s the thing I really enjoy.

Elliot Moss
Pablo Ettinger is my Business Shaper just for a few more minutes. I hope you will make maximum use of them, I am sure there is a book in there somewhere. We were talking earlier about Talentbanq and you talked about the Lord, who never likes to be called the Lord and then we talked about playing plinky plonk with Jamie Cullum and finish the story for me so we know what actually happened next and how Talentbanq came to be?

Pablo Ettinger
So I came off the stage having played with Jamie and Mervyn was standing there just looking at me completely bemused and he doesn’t often lose control of anything I guess but I suppose he lost control of his party for a bit and he said ‘Pablo that was unbelievable. You and I, we are going to work together’ and he said ‘come and see me in a week with a plan’ and that was it. And a week later I was sitting in his office with Ray Jones and we had worked up on the back of an envelope a music business plan and he asked us various questions, he came up with some good ideas as well and half an hour later we walked out and we had a business.

Elliot Moss
And how is that business going? I mean it’s pretty, it’s pretty new still?

Pablo Ettinger
It’s very, very new but I mean it’s taken off like really taken off well. We had a big sort of opening party in January for six hundred people and we presented about six of our acts. So we have a roster of about fifty musicians, classical, pop, rock, a couple of jazz, a quite broad genre and we put six of our musicians on to the stage to sort of show them off and as a result of that we started getting bookings and then Ray has an incredible network in London so we’ve already put on, I don’t know, fifteen or twenty gigs I guess which is extraordinary and a lot more coming through and now we are about to start promoting our own gigs as well which is very exciting.

Elliot Moss
You mentioned earlier the fun of the variety is one thing but it’s building businesses that really gives you the buzz. How important is the money? I mean you don’t look very driven by money as a human being and I don’t know you but it’s just a sense that it’s a nice by-product for you but nothing more than that? Or is that under egging it?

Pablo Ettinger
No, no, I mean money is not important other than you have to eat and you need a roof over your head but you know, I don’t need that eighty metre yacht and never have and I don’t really care about it and I don’t care about cars and all those things that seem to go around. People who have a lot of money it might be important to them, you know, I just enjoy working with great people and building businesses and obviously you have to make money in order to continue the business. At some point you have to make a profit and you put it back into the business and continue to grow it. I mean that’s the way, you know, we did Nero, we’ve never taken anything out, it’s always gone back into the business to build…

Elliot Moss
Because what we didn’t say is that it went private again didn’t it?

Pablo Ettinger
It went private and we put all the money back in to build up the network and Talentbanq will be the same, you know, if… we probably won’t make any money for a year I guess but when we do start to make money it will go back in and we can put it back into the musicians and into helping them and that’s obviously building the business as well. So it’s a win, win.

Elliot Moss
Just on the Caffé Nero thing, six hundred and fifty roughly stores in the UK, around eight hundred and fifty globally?

Pablo Ettinger
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
It’s in north of two hundred and fifty million pound business?

Pablo Ettinger
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Where can a business like that go now because it is ferocious out there? I mean any of us walk past on a High Street pretty much anywhere in the UK and further afield, there’s at least five coffee shops so what can you, what is Caffé Nero trying to do in a nutshell to differentiate itself?

Pablo Ettinger
Well we’ve always felt that we were differentiated in the UK because of our coffee quality and the premium nature of the brand and the design, the ambience really of the shops which is partly music of course. So we feel that we do have an edge there and you know, we are building internationally as well you know, so we are in eight countries and we are growing fast in the USA, we are growing fast in Poland, in Turkey, you know in a number of countries so the UK is, is certainly coming towards the end of a very fast growth market growth and you know, every High Street now has one or two coffee shops, clearly they are the limit to what you can do but there are still some High Streets out there which need a decent coffee shop, it’s not finished yet.

Elliot Moss
You are still searching, I love it. There’s a few more High Streets…

Pablo Ettinger
There are.

Elliot Moss
…I love that. The glint in his eye. Well you know, there’s got to be a few more places and I am sure we will find a place and we’ll put another lovely Caffé Nero shop in there.

Pablo Ettinger

Paul “Pablo” Ettinger was raised in Austria, France and Germany, where, at a young age he discovered his passion for music – songwriting and studying classical piano from the young age of five. After achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics and Electronics from the University of Southampton and an MBD in Business Administration and Management from INSEAD, France, Pablo became a Commerical Director at Courtaulds PLC, a chemicals company. Where European coffee culture made a lasting impression, Pablo co-founded the internationally successful Caffé Nero in 1987, which he later utilised to continue his musical enthusiasm; by playing the music of emerging musicians in their 800+ stores across nine countries. Pablo now organizes and hosts Caffé Nero’s live music nights, and curates stages at major UK festivals. He is defined as an entrepreneur who creates and develops businesses to become highly successful brands, including the more recent Talentbanq.

Follow Pablo on Twitter @Pabloett.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I was brought up in France, Germany and Austria so I knew the European coffee house culture very well and we just didn’t understand why it didn’t exist in England, in the UK.”

“At that time I was still running a chemical company in Germany, but Gerry Ford just rang me up one day and he said ‘Pablo you know about food don’t you?’ I have two passions.  One is cooking and the other is music and I was the only person he knew who had an MBA and knew about food.”

“I do a number of things, some of which happened by accident and some of which were by design.”

“I’ve been a tech investor for a while, investing in tech for various different types of tech company. Some of them I sit on the Board, some of them I am a passive investor.”

“I have been working in music because of the Caffé Nero music programme which I really developed over eighteen years.”

“I am an amateur musician, I love playing blues and jazz and boogie on the piano.”

“You get to a point where you are playing in the coffee bars, either on a sound system or live music. We have music showcases every month and we have a permanent stage at Heathrow and we sponsor various music festivals.”

“Mervyn Davis said ‘right who is going to join me on stage?’ So I stuck my hand up, and he said ‘right get up here’. So he allowed me to play three notes and he started playing a boogie base and he said ‘right Pablo, play those notes’ so I played the three notes and he said ‘that was very good, just do it again a few times’ and then of course I launch into a full boogie woogie right hand.”

“I might not be the best in the world at anything but you know, food, music, business, whatever, I can turn my hand to a number of things and I like doing that.”

“At times it does become crazy and I think my brain is a bit overwhelmed, but I love the creativity of doing different things and working with people who are creative and building business.”

“I mean money is not important other than you have to eat and you need a roof over your head but you know, I don’t need that eighty metre yacht.”