Intake: September 2000
Current Roles: Founder and MD of Fate v Future
After a 10+ year career which saw Jon as an intern at JP Morgan in London, followed by 2 years in Los Angeles working for a Hollywood talent agency, to New York where he started to work in advertising, Jon made it back to London in 2012, and has been here ever since. He founded Fate V Future just over 4 years ago.
Describe your business and your role within it.
I run a portfolio of small media and marketing businesses. I’m founder and managing director of Fate v Future, a global network of world-class strategic, creative, production and account management talent. In a little more than 4 years, Fate v Future has worked with over 55 brands, delivering multiple projects for household names like WeWork, Bumble, and Square, plus one of the world’s largest online gaming firms, as well as dozens of startups and scaleups from around the world. Additionally, I write a well-regarded regular newsletter, also called Fate v Future, that’s read by over 1000 founders, thought leaders and senior execs at firms like Apple, Accenture, Morgan Stanley, ByteDance, the Gagosian gallery, The Face magazine, Deloitte, Gemini, the BBC, and more. Finally, as it happens, some of our readers have asked us if we could write their newsletters for them! We’ve observed the fact that regular newsletters are actually on everyone’s to do list… they’re just somewhere around no. 14 on the list! So, we created a newsletter writing service under its own brand, SSSEND.
How did you get into this line of business?
I went from London (a Mountbatten internship at JPMorgan Chase) to Los Angeles (2 years working for Hollywood talent agency CAA), to New York, which is where I’m from, and where I started working in advertising, a perfect mix of art and commerce, in my opinion. On top of that, I have personally always wanted to return to the UK to live. In 2012, I was offered a job at an ad agency in London called BBH. That was 10+ years ago, and I have been here in London ever since.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
An agency is actually a relatively straightforward business to start: no large cap ex needed, as it’s a services business that requires brain power and time, not equipment or stock. I started without a business plan, a partner, a founding client, or even a name. My first client was a startup founded by a married couple in my immediate network. My second client was WeWork, which we ended up working with on about five consecutive projects. Traction is a real thing in business. It sounds so simple and obvious, but it’s true: the more work a company does, the more opportunities the company has to connect with new clients, and share what you’ve done. The portfolio of businesses expanded naturally: I started my newsletter in January 2022. Our mission is to curate the best newsletter on the Internet, and my thesis is that staying on top of the fast moving worlds of culture, business, media, marketing, tech and more will advance anyone’s career… or at least give you plenty to talk about in an interview or at a dinner or party. And our newest business SSSEND was, of course born out of the newsletter.
What else is in the pipeline?
SSSEND is proving popular! We intend to build out the offering, as we help more brands in more places write more likeable emails. When it comes to our newsletter, while the actual product is a regular email, the core product is threefold: the time savings that comes from not having to read through the 100+ news sites that we go through daily, the actual, information that we present and link to, and (hopefully) the entertainment that comes from the crisp, witty way we share our content. Seen that way, our actual product can extend from a regular email and regular podcasts, to explainer videos, longer form written content, and maybe even live talks and conferences in the future. Finally, when it comes to Fate v Future the marketing services network, we’ve actually observed our clients asking for more bespoke consulting projects, whether that means high level strategic problem solving, targeted copywriting, or agency roster/creative management. This isn’t typical agency work in that the consulting projects are 1:1, with our output delivered directly to founders and senior executives.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
What a great question. Most marketing projects operate on a timeline measured in weeks, if not months. I was not prepared for how satisfying it would feel to press “send” on a regular newsletter 3x a week. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from maintaining a regular cadence has been one of the nicest and proudest feelings I’ve had since starting Fate v Future.
Who are your role models?
Another great question. Increasingly, I’ve been seeking to identify my life and lifestyle role models, as opposed to professional ones. That’s probably because my career — to date, and going forward — doesn’t have that many direct analogies. (Even though I’ve been in marketing for 15 years, I’ve done a lot of different things, and my career has very much been an amalgamation of my experiences and interests.) That said, there are people in my orbit whose personal perspective, wisdom, and overall approach to life I find inspiring, even though they work in different fields than I do. My best friend Matthew is one of them. He is an attorney in New York, and his thoughtful, balanced, reasoned approach to all things helps me formulate my way of thinking about life situations. My wife Natalie is another. She approaches both her work —which is food and hospitality— and her life with a joyful, completely holistic, authentic approach that I learn from every day.
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
Ha, where to begin? I’ll say this: once you’ve figured out your big stuff, like formulating your exact product or service offering, and establishing product market fit, a business is really built on all the details, and how well you execute them. Things like pricing, how to consistently maintain profitability, or generate efficient systems for both your output as well as your internal ops may seem obvious, but that is the stuff that I had to figure out through pure trial and error—though even if I had begun my business with all of that in mind, I would not have been able to truly know how to execute, without learning by doing.
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
One word: Do. I spent more than 15 years after Mountbatten working for firms both large and small, learning far more lessons than I can count in the process. However, I’ve learned more in 4+ years of running my own small portfolio of businesses, than I did in all the years working for others. If you are thinking, do!