Sharpening the saw and the importance of self-renewal

From an investor perspective, there are thousands of people with brilliant ideas but what truly makes the difference is sometimes not the idea but the person behind the idea.

In this article, we dive into one of the key attributes of a backable founder – the ability to “sharpen the saw”.

Coined by Stephen Covey as one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “sharpening the saw” is a way of preserving and enhancing your mind.

Self-renewal is an inherently individual recipe for success, so to inspire you, we have asked our team and mentors  to share with us their tips and advice for how they sharpen the saw;

Simon O’Dell, IGA CEO

  • Daily meditation
  • 30 mins exercise, 4 days per week
  • Time with nature e.g. surfing
  • Time with family
  • VC Podcast
  • InsTech London Podcast
  • YCombinator
  • Audible

James Hutchinson – Risk & Insurance, Entrepreneurship/Innovation, Sustainability

  1. Share the sunrise with my personal mentor, a crow in Tassie that has taken a liking to me.  He’s taught me that you can always pivot, find a new start (mentoring session photo attached).
  2. Spend time with the dog – I try to learn from her ability to sustain a focus.
  3. Read, alternate fiction with non-fiction.  Never clear which is more instructive.
  4. Always respond in the affirmative when a mate sends an invite for a brainstorming session that ends with the magic, “TSA@LNI?”
  5. Try to listen way more than I talk.

Alana Burton – Zero Co

  • Podcasts – various
  • Audio books
  • Industry news and professional body magazines
  • Networking – events, staying in touch with my network,  talking to new people in the industry.
  • Taking on work I’ve never previously done – just jumping in and figuring it out
  • Time away from the computer/desk – thinking time
  • Continual Professional Development – formal learning as a requirement of my Accounting and AICD memberships.

Ron Arnold – 11eight

  • Daily walk – get my 10,000 steps at least 5 days a week!
  • Listen (not watch some sport)
  • Always have a bibliography on the go (currently Peter Crouch, How To Be a Footballer)
  • Get up to my rural property when I can (off the grid)
  • Have at least 2 sit down meals with family per week
  • Subscribe to lots of Newsletters
  • Take an interest in sectors other than insurance and fin services
  • Read the MIT Sloan Review

Martin Mulclare – Facilitator, Questioner, Adviser

  • Weekly exercise regime, including my instructor daughter torturing her father on her Pilates reformer machine*
  • Selectively accepting recommendations to view TED talks
  • Regular email prompts to provide perspective from Simon Longstaff (Ethics Centre), Jon Owen (Wayside Chapel) and Peter Diamandis (FutureLoop)
  • Sunday dinner with adult children highlighted by provocative conversations
  • Daily planning for priorities and focus balanced with annual planning for context
  • Judging when energy needs to be restored with personal space and when it needs to be restored by social interaction
  • Weekly ethics classes, one with kindergarten and one with Year 5, to keep my mind ready for anything

Danica Bunch – Strategic & Investor Relations

  • Moments of being in the moment – I would like to say I meditate regularly but time doesn’t always allow so a connection with being present, warmth of the sun, watching a piece of nature happen. A moment of not thinking and just being present regularly. Knowing when you need it.
  • Mind over matter – I love to test physical limits with the mind. I train and I work with an incredible PT who is tapped into what makes me tick and programming physical challenges that are equally about mental control and drive. This sharpens my mind to be strong in all types of situations.
  • Art and creativity – I am very much creative and have an artistic drive. My art for over 35 years is ballet. It is not just the doing but also being surrounded by like-minded people in my happy place – the ballet studio. It also feeds my creativity in business and ability to see beyond what others often do. It is also the level of discipline I live by.
  • People – the value of relationships in every aspect of life is so important to me. From a simple kind gesture with a passerby, to working with the incredible industry and thought leaders that I am fortunate to have and of course personal and family relationships. The energy you gain can be channelled in so many ways.
  • Lifelong learning – Daily reading, podcasts, study, watching and discussing – I love to challenge thoughts and my mind. I especially love when something can change my mind through learning!

Nick Proud, IGA Portfolio Manager

  • Walk my dog first thing in the morning
  • Coffee and breakfast with the family
  • Google alert for “Insurtech” news delivered to my inbox each morning
  • Listen to music on my commute
  • Pick a topic of interest for the week to learn more about (not necessarily work-related)
  • Make time for lunch and get up from my desk regularly
  • Various podcasts/blogs and general business news
  • Catch up regularly with industry peers and other investment/finance professionals
  • Switch off devices an hour before bed


If you have founded a pre-seed or seed insurtech and are looking for support and funding – or maybe you just have an idea that you would like to chat through – we have the experience and the tools to help you get to market faster. Check out our incubator and venture fund or get in touch.