This month we had the pleasure of welcoming True Global’s Managing Director, Investment & CMO, Ella d’Amato, to our Three Things podcast. Formerly the CMO of Not On The High Street, we couldn’t wait to delve into Ella’s refreshingly unconventional career that has shaped her unique management style. Ella’s story is one of exceptionally hard work and an infectious passion for working with people, but most of all, it is a tale of empathy and kindness.

To listen to the conversation, tune in now on Spotify, Apple, and other major platforms. Or, if you would prefer a quick summary of the most compelling moments, you can explore the highlights below.

Humble Beginnings

Ella d’Amato navigated her way to the top of the corporate ladder through a remarkably unconventional path, rooted in humble beginnings. “I was raised in a council house in Watford along with my six siblings”, she explained. “An accident made it difficult for my father to work, so my mother worked split shifts at Asda and a local pub. Because of that, we became incredibly independent children.”

That independence emboldened Ella to seek employment at a tremendously young age, and at only thirteen, she began working as a cleaner for Condor Ferries.

Ella dAmato CV

Ella d’Amato‘s CV//

2021-Present // MD, Investment & CMO – True.

2017-2021 // CMO – Not On The High Street

2016-2021 // Chief Commercial & Partner Officer – Not On The High Street

2011-2016 // CEO – Drum

2005-2011 // New Business & Marketing Director – OMG UK

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3 years on, Ella left school to pursue a profession in hospitality. “I got pretty good GCSEs”, she recalled, “and there was a lot of talk about going to college, doing an NVQ, but I really enjoyed the buzz of work and being around people, so that’s what I decided to do.” This passion for working with people became a constant in Ella’s life, combining perfectly with her formidable work ethic to fuel a meteoric rise through the ranks of employment.

From managing restaurants to running a chiropractic clinic, becoming a licensed conveyancer to leading a multimillion-pound marketing agency at 33 years old, Ella’s career has been a zigzagging rollercoaster of roles and experiences. And now, that journey has – rather fittingly – led her to become Managing Director of an organisation as equally distinctive and groundbreaking as Ella, herself: True Global.

True – An Investment House Like No Other

True is a unique entity in the investment landscape, rebuking the traditional structure of investment houses around the world. It represents an enigmatic juxtaposition of venture capital and private equity, which is unusual in and of itself, but the magic of True – and what sets it apart from its competitors – is its innovation arm. “We are known for our PE and VC divisions”, Ella admitted, “but we are growing our innovation arm, and it’s this dynamic of those three components that makes True so special.”

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The innovation arm, which Ella likened to ‘a cooler McKinsey’, is comprised of expert analysts and agency-side consultants that work with big corporates like Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, and Warner Brothers to help them implement innovative methods and concepts. This endeavour dovetails spectacularly with the other arms of the organisation to create a fusion of investment with almost unlimited potential.

“We see roughly 3000 tech startups a year”, Ella revealed, “and some of them we will invest in from a VC perspective, but others we will put into a company that’s in our PE fund. The idea is that we test how well that relationship performs, and if it succeeds, we can then take those businesses to someone like Marks and Spencer via our innovation arm.” So, from an operational standpoint, True is quite obviously a pioneer, but it also nurtures the exceptional from a cultural perspective, too…


A Symphony of Values

“To do VC, PE, and innovation, you have to create a cultural environment that allows all of the people involved in those areas to thrive”, Ella claimed, “and that comes from the founders, Matt and Paul; they are the essence of True.” The organisation, like so many others, derives its culture and values from its founders, and the result is extraordinary.

At True’s heart lies a compass of core values: embody helpfulness, champion passion for True, and be your best self. Whilst the first two principles are certainly integral, they are relatively straightforward and require little explanation. The latter, on the other hand, is what truly sets True apart through its revolutionary application. This principle promotes individual authenticity, encouraging each team member not just to bring their professional selves to work, but their unique, personal essence as well. It cultivates a symphony of personal and organisational values, and the result is a harmonious workspace where individuality and the company’s ethos beautifully intertwine.

“I’m a very values-based leader”, Ella shared, “and True’s ethos allows us to articulate the values that mean the most to us.” For her, the freedom to express her own values manifests itself in kindness, but she stressed that is not the case for everyone. In fact, she recommended a tool called ‘VIA Character’ to determine what your top values are so you can clearly see what anchors you. This is of vital importance for leaders, according to Ella, because a divergence from your values, which usually occurs in testing circumstances, can signal the beginning of the end.

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“There have been times of immense stress where I haven’t stayed true to my values”, she admitted, “and it has made me so miserable that I haven’t slept. The whole premise behind nailing down your values is to help you dial in to them when things get tough. Being able to do that helps you sleep better and be a better leader.” Your values can be anything: from honesty to bravery, creativity to love, everyone is different, but there is one quality that Ella believes every great leader shares…


The Key to Success as a Leader

“Ultimately, I believe that apart from setting a really clear vision and goals on what success looks like, the job of a CEO is to create an environment for the people around them to thrive”, Ella clarified. “To do that you have to make sure there is psychological safety: people must feel secure enough to express themselves freely.”

This influences every single aspect of a business. From decision-making to efficiency, teamwork to growth; if your people do not feel comfortable enough to say what they mean, present their ideas without fear of judgement, and carry out tasks in the way that makes sense to them, your business’ potential will forever be shackled.

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Empathetic leaders are the best type of leaders in my opinion”, Ella declared, “because they can have those difficult conversations, make the best decisions, and execute them.” Empathy allows leaders to see the barriers their teams face and devise a way to overcome them. This ensures everyone in the organisation feels valued and heard, which is essential if you want to them to share their perspectives to inform your decision-making.

Three Things

To round off our enlightening conversation with Ella for this episode, we asked for her Three Things – three pieces of actionable advice that you can implement in your business today. Ella wanted her advice to be as relatable as possible, and so she linked it as best she could to popular culture:

number 1

Be more Ted Lasso.

“If you haven’t watched Ted Lasso, you really should”, Ella laughed, “but the actionable bit of this is how well he leads through kindness, and I think the world needs more kind leaders. Don’t underestimate it being a weakness because it isn’t. Sometimes it’s kind to let someone go from your business as long as you execute it in the right way. Ted goes through so many ups and downs, with people stabbing him in the back and that sort of thing, and he responds always with kindness. We can learn so much from that, I think.”

number 2

Be more Forrest Gump.

“Forrest is the ultimate underdog that lived his life through optimism”, Ella explained. “Through that optimism and his sheer work ethic, he was able to reinvent himself time and time again, and there will be people in your organisation that you can give an opportunity to so they can reinvent themselves in the same way. It may or may not be the job they’re doing right now, but I think it’s so helpful to give people the opportunity to reinvent themselves as much as you can. It isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay, but it helps people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds because they carry a lot of things which make it hard for them to volunteer in the same way others do…This is so helpful for them, but also for your business.”

number 3

Don’t outsource the fun.

“This relates to a time when I was going through some very difficult circumstances and I visited one of my previous bosses for advice”, Ella recalled. “I told her I wasn’t enjoying myself, wasn’t having any fun, and it was basically just really hard. She looked at me and said, ‘If you are not having fun, your team won’t be either. I can’t make you have fun. Go and have some fun.’ She said it just like that and she was right. So I put in a lunch with the key members of my team, and we went, we laughed, we had fun, and it triggered something inside me that I’d forgotten. Fun was a key part of my leadership and so my advice to CEOs and founders is: even in hard times, please do not outsource the fun.”


We’d like to thank Ella for joining us to provide such a fascinating understanding of her leadership style and how other business leaders can implement it, themselves. She demonstrates that leadership is not about the title but the impact we can make on others, reminding us all that a bit of kindness can go a long way, even – or perhaps especially – in the corporate sphere.

We covered far more ground than we can include in this write up, however, and so we strongly recommend you tune in to the podcast, here. Stay tuned for part two with Ella for more of her insights, particularly concerning diverse and inclusive cultures, coming later this year.

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