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Edward Maslaveckas: Crack sales, with the right strategy

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Edward Maslaveckas: Crack sales, with the right strategy

Edward Masclaveckas

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Getting your sales to boom is all about finding the perfect idea, the right business model and the perfect strategy to get it all off the ground.

Edward Maslaveckas found the ultimate combination of all three by using his fear of not trying to start his financial banking platform, Bud.

After running on pure adrenaline and sleeping on his future co-founder’s sofa, he managed to secure a life-changing $80m funding deal.

Here’s what we cover:

Shifting your idea from B2C to B2B

Using fear to fuel your business venture

Having a friend as a co-founder can be great—but it isn’t for everyone

Running off adrenaline to scale the business but realising your own burnout point

Finding an organic growth hack by channelling someone else’s community or data

The reality of working with fintechs and banks

From sleeping on a friend’s sofa, to game-changing deals worth millions

Find a friend who wants and understands equity

Complications: Moving to private equity but friends and family have previously invested

When in a leadership position, treat people as you’d expect to be treated

Hiring isn’t about the smartest person on paper—it’s about personality

Where to start when building a board of executives

Make mistakes, forgive yourself and get a good night’s sleep

Shifting your idea from B2C to B2B

Bex Burn-Callander:

For our listeners, can you just describe what it is that Bud does?

And I know that it does lots of very clever whizz-poppy things, but to break it down into sort of terms that my granny would understand.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Really, the reality of what we do is, we take your financial data, which is the spending data that’s in your bank account, and we work with banks to help analyse that data. We can then work out, based off of things like your spending patterns, the kind of things that you should watch out for.

So, if you look at where we started in 2015, it was a new financial app, which you could pull your bank data into, and we could give you insights into your spending.

We could send any alerts like, “Hey, it looks like we’ve detected an upcoming bill, but it doesn’t look like you currently have the cash in your account to cover it. So we want to make you aware of that. Maybe you need to try and cancel that service, or you need to move some money into your account.”

It’s really those simple nudges and features and things that we all need. That kind of financial assistant in a pocket, was the original pitch.

But what we found when we were building the company was, to get there, we had to build this whole infrastructure of data intelligence, because there wasn’t really anything that existed that we could build on top of.

Then we became a business to business, so we started selling those services.

Rather than giving that service to customers through our app, we sold that service to banks and other banking apps, as finance apps to help anyone that had bank data to get this assistance.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I’m fascinated by that move from the sort of B2C to B2B and I imagine at points that must have been painful.

So we’re going to go into that in a bit.

But I wanted to start off by talking about how you get your head in the finance world, because I know you studied economics. Is that when you started thinking about financial systems, how you could make a correction, the challenges that you saw that, how did you even end up moving into this sphere?

Edward Maslaveckas:

I guess it’s sort somewhat in your DNA to start your own company. And that certainly came from my dad. He was always an entrepreneur. He always had this kind of thing of if you’ve got an idea, just go for it.

What I found was at the time, it was 2014, this was the first wave of fintech.

You had your TransferWises, your Starling banks. It was prior to Monzo, and I think Monzo was called Mondo back then, it was their first year in, and we saw all these guys coming through.

Luckily at Salesforce, you got this view of what was happening in the tech ecosystem, what was happening in the world, because it’s a huge CRM business, so you get to see these patterns emerge.

And so, for me it was really interesting because there were these really high-growth companies coming in, at my level, which was the smallest kind of businesses that we dealt with, the sort of SMB they called small medium businesses at Salesforce.

So this huge explosion was happening.

I’d moved to Dublin and so I had accounts in different countries, obviously. People around the world think it’s kind of odd, Ireland and UK being different countries and having different accounts. But yes, different accounts, using TransferWise and other services in between, to move money.

And there were sort of two converging ideas.

So one was, “Hey, why don’t I just have access to all these services together in one app? I know it’s in different bank accounts.”

At the other side, there was this real explosion of fintech and it’s services and the original idea was a sort of melding of those two ideas.

Using fear to fuel your business venture

Bex Burn-Callander:

I mean, when you started work on Bud, did you keep your job at Salesforce and were you kind of building on the side?

Or did you say I’m done here, papers in the air, I’m going to start my business now?

Edward Maslaveckas:

It was out of fear. I had this idea. So the original idea was an intelligent money supermarket, where if you brought your financial data in, we would recommend the right services and products.

You could integrate those altogether, and it’s kind of this utopian idea of an autonomous financial app.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And a great idea.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Oh great idea, and still is today. But the technical challenges were vast, so we didn’t know that going in. So, that’s kind of what we learned on the way.

But the thing that compelled me, this is kind of odd, it probably tells you more about me than anything else. The thing that compelled me the most to go and do it, was that I had this idea, and maybe it was a good idea, and that if one day I googled the idea, like automated financial assistant or marketplace banking app, and someone else had created it and it was doing great, then I would not forgive myself for not trying.

Actually it’s the same way that finally convinced me to take my driving test, I kept having these recurring nightmares that I couldn’t drive.

So it is something about the idea of not doing it, that compelled me to do it, which is maybe slightly odd, but…

Bex Burn-Callander:

Fear can be a really powerful, terrifying but powerful way of getting you to move quickly and get things done. So did you already have your co-founder, George Dunning, with you at this point or did you find him later in the journey?

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, George and I had been friends for many years. We knew each other as kids. We grew up in a town in north of England called Harrogate. And I used to go around to his house.

I hope my mum doesn’t listen to this, but I used to sneak around to his house and tell my mum I was going to church, but in fact I was going around to his house to play computer games.

So, we were just little nerd friends.

Having a friend as a co-founder can be great—but it isn’t for everyone

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well, I was going to ask, how do you know that the person, that you are going to co-found a business with is the right person, but I feel like childhood friend means, you know each other pretty well.

There’s a pretty, in-depth degree of trust there, and you can probably be very honest with one another, I imagine?

Edward Maslaveckas:

I mean, it can be great if you get it right. But equally I wouldn’t advise it to everyone.

It’s hard, and there certainly needs to be a degree of openness and you need to understand each other’s weaknesses, and obviously, have an open dialogue.

But there’re things about, and I’m sure everyone can recognise this, there are things about the people that we don’t work with every day, that we like to spend time with. So what you gain in a co-founder, you sort of lose in that person that you can’t wait to see on the weekend.

So, yeah, there’s certainly ups and downs. I mean it worked out for us thankfully, but it’s not necessarily easy.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Yeah, there’s definitely, you could say that the startup scene is littered with broken friendships because people went into business together.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Oh yeah.

Running off adrenaline to scale the business but realising your own burnout point

Bex Burn-Callander:

And then, so, take me back to those early days. How crazy was it? Were you working sort of 14-hour days? What was it, what kind of pace did you have to keep up to actually create the first iteration of this business?

Edward Maslaveckas:

Everything in the startup is, and I’m sure many people have said this, it’s hellish. It’s really hard and often it’s hard because you put so much pressure on, and at some point, you might take on some money from family and friends and that adds on to the pressure.

But really, it’s funny, because, yes, we worked super hard and we worked long hours, but it never really felt like that.

I had this thing. I would work until I hated everything I was doing, and I just thought everything I was doing was terrible.

And that’s when I knew I just no longer had the capacity to really do anything positive. So I would then go to bed and when you wake up, it all feels a little bit better the next day, right? So, yeah, we would work pretty late.

But again, the original group of five or six of us, that ended up being for the first couple of years, we were really close, and it was fun, and it was hard, but you could never really repeat that right?

Because it’s kind of a very special time, where you’re sort of so excited and you’re running off so much adrenaline that you are pushing yourself and of course your health suffers and things like that.

Bex Burn-Callander:

How long did you have to run at that pace before you saw some traction though? Because I always think that’s interesting to find out how long do you have to sustain that level of adrenaline fuelled like hyperactivity?

Edward Maslaveckas:

Well it just depends how long it takes to get the point where you, as a founder, no longer scale, right? Because it’s this idea that you’re putting huge amounts of hours in, and you need to have critical thinking or make good decisions, but you are just burnt out or you need to take an extra push.

Let’s say there’s an event that you need to go to, or you need to do a talk and you’re just exhausted and there’s that point.

And so for us, it was probably about two years, because we built on very shaky foundations, as I mentioned. We had this sort of utopian idea of what we wanted to build, but ultimately the core technology was so hard to do, that it was sort about two years until we started.

When we pivoted over to the B2B, and I know we’ll talk about it in a minute, that’s when things started to, you’re pushing that boulder uphill, and it started to get to that point where it wasn’t just pain.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That must have been really hard though when you had to look at your business and try and be impartial about its chances of success and think we have to change something.

Was there a moment that you just thought, you know what, why don’t we just stop trying, why don’t we just close down?

Or was that never an option in your mind?

Edward Maslaveckas:

Oh no, it was always an option. It’s always an option. You always think, “Hey, maybe this is just not it anymore.”

But I think the reality of actually doing that, and giving up, maybe foolhardy in some ways. So I see all sorts of people that sort of push to the end and then they realise, “Ok, this business isn’t going to work. Let’s close it down and let’s try something else, or let’s do something else or let’s change. We’re going to change the business, let’s start a new business.”

That wasn’t really in my nature, and it still isn’t, but I think, who knows which is the better path? I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you.

Finding an organic growth hack by channelling someone else’s community or data

Bex Burn-Callander:

But that’s not what you did. Instead, you basically completely remodelled your existing business.

So how big and undertaking was that?

How emotionally wrenching was it to try and scrap quite a lot of stuff that you’d spent two years working on, and then refocus?

Edward Maslaveckas:

It was many years ago now, and I feel like, to be honest, the number one thing, and maybe it came from starting up with a group of friends, as a business, but there were two things we wanted to do.

We had this idea that you could create this kind automated financial experience, and we sort of drew it up on a whiteboard and we said, “Look, here’s the pros of doing it on our own, masters of our own destiny, but here’s the cons, there are thousands of financial apps out there.”

Everyone was competing to acquire customers.

If ultimately what we want to do is automate and give people insight into their finances and give businesses the ability to automate their experiences, their lending, all this kind of stuff.

If it is this autonomous financial dream that we have, we’re more likely to be able to deliver that, through other businesses, where they have more data.

Let’s say, in an ideal world consumer facing, we become as big as one of the big banks. That would be awesome. And we’d probably be able to deliver some experience, while very unlikely, we would have a lot of data.

However, in the alternative world, what if we worked with three banks and 20 fintechs, we would have more data.

So, with what we were trying to build, we realised it was a data problem and certain methodologies, investment, and obviously, with the B2B model, we could really core invest in the technology versus investing in customer requisition costs, because that’s where you get into that loop with consumer businesses, you have to acquire customers.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It’s expensive.

Edward Maslaveckas:

It’s expensive, it’s hard to scale that. So we drew that up and it kind of felt like a bit of a no brainer for us. So yeah, I don’t remember feeling massively emotional about it. I think some of the team and some people ultimately, it really wasn’t the thing for them.

And still today, we interview a lot of people and there’s a lot of people that just want to create a customer product and it takes a different mindset, and I understand it.

But I think the core team, we just wanted to go on that mission. We wanted the company to succeed.

So, it was a bit of a no brainer for us, it wasn’t too emotional of a decision.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s really interesting advice.

There’s always an organic growth hack. It takes so much time, money, energy to try and build your own community and your own customer base, one at a time, laboriously attracting them in.

There’s always a way that you can channel someone else’s community or someone else’s data, and that the best businesses now do that. They find the organic growth hack.

So, that’s interesting. That’s actually what ended up proving the salvation of your business.

Edward Maslaveckas:

It was somewhat obvious.

So in 2017, there was this piece of regulation that was announced. The long and short of what it meant was, banks no longer owned, or could say they owned their customer’s data.

Customers now owned their own data and could move their own data between different apps and banks, and things like that.

So then, what it meant was rather than these banks and financial apps having these kind of walled gardens, where they kept all the data inside, customers could move their data from one place to another.

People that were alive to it, started to realise, “Hey, if a customer can move their data to any application or service of their choosing, which service will they have their data in?”

Hopefully, and this was kind of our pitch was, if a customer has choice, they can move. They don’t have to change their bank account, they can just move their data to the application they find the most helpful, that assists them in the best possible way.

A few banks identified this quite early, and they came to us and said, “Hey look, we like what you’ve built, why don’t you license it to us?”

And so it wasn’t just us going, “Hey, we could do this model.”

People were telling us to do the model. So we said, OK, this makes sense.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Positive reinforcement.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, that was it.

The reality of working with fintechs and banks

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well that’s interesting because I was going to ask, how you found the first fintechs and banks to work with?

Because especially when it comes to banks, I mean they can be quite slow-moving creatures. I think because of the explosion of fintech, recently, things have changed.

But certainly a few years ago, it wasn’t always easy to get traction with a big bank when you were a new startup.

So was it all inbound and that’s what got you up and running?

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, it wasn’t a hundred percent inbound. The ideas were inbound. So traditional banks are built top to bottom, their custodians of risk, they manage risk, and that’s their culture. Their culture is to manage risk.

And so while we had inbounds, it wasn’t the CEO of a bank saying, “Let’s do this tomorrow.”, it was like, “Hey, come and have a conversation with us. This might be interesting.”

The roadblocks to serve a bank were kind of endless really to be honest. This new regulation meant that customers could port their data but then the bank was saying, “Yes, but do I trust you?”

You see the billboards, and I think at the same time banks were advertising things like, never give your data away, never share your password, all this kind of stuff.

And as much as you’re not sharing your password with a service like us, there is that feeling where it just doesn’t really make sense.

Banks were the same, they were sceptical about sharing their data with a third party, that kind of thing.

So there were huge roadblocks, and we managed to pull something off that was pretty crazy and it got us our first big customer, HSBC.

Well actually, our first customer was HSBC, and they’re obviously the biggest customer.

So, we had to grow up pretty fast.

We had to put all sorts of policies in place, we had to create our systems in a sort of secure way. We almost built them too securely, to the point where we couldn’t even access our own systems. But these are the things we had to do.

So I guess, we were selling into many banks, it was kind of my job before, was sales, so, and that was just if anyone wants to try and sell into a bank and as a new fintech, there was no secret sauce. It was just a pretty well-rehearsed pitch.

I mean there’s thousands of people that work in these big banks, so there’s always a meeting to be had. And the idea really was, you could get in there, you’d have a meeting with someone and they’re not going to be a decision maker.

A key decision maker isn’t going to take a meeting with you, but that might be their boss’s boss.

So you kind of work your way up through those layers and say, “Hey, these bad guys came in. It’s kind of interesting. Why don’t you take a look?”

And through literally hours and hours of meetings in different banks, we’ve finally got somewhere significant.

From sleeping on a friend’s sofa, to game-changing deals worth millions

Bex Burn-Callander:

I want to talk a bit about how you have financed this business because you mentioned before you started Bud, you were sort of a junior salesperson, so you weren’t on big bucks, and yet you were running at this original idea for two years.

So how did you finance that?

How did you have enough budget, to even create the business in the first place?

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, to begin with them, in a guess, it was just first idea was yeah, let’s go do this business. I only move back in with my parents, while my parents are very supportive.

You’re 24 and you’re just like…

Bex Burn-Callander:

You’re living at home.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, I don’t want to live at home.

I was in London and Dublin before, so I kind of made myself excuses about why I needed to be in London because it was the centre of fintech.

So I went and stayed on a friend’s couch.

It was actually, George and my other friend Jamie, who also ended up joining the business. It was their sofa, but they weren’t in the business yet. I had to go to the pub with a couple pitch decks over the course of six or seven months.

So I was sleeping on their sofa, we were fortunate. I was certainly fortunate, like I said, friends and family bought into the idea to a small amount.

I wasn’t paying myself anything really, just enough to get by.

Ultimately, and I’m saying actually if someone raises the point, I’m not from a mega wealthy family but I’m certainly not from a family that couldn’t support me.

And I know there are lots of founders that kind of build from nothing and no one, and don’t have that support around them, but I certainly had that support network, and that certainly gave me a leg up.

So that’s something to call out, that was really helpful.

And yeah, that’s why it’s certainly interesting to me, trying to help level that playing field out, as a founder, because why do we see such low diversity in founders.

It’s taking that risk. My parents could put food on the table. That was certainly something that helped, because you can’t do it on nothing.

And yeah, I quit my job and maybe I wouldn’t have quit my job, maybe I would’ve done that.

But then you do also fall into weird employment law things where your contract says that actually, you can’t work on this during these times and that kind of stuff. So you have to be careful of that.

But at the same time I was very conscious of not spending any money. We had a small amount of money that we had and then eventually I kind of convinced George to quit his job and that was the first time we needed to start spending that money.

George needed to get paid and just enough to get by. We were three of us living in a small apartment so it was cost effective. Then eventually we kept gravitating friends and family in and convincing them, that this is a great idea.

Once we went B2B, then things started to change a little bit. We had a really clear business model, we had customers lining up, that kind of stuff, and doing a bit wrong, we didn’t get to the moon then, but it made sense a little bit more from an investment perspective.

So we raised our seed round around 2017 but it was co-led between Investec that became Outward VC, and Bank of Sabadell, who are a Spanish bank. If you ever go to Spain, you’ll see Sabadell, everywhere.

So they co-led the deal, that was about £1.5m.

It’s just unbelievable and crazy, and we didn’t have to fight for payroll for certainly a good few months, a good year or so. And that was really, that freed us up to really focus on the business. That was really awesome.

And then we did our Series A in around February 2019, we closed it and that was about $20m in Series A.

We closed our Series B, and the deal was worth around $80m, in terms of funding. So, it’s great.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Wow, congratulations. That’s like enough money to become quite a big established business.

That is game changing.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, it is.

And I think the nice thing is ultimately, so it was led by TDR Capital, who have a vast amount of portfolio businesses in the UK, and there’s a lot of synergies there, which is really exciting.

But ultimately, the nice thing is as much as we talked about the big pivot, there’s lots of small pivots.

One of our pivots was realising that we had this real speciality in data and data science, and we wanted to prove out that model during Covid and lockdown for the last few years.

And we started to prove that out.

I think this round is really about hey, actually we’ve got this, not just supplying kind of some of the services we were talking about in 2017, but we’ve got these new services that are working.

And those are the things that are really starting to scale the business.

Find a friend who wants and understands equity

Bex Burn-Callander:

And you said you learn a lot about having co-led investment rounds and I get the impression that it can be challenging.

Do you mind just for our listeners, what makes it more difficult when you’ve got a dual investor tussle happening?

Edward Maslaveckas:

And with banks and large institutions, it’s never just a lead either because every bank has a lot of regulation, they’ve got certain things that they need to see for various reasons.

So that becomes a challenge.

Bex Burn-Callander:

So and so says yes, will you say yes to this? Can we give you the same deal and then back and forth back? OK. I can see that would be time consuming.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Certainly time consuming. And as an inexperienced founder, that was quite a rude awakening. But like I say, we’ve done it before, and we did it again, and now we can do it again.

We have a GC and we have quite a robust, we have a quite robust organisation, we’re just under 100 people and so, that we can handle.

But again, if it’s advice for founders, it’s trying to avoid that, if you’re trying to value your time and your mental state because you’ve also got everything else to do at the same time. So try and avoid that.

But we couldn’t avoid that.

We equally thought, these were big institutions. If we had one that was just leading, we didn’t want it to be us first them, we kind of wanted it to be everyone on somewhat level playing field, so we could keep some power in that conversation.

So that was the thinking, and it certainly did pay off but it’s harder. It’s harder, it’s definitely harder to get right.

Bex Burn-Callander:

No, that’s interesting. And just for listeners, GC, general counsel, a godsend for any business who can afford one because they’re very expensive but very few startups can.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yes, very expensive.

Find a friend that wants equity.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s a good trick.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Or a friend of a friend that understands the value of equity and you can hire brilliant mathematicians and engineers, but there’s kind of people just sort of say no.

They don’t really understand the equity game.

But when they do, they understand it.

And they only understand that, if they see the value. So getting that right is important. That’s how you can save some money.

Bex Burn-Callander:

But it’s a gamble, isn’t it?

People often think I’d rather have a salary that’s like a juicy salary, than put my faith in this, being successful in five years’ time.

You have to have the right personality and outlook to understand that that could be better in the long run for your finances.

Edward Maslaveckas:

It could be. It’s massively risky, and that’s the challenge.

It’s like, what’s your mindset, instead of, do you have an appetite for risk? It’s the same thing that we see in personal finance with pensions, right?

Pensions are obviously less risky but there’s all the studies that basically say that, after a certain period of time, people will reduce the value of their pension to zero.

So it’s like a three-to-five-year horizons say, yeah, I’ve got however much money in that pension, but it’s got nothing to me, cause it’s not in the immediate future.

It’s these kind of strange games we play with mental accounting, that we do.

So these are the types of things we have to try when we are designing our systems instead of competing against.

Bex Burn-Callander:

To get into the neuroscience.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah. To get into the behavioural cognitive part.

Complications: Moving to private equity but friends and family have previously invested

Bex Burn-Callander:

On that point about equity, you mentioned that you had friends and family, backing you in the early days.

How does that complicate matters, when you, then going to get kind of VC or private equity investment later on? Did you have to buy everyone out?

Because you hear that if you have loads of people holding a very small stake, it can make things quite difficult when it comes to doing the term sheets and stuff.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, I mean, it just really depends on how you structure the rights of the individuals. I got some sort of, some quite good advice early on, about how to structure it.

So, essentially for those friends and family, they’re buying into you and your founding team and the vision. I think for a lot of friends and family, and that’s why they’re friends and family, they didn’t necessarily want to interfere.

So applying the right amount of consent rights to them, so saying, you can vote on their behalf and do all these things, that makes that a bit easier.

And so, there was never any challenge there, because essentially the founding team had full control of the business. We had financial stakeholders as friends and family. We’re not talking about huge amounts of money, but it was basically enough to pay three or four people’s wages.

So, they didn’t take any sort of control. And I think that’s quite important because you know you might get into this situation, where you’ve got professional VC versus…

Bex Burn-Callander:

Uncle Barry or something.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, Uncle Barry, and you’re thinking, you can almost imagine cringing and stuff like that. So, that’s an important thing to do.

Just to make sure that the rights, that you give them, probably reflect what input they’re going to be having.

When in a leadership position, treat people as you’d expect to be treated

Bex Burn-Callander:

And you mentioned you’ve got a hundred people now, and this must be such a far cry from when it was just a small gang of you, working on this idea.

How did you decide what kind of leader you would be, when you’ve got that many people who report, who are relying on you, who are looking for guidance and leadership?

How did you mould yourself into someone with a hundred staff if that makes sense?

Edward Maslaveckas:

I think they mould you, more than you mould yourself. I think if you try and mould yourself and then, I am a proponent of reading all sorts of business books and ultimately there’s some good tips and advice in there.

It’s always useful to have some sort of a reference book if you’ve never dealt with something before, you can read about something like, how to fire a friend, as an example.

You think, God, how am I even going to start to think about it? So, I’ve used that example, because it’s one of the worst things you can ever do. It’s horrible.

Ultimately you need to be true to yourself, you need to be your own leader.

There are lots of inputs out there, but if you’re trying to fake and be someone else and put on a front, it’s not genuine. I’ve seen that in practice and it’s not right.

So there’s a more degree of that. I think you have to identify with your strengths and weaknesses, and certainly hire for your weaknesses.

Obviously, you’re trying to address your weaknesses, but you got to be realistic about them and beyond that, it’s people.

So treat people as you’d expect to be treated. That’s very, very simple. We were told that, as kids, and it’s just the truth.

Hiring isn’t about the smartest person on paper—it’s about personality

Bex Burn-Callander:

On the point about people as well, because I read that you said one of your great strengths when hiring, was to actually hire people from outside the industry, so not always getting fintech finance experts, and I thought that was really interesting.

So I wanted to know why that’s helped you build a kind of more engaged workforce?

Edward Maslaveckas:

I think there are some bad cultures out there, quite frankly.

There’s some really bad company cultures out there, and what you really want to do is try and create your own culture, and you’re trying to do something different and new.

You don’t want to just take people that have grown up in, or say grown up, or learn from very rigid structures that, for example, they view risk in a certain way, because risk is about compounding uncertainties.

It’s not about a yes or no, sort of decision.

So, you need those kinds of people that can take ownership. Because we’re looking at the financial world, a long time ago, pre-fintech wave. And so I think, we wanted to do everything quite different to how that was.

So really today it was the same thing as before. It wasn’t about hiring someone that had done lending before. It wasn’t about hiring the smartest person on paper, because we’ve done a lot of that and that tends not to work.

You’re hiring for personality, you’re hiring for someone who is accountable, who takes ownership for what they do, ownership when things mess up and ownership when things go well, that can be creative but also, they want to get stuff done, and they can deal with the uncertainty of growing a business from nothing.

So, whether they had come from a finance background, they could have done, but mostly it was just people that were smart, emotionally intelligent and wanted to do stuff and wanted to, would take ownership that we wanted to hire for.

And what their background was, whether they went to university or not, whether they worked at a bank or not was neither here nor there.

I think we’ve always thought about what a hiring superpower is now more than ever. Hiring superpower is even more flexible than it was before.

You know, can hire that person anyway in the world. Hopefully we’re trying to build structures where we should be able to hire an engineer from anywhere.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It’s interesting because I’ve heard from a lot of founders actually, who had startup or fast-growth businesses, and they thought the best thing to do, would be to hire a really experienced executive from a massive rival, just one of these multinational corporations.

And the number of times they’ve regretted it because you take someone who’s used to having massive resources, who’s used to doing things a certain way, and they’re being certain amounts of process, and then you thrust them into a startup environment, and they just flounder and then, very expensive to get rid of.

So I had heard, sometimes what looks good on paper doesn’t work in practice.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, when I think about trying to hire, we’re a very young team, and I always think about this, do you want to bring in some senior execs, people that been there, done it before.

I think, time and time again, I come back to this point, and I say this now, maybe by the time this podcast comes out, I’ve had some super senior exec on, not planning on it, but might do it.

I think it’s that person that is, really fighting for that next position, maybe as you might perceive it, they’re a level below where you want to hire for, but you can see they have got all the ambition there, they’ve got the drive, they’re hungry for it, they’ll do anything to get there.

They’ve got some frameworks that they’ve learned from other places.

I think those kinds of people, you want to bring them in and enrol and say ultimately, you want to be here, you want to get to this next role, let’s say where you’re taking a UK focus team, and you want to be managing a team across three markets.

So, they want to get there, you want them to get there. So they’re going to figure that one out.

I think that for us, it always seems like the best value and seems like the right culture for us, is that person that isn’t trying to sit above a team and say, “I don’t do the work, I sit on top of people that do the work and if you throw me into the deep end, I’m not going to go do the work.”

Take sales as an example.

If I’m hiring someone senior in sales, I expect them to do their own outreach.

Yes, they have business development people, yes, they have marketing, but they should be networking. I’m always on LinkedIn messaging people, as is my co-founder.

We have a bit of competition of who can do the most outreach, and sometimes it might feel weird if this year is reaching out to a junior person in the company trying to sell them a product, but hey, that’s the nature of the game.

Everyone needs to be selling here.

Where to start when building a board of executives

Bex Burn-Callander:

But you do have some heavyweights, you’ve got them on your board though, so is that where you need to have the big names?

The people who might not be in the trenches, but they’ve been there, done that, got a T-shirt.

Edward Maslaveckas:

The scariest thing is the type of things that you have no clue.

There’s naivety of doing things. So, that’s what they give us. So if we’re entering a new scenario, maybe do we expand to a new country? Ok, there’s this regulatory thing coming up, what do we think of it?

You want to turn to some people that done it a couple of times before.

As a co-founder or CEO or C something, you have more information about the decision you’re going to make than they do, but you just want to run it past someone.

And then, ultimately nine times out 10, they just give you the confidence to execute, like Ramon and Stanley, really, they’re advisors and mentors to us.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It just kind of pays to keep your eyes open, see who you get on with, see who adds value and just hang on the people that really do. That seems to be great advice.

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, I guess advice on board composition and thinking about boards, and so I’ve done these lots of time.

I’ve had lots of different people on the board, coming up to eight years now, and it’s those people that you can really get along with, and I think there is as a young founder, as in first time founder, there’s this idea that I need to be trusted as a business. I need to build a board. I need to build this prestigious board.

I don’t necessarily buy into that. I did at the time, and maybe I’m sort of doing that classic thing. It worked for me, but you know, you shouldn’t do it.

So take that advice with a pinch of salt, but I don’t know if necessarily, just throwing a bunch of names onto a board is the right thing to do. I think you need to be very careful about that.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Good advice.

Make mistakes, forgive yourself and get a good night’s sleep

Bex Burn-Callander:

And then, just one final question Ed.

So the headline, the name of this podcast is, “Get year one in business right”. So I’d love to know for all of our listeners, who are in that first year, try not to make mistakes, making those mistakes.

Is there anything that you remember, from your early days in business, that you think, I wish I’d known that, or I wish someone could have told me to do something a little bit different?

Is there one piece of advice that you would share?

Edward Maslaveckas:

Yeah, so I often dream about starting another business, not that I don’t love Bud, but it’s just the idea that because you make so many mistakes no matter what you read, it’s very difficult to really put that advice into practice.

So I think ultimately, you’re going to make a heap of mistakes, and some of those mistakes might haunt you for years, but you need to forgive yourself and just keep going. I think that’s the main thing.

The thing is, I kind of have this idea that if I started another business, I’d make all these mistakes and I wouldn’t do them again, but I’d make other mistakes. And it would be because I’ve made these mistakes, so I would maybe not do things, I did in the early days, and that wouldn’t work.

So it’s very difficult to say anything other than just move on, forgive yourself and go to sleep. Go to sleep. Because when it’s painful, and it feels like nothing’s going to work, when you have a good sleep, it feels possible again.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I like that. That’s the opposite of the sort of hustle porn where it’s like, live on three hours a night, drink energy drinks for breakfast, keep going, keep going.

This is like, okay, good night sleep, forgive yourself. I prefer this approach.

Edward Maslaveckas:

To use a sports analogy, which I know is a bit tried, but you know what a performance athlete, whether they’re a marathon runner or a sprinter, thinks it’s a good idea to be un-rested and have poor nutrition and not look after yourself and try and go out and perform to your peak ability.

So if you’re selling something, if you’re being a B2B, you need to go out and be able to pitch a business, and look energised, and feel energised. I have lots of pictures of me looking in terrible place.

If you are B2C, you’ve got to come up with some marketing concepts, ultimately to again, sell your product, and to have the creativity to take your message and get it narrow enough that people understand it and agree with it.

I think both things are a creative endeavour. So I think you do need to look after yourself, definitely.

That hustle mentality is mental.

Sometimes you got to put it in, but sometimes you got to forgive yourself.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well Ed, thank you so much for making time for me today, and especially after raising that mammoth round of investment. You guys must be so busy and have so many plates spinning. I really appreciate you making the time.

Edward Maslaveckas:

I hope something of what I’ve said is useful to anyone.

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