After six years working in a financial technology role – firstly at Saxo Bank and then at CFH Markets – Jannick Malling set up an online trading platform, Tradable, at the beginning of last year – all before hitting his 30th birthday. The firm has been hiring and has plans to build again in 2013, but as he explains, financial sector experience is not always a good thing.
So, can you tell us a little about what your company does? Pitch it in three sentences
We're democratising access to Wall St., by creating the world's first open trading platform that allows third-party developers to build and deploy trading-enabled apps that we distribute to traders worldwide through our Tradable app store, which allows traders all over the globe to put together their own trading platform experience.
How did you get to where you are today?
Three things: Drive, by not being afraid to be disruptive and drive change in an industry that is traditionally a bit scared of changing the status quo; getting the right people (the one cliché that is also true every time) and hard work.
Taking the entrepreneurial route is a brave move; why did you decide to do it?
The idea that eventually came to be Tradable actually originated in the project/innovation department of one of the bigger, dominant players in the industry. Instead of executing it internally, we spun it out as a start-up, giving it the best of both worlds: the pace and agility of a start-up, backed by the vast resources of a bigger, established firm.
This has allowed us to create a fast-paced environment and a company that moves at web-speed, without having to sit in a garage eating noodles out of a can every night.
If someone's considering going it alone, what advice would you give them?
Partner up. I really admire people that can sit down and hack together an MVP in a few weeks and take it to market after a month. I've come across a few people like that in my career, and their ability to execute is amazing.
But the ride is just so much more fun when you're joined by someone else. And then it doesn't matter if you split the profits - because in the end, that's not what it’s about. You always look back at the journey.
How many people do you employ currently? Are there any plans to expand?
We just did a hiring round which puts us at about 35 people and will be expanding to 50 in 2013. We have no intentions of becoming a big company, but we tend to set some pretty bold goals for ourselves and have a lot of work to do in 2013.
With a self-driven, fast-paced culture and a very, very flat organization, we can have a lot of parallel projects going on, which means we can deliver more stuff, quicker and better.
How can I persuade you to hire me?
Just tell me why I should hire you. It's really that simple. People tend to make their decision in the first few minutes of an interview anyway, either in their gut or in their mind. So don't try to wrap it in - don't try to consider how you can silently signal different things about yourself that I may or may not pick up - just give it to me straight.
Something like: "Look, I might be a bit of a nerd, but this is the stuff I dream about at night and I'm really great at it."
Anyone who's hiring - especially for a start-up - just wants to ensure that he puts together A-team players for as long as he can.
So, what's more important to you - excellent coding skills or a wealth of financial sector experience?
Coding skills - we're a tech company. And we have a lot of financial sector experience already.
What sort of personality does it take to work for a start-up? Can you give us three character traits?
Self-driven: You're in the business of creating, not analysing, discussing or policing. You can’t sit back and wait for sales to bring the leads, for tech support to fix your machine, or even for management to come up with a golden strategy. So you take initiative, because you're not afraid of making mistakes.
Ambitious. There's a greater goal you want to be part of achieving - otherwise you might as well grab a bigger pay cheque in one of the larger firms.
Entrepreneurial. No surprise, but anyone who works for a start-up needs to be at least a bit entrepreneurial in their nature. It comes natural to them to make decisions quickly, they enjoy a fast-paced environment and they know that a plan is only as good as the paper it’s written on. And that's certainly not for everyone.
How would you describe the culture of your firm?
The first word that comes to mind is unique (cheesy, I know!). But really, our stakeholders span all the way from giants in Silicon Valley to Wall Street, and so we kind of have to live in two worlds, at once: the world of web 2.0, developer evangelists and the world of finance and banking.
We have a fussball table in our bean-bag lounge, but we're very professional when it comes to doing business and we know how to tie a double Windsor.
Sell your company to technologists working in the financial sector - why should they want to work for you?
The first thing I'll say is that - maybe they shouldn't. And that's not to be a downer, but in my experience too few people are honest with themselves about what they really want to do.
If they share the vision though. If they want to be part of a company that's changing the status quo in an industry that's been standing still for too long, and they want to join what's already a great ride - they should give us a call. Because we're doing exactly that, and we need all the great talent we can get.