1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
I am a fintech entrepreneur and worked on the founding teams at 22seven, Luno, and Curve. My obsessions with broadcasting, computers and network science led me through a career in journalism and into the intersection of money and technology. I authored a book called In Math We Trust: The Future of Money and still enjoy speaking and writing about the various topics adjacent to consumer technology and finance. In 2011 I first compiled the Bitcoin core software and became immediately intrigued by the movement to distributed financial systems. In my spare time I enjoy podcasting, something I have done since 2005, as well as hiking, surfing, board games, and doing as much of those things with my two sons as possible.
2. Which product or service do you offer, and who are your competitors?
My current project is Lettuce – an app that automates your investment portfolio, sort of like IFTTT for money. Today, our app lets you track the value of your investments across the world in any currency, but in time we want to build a platform that automatically rebalances your investments and takes other actions according to the rules that you set. We are not aware of any direct competitors yet, but I’m sure there will be many in time, as we explore moving over-the-top into open finance with our customers. Many of our customers tell us that they used to use Excel and Google Sheets to track their portfolios before they discovered Lettuce – so I guess those our competitors in the short-term.
3. How did you get the business idea and take it from launch to the first customers?
I spent time working in telecommunications in the early 2000s, where I observed the power of over-the-top-services thanks to net neutrality and market forces. It was interesting to see network providers trying, and failing, to launch their own social networks, video streaming, and other services. Eventually they had their lunch devoured by more nimble solutions like Whatsapp, Netflix, the list goes one… I believe that the financial world will see a similar disruption from over-the-top service providers. This, combined with regulation and directives such as PSD2, and an observation that modern investors have diverse portfolios including multiple asset classes, inspired me and my co-founders to imagine a product that meets the market in this time. It is early in our journey, but we already have a few thousand customers that have come to us organically, as early adopters helping us shape the first version of our product.
4. How have you financed your startup? Any lessons would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?
We have bootstrapped Lettuce until now, which has been challenging, but rewarding. Using our own resources has allowed us to rabidly defend our vision and protect our way of working. Now we are seeking early-stage funding, and finding this challenging in the current environment, especially given that we are considered “too early” for many investors. I’ve always believed that finding the right partners – who are aligned in terms of values, most importantly – is more important than just raising capital. So I am always more interested in what comes along with the funds.
5. Which are the key trends and opportunities in (European) financial services?
Open finance is the most inspiring trend to me, as it improves the competitive landscape in Europe, while driving innovation in an industry that sorely needs it. Open finance is also creating better experiences for customers and providing the foundations for new business models.
6. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?
I have been spending time revisiting systems thinking, and returning to the work of Donella H. Meadows and Diana Wright in Thinking in Systems: A Primer. I am also working through Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey B. West. I do not read much fiction, but recently completed the The Three-Body Problem, Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Cixin Liu that I keep referring back to in its profundity.
7. Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?
During the time of Covid, I have been perfecting my skills in making coffee at home, but usually I prefer Deluxe Coffeeworks on Church Street in Cape Town. When I am in London, my favourite place for a drink is Happiness Forgets in Hoxton.