Adam Jiwan is a serial entrepreneur and most recently the co-founder and CEO of Spring Labs which is a transformative and centralized infrastructure for credit and identity data. The company has raised $38.8 million from investors such as RRE Ventures, August Capital, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Jump Capital, General Motors Ventures, and GreatPoint Ventures to name a few.
In this episode you will learn:
- Adam Jiwan’s approach to recruiting an amazing team
- The importance of having boots on the ground
- The role of the executive chairman
- How to demonstrate leadership
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About Adam Jiwan:
Adam Jiwan is co-founder, chairman and CEO of Spring Labs, which is building, in partnership with some of the world’s largest financial institutions, a decentralized network for credit rating, identity verification, and anti-fraud applications.
Adam is also a seed investor and founding board member of Avant, a leading digital lender.
He is co-founder and chairman of Future Finance, Europe’s leading millennial finance company
. He helped develop Brazil’s largest independent real estate finance business, BFRE, prior to its sale in 2012.
He built Rodina, a Russian mortgage bank and advised on the development of Arkera, a UK-based AI wealth management software business. He is the co-controlling shareholder and co-chairman of TrialWorks, a leading litigation-focused software company in the US.
He is a co-founder of Canada’s first publicly-listed SPAC.
Previously, he was a Partner and CEO of TPG-Axon UK and HK, and he began his career at Soros Fund Management and The Blackstone Group.
He serves and has served as a director of numerous private and public companies.
Connect with Adam Jiwan:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a very interesting founder, someone that has been on every side of the table, on the investment side and on the entrepreneurial side. We’re going to learn a lot from how you look at patterns, how you look at problems, solutions, opportunities, you name it. Without further ado, let’s welcome our guest today. Adam Jiwan, welcome to the show.
Adam Jiwan: Thank you very much, Alejandro. It’s a real pleasure to be here today.
Alejandro: What an interesting story of your family, Adam. Originally from India, but then several generations in Africa. What did your ancestors do in Africa? What was going on?
Adam Jiwan: My family from western India, in Gujarat and some parts of northern India. The majority of them were peanut farmers. Peanut farming then, in the late 1800s, as is now, was not a good business. I guess they heard there was an evolving economic opportunity in Africa, so they packed up and moved to East Africa. They settled in countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and they became merchants of varying degrees of success. They were there for several generations, as you mentioned. It was an important experience for our family.
Alejandro: Very cool. And your parents met at a wedding, which was quite remarkable, and you became a business guy, an entrepreneur where there’s no one in your family that is into business. How do you think that happened?
Adam Jiwan: It’s a great question. You’re right that neither of my parents was in business, and neither of them is commercially-minded. But my extended family, my mother, and siblings, and my mother’s father and grandfather were all incredibly enterprising entrepreneurs, and those that are still with us are still highly entrepreneurial. I grew up in a community where creating businesses for yourself was something that I was exposed to, and that was inspiring to me. So from a very young age, I was interested in entrepreneurship even though my immediate parents were much more social intellectuals.
Alejandro: Adam, I see as well, and I know that you started your first business at 12 years old. At that age, I think that I was not allowed to go out that much out of my house, and I was playing PlayStation. So what happened?
Adam Jiwan: I started my first company. I registered it. It was called Ground Rule Double. At the time, I was very interested in baseball and baseball cards. I used to go to baseball card shows, or I’d go to Cooper’s Town, and I would enter into a wholesale/retail-type business where I would buy large sets of baseball cards. Then I would sell them either at other shows, to other retailers, or even to friends at school. It wasn’t some grand operation, but it certainly was my first parley into understanding some very basic principles of business.
Alejandro: You were also investing at 13. What were you investing in?
Adam Jiwan: I was investing in equities primarily. I opened my first brokerage account with some of the monies that I had saved from various odd jobs. I started investing in various stocks in companies that I thought had potential. I knew very little, frankly, about the fundamentals of businesses or valuation at the time. But it was something very intriguing, and those were my first experiences learning how to invest capital.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. Was there a point where you said, “I want to go to Harvard”?
Adam Jiwan: The Harvard thing was interesting. My parents met at a wedding in Scarsdale, New York, in the 1960s. My father’s younger brother attended Harvard, so my parents periodically would eat while they were dating in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I think they had the notion that if they ever had children, they hoped that they would go to Harvard. So, from a very young age, my first generation of parents introduced and inculcated the notion of going to Harvard. It was always a dream of mine, as well. I was lucky enough to have a spot, and it was a transformational experience for me.
Alejandro: And I’m sure quite a valuable network as well?
Adam Jiwan: Absolutely, and also just being exposed to people who were doing so many interesting things in different fields. I think that was really eye-opening for me in many ways.
Alejandro: Yeah. The other day, I listened to this — someone said to me, “If you’re surrounded by four stupid people, and you’re the fifth one, you’re probably going to be the fifth stupid person. But if you’re surrounded by four super-smart individuals that are doing great things, you’re probably going to be the fifth one doing something great too.” Was that the case that you were surrounded by incredible people that perhaps inspired you with certain things?
Adam Jiwan: Yeah. I think you elevate your game, exactly as you say. When you’re around ambitious, bright people, even if they’re doing vastly different things from what you’re doing, it creates a dynamic environment that inspires you to push beyond the normal bounds of what you expect as possible for yourself.
Alejandro: I’m sure that investing at 13 and seeing the markets perform got you into the idea of getting into the financial services world, and you did that via Goldman Sachs.
Adam Jiwan: Correct. I think my foray into finance and Wall Street initially was driven less from a strict interest in investing per se. It started because I had a lot of student debt, frankly. So at the time, kids with high GPAs were going to Well Street rather than technology, as they do today. Goldman Sachs recruited me. I had a summer there, and I had offers to go back. Wanting to repay all my student loans, I decided to stay on Wall Street. I then started learning about different businesses and different industries and business models. I found that intellectually interesting. It turned out to be an interesting and valuable and insightful experience.
Alejandro: And a very nice segue to going into Blackstone, and you worked there with Steve Schwarzman, which actually, you recently came out with a very interesting book. How was the experience of being at Blackstone?
Adam Jiwan: Blackstone was a great experience in the sense that it exposed me to different types of businesses, different business models, different industries, exposed me to the investment process, developing analytical discipline and rigor because we worked literally 100 hours a week. Everyone within that group worked incredibly hard. There was a discipline to it. There was exposure to it, but it was challenging, too. Living your life and working 100 hours a week is not the easiest thing, either. But I’m grateful for that experience.
Alejandro: What was it like to work with people of the caliber of Steve Schwarzman?
Adam Jiwan: He’s brilliant. I think whether it was Steve Schwarzman or Mark Gallogly, who went on to create Centerbridge, these individuals were extraordinary investors and not just investors; they were great business builders themselves, which is what I think made them quite unique that they weren’t just investing in other people’s companies, they were also building their own business, in this case, Blackstone.
Alejandro: It’s very interesting, as well, that not only you got to see people like Steve Schwarzman, but then you went and worked for George Soros. Obviously, George Soros is another one of the big, big Titans when it comes to the investing world. What did you learn now that you were able to work with Steve Schwarzman or with people at the top-level at Blackstone, and then also with someone like George Soros, what were some of the patterns that you were seeing of what made those individuals so great?
Adam Jiwan: I think in the case of Steve Schwarzman, and some of the things I learned, he had incredible hutzpah. He didn’t just accept the status quo; he wanted to excel. To excel, he decided that you had to work relentlessly, you had to hire the absolute best people that you could. You had to always focus on the bottom line and specifically, not losing capital, which I think they have an exceptional track record of not losing or never losing capital according to the prices. Steve was that perfect example of persistence. In George Soros’ case, I did have an opportunity to work directly for him on a number of things. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned from him was when you find something extraordinary, you make a big bet. You do not hesitate. That was something that didn’t come naturally to me because I tend to be highly analytical. I sometimes ping-pong certain things in my head. George was a great example of when it’s time to strike, you strike, and you strike big.
Alejandro: Got it. After you were doing it with George Soros and before that with Blackstone, you decided to do a TPG, which is obviously more on the growth side of things. I’m sure that there, you were able to learn a lot on how to build teams or how to establish a team and how you create the process around it. Tell us about that.
Adam Jiwan: I joined TPG-Axon, which was a global multi-strategy hedge fund within a year of its launch. I think the most interesting aspect of that experience was that within a year of joining the firm, I was asked to move to London to establish the European presence of the firm. I had never lived in Europe. I was both the co-head of global recruiting for our company, and with one other person was charged with building out a local presence in Europe. Later on, I did something similar in co-running Asia as well and moving to Hong Kong. I had this interesting experience of building and running investment teams on the ground, not only New York, but also London, and then eventually Hong Kong. Being exposed to new cultures, new people, being able to develop teams, the number of countries I got to visit when I was making perspective investments was extraordinary. I think that international component of that experience over a period of nearly seven years was something that opened my eyes, not just from a business perspective but from a life perspective as well.
Alejandro: Also, you were exposed to the hurdles of doing something related to mortgage lending in Russia. What happened?
Adam Jiwan: Oh, yes. Prior to the financial crisis, I had the idea that Russia was an interesting market for mortgage finance because I had seen the evolution of mortgage finance in countries like India, with companies like HDFC Corp. I had seen what had happened in China. In Russia, there was an outdated housing stock, and there was a national agency called Ashoka that had been developed to acquire mortgages from mortgage originators like a mini-Fannie Mae. It struck me as a real opportunity to build a business. With some local partners, we started a Russian mortgage bank called Rodina. We thought there was tremendous potential. Unfortunately, this turned out to be not the case, and this was one where we had a real loss, and we had to figure out what to do with it. So there were some lessons in that.
Alejandro: TPG was a remarkable experience for you, especially to be able to see opportunities more at an earlier stage kind of thing based on what you were seeing with, let’s say, Goldman Sachs or Blackstone. Here you were exposed to the operator’s side, so a good segue into doing your own thing. At what point do you make the decision of saying, “I’m going to go to the other side of the table”?
Adam Jiwan: In 2000, following the crisis, one of the things that I found, and this was endemic to the entire hedge fund industry, I found that there was a short termism that was creeping into investing. One of the things that I thought I was not very good at was figuring out whether a stock was going to go up or down over a short period of time. I felt like I was much better at understanding the fundamentals of a business, a business model, what the key drivers are, and thinking through what the path of profitability and value might be over a three, four, or five-year period. I knew that I wanted to do something different. I always had the hunger to be an entrepreneur. I had had some glimpses of entrepreneurial experiences by establishing the presence of the firm in Europe, but that was on training wheels, and I had had the experience of backing other entrepreneurs in places like Russia, Brazil, etc. I felt it was my time to do something more autonomously. In February 2012, when my equity cliff vested, I told my partners that I was unhappy, and I wanted to leave, and I wasn’t intending to compete with them, and that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but that was what I intended to do.
Alejandro: Then, what happened?
Adam Jiwan: I threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall, in truth. I looked with a partner acquiring a commercial real estate software platform that was based in San Francisco. I was not able to acquire the company — some interesting lessons there. We tried to restructure a couple of companies. I got involved in seeding a company called Avant, which is in Chicago alongside its chairman and CEO, Al Goldstein. I then got involved in buying with some partners, some businesses in Africa. There were some interesting lessons there. So, we threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall. I’d say they fell into two buckets. It was helping to start companies, and then buying some companies and thinking that we might be able to restructure them or grow them or do something different from what had been done in the past with those businesses. There was a period of two or three years where I tried a lot of different things, some of which were actually successful, but it was a little all over the place, I would say.
Alejandro: One of the experiences there was that you started the investment vehicle, Ridge Road Partners. Here, something happened in Africa. What happened here, and what was the lesson in having boots on the ground?
Adam Jiwan: We made two investments in Africa. We bought co-control in one case of a guarding business. Think of a G4S, but in Africa, focused on the mining sector. The reason we made that investment was 1) the valuation was incredibly low. 2) We thought it was an interesting opportunity to have a second derivative exposure to the development of the mining business across Africa. We didn’t want to be directly involved in the mining business because we thought that could be a very messy business, but guarding through either mines or executives for multinational companies, these are contracts that are going to get paid because you’re protecting, effectively, their most valued assets. We made this investment. My partner, Michael, two weeks after joining me on his own dime, flew to Point-Noire, which is the Republic of Congo, to start looking at the accounts here. I made a number of trips to Africa, as well. One of the lessons was that restructuring a company when you are sitting on the other side of the world, and this is in Africa, is incredibly difficult. You need to have boots on the ground to demonstrate leadership and ensure that controls that you’re putting in place are there. So, ultimately, it was not an amazing investment for us. We realized that we were not going to be able to invest the time or energy or be boots on the ground, and so we ended up selling our interest to our local partners. We did make a little bit of a return, which was nice rather than losing any capital. But, certainly, we realized that to operate in a place like that, you need to be physically present.
Alejandro: There’s something very interesting there that you said, and you alluded to demonstrating leadership. You’ve seen a lot of businesses and a lot of operators. How do you demonstrate leadership?
Adam Jiwan: I think demonstrating leadership involves several different things. The first is being present and being willing to do the things that anyone should be willing to do. It’s about presence. It’s about commitment. It’s about having high integrity and making sure that you look out for your people, that you protect them whether they’re in your company of leaving your company. I think there are many aspects for leadership, but it’s really walking the talk that tends to be the most important, and looking out for your people is really important as well.
Alejandro: Absolutely. Here, the investment vehicle, Ridge Road Partners, was a very nice segue into Future Finance. Tell us about Future Finance.
Adam Jiwan: Coming out of the crisis, the European banking system was in disarray. In 2011, the UK government said that they were going to increase tuition for higher education, which happened in 2012, and it was a very significant increase. My longtime friend, Vishal Garg, who is the CEO and Founder of Better, which you might be familiar with. He, my partner, Ryan Norton, in Ridge Road, and I saw an opportunity based on a funding gap for students in the UK. We thought that different from the U.S., student finance actually could be productive for both students and financiers. Different from the U.S., students in Europe were not graduating from colleges or universities with vast amounts of debt, but there was a need for students to actually borrow, call it $10,000, or $8,000, or $12,000 sterling in order to fund their education where there was a real return on that investment for those students. With the banking system in disarray, we saw an opportunity to build a private student lending business, and that’s what the three of us did.
Alejandro: You were the executive chairman. What is the role of an executive chairman?
Adam Jiwan: I think the role of an executive chairman is to help the company resource itself, help through the commercialization of a business model, setting strategy, raising capital, hiring senior management teams, and putting policies and procedures in place from a governance perspective as well. Then, finally, supporting the Chief Executive Officer of the company in their leadership of the day-to-day operations of the business.
Alejandro: Got it. For you, the next chapter — it’s unbelievable the amount of chapters that you have, Adam. You’ve been quite active, I would say. Your next chapter was Assembly Software. With Assembly Software, there is something interesting there because basically, it came via the acquisition of a business, which is no the traditional way of building and starting something from your garage or from your studio apartment. So how did this happen?
Adam Jiwan: I guess it’s the content of entrepreneurship through acquisition. Through all of my experiences in investing, I always considered myself to be a student of business models. I always loved being able to acquire or build fundamentally strong business models. The software business is a great business model, especially in industries where technology doesn’t change very often because the switching costs tend to be high. We saw an opportunity to buy one of the largest case management legal software companies that allow law firms to manage not only their cases, but their entire practice, so it tends to be very sticky and high-margin, and high recurring revenue streams. There was an opportunity to buy this one brand with nearly 10,000 users for a reasonable price, so we saw this as an opportunity to transition ownership from a founder who was a terrific person, but someone who was probably using it more as a lifestyle vehicle at this point rather than having ambition of scaling it well beyond what it had been. The price was right. The partner was right, so we acquired this first brand. It was called TrialWorks. Two months later, we had an opportunity to buy its largest competitor called Needles. We acquired Needles. We combined the companies to build the largest case management software company of the U.S. with roughly 45,000 users. There are a lot of lessons in entrepreneurship through acquisition.
Alejandro: Especially about culture, and you were talking about Needles. When it comes to Needles, I think you guys got pinched on the culture side. What was the pinching situation?
Adam Jiwan: One of the things that we went into these acquisitions believing was that one company was better at technology development but didn’t necessarily have great customer service. The other one had excellent customer service, but not necessarily great technology development. We thought that we would be able to get the best out of both companies and without a lot of struggle. Of course, what we learned was that companies develop cultures for long periods of time. Sometimes things can calcify, and sometimes you don’t get the best of everything. Sometimes, you get the worst of both. That’s not entirely true because there were some terrific people there, but certainly, over a couple of years period, we had to work very hard to transition through cultures, and that involved some people leaving the company who didn’t believe in the future growth potential and/or the culture that we were trying to create. We had to hire a lot of extremely talented people. At this point, we’re very proud of the team that we’ve been able to assemble there, and the company is now undergoing renewed significant growth. But it was a challenge. It was a lot of heavy lifting because cultures are very difficult to change midstream.
Alejandro: Also, legal tech is quite a tough environment too. This week, for example, the news of Atrium that has raised something crazy like 75 million bucks, they are literally shutting down. So, obviously, it is not an easy segment. But from your perspective sitting at the top, Adam, because you’re obviously still involved now with the company as the co-chairman. Where do you think that legal tech is going as a whole as an industry?
Adam Jiwan: Similar to financial technology, I think there’s a tremendous opportunity within through legal technology for a variety of reasons, which is if I look at Assembly Software, as I mentioned, we have 45,000 users roughly speaking and growing quite nicely. I think something like 20% of our users are still using Word Perfect, which is a software program that many people listening to this show probably have never even seen. It’s quite antiquated in terms of their adoption of technology, and therefore, we see tremendous scope to introduce technologies that will make law practice that much more efficient going forward. I am actually very bullish on legal technology in terms of where the total addressable market is going over the next five or ten years.
Alejandro: Very cool. This led you into your latest chapter, and this is Spring Labs. Can you tell us about Spring Labs, and more importantly, how did you come up with, and what was the idea behind it? What was the incubation process like? How did you guys bring it to life? Tell us about it.
Adam Jiwan: At Spring labs, our mission is to fundamentally change how data is owned, exchanged, and monetized. Our initial and primary focus is on financial services. The reason for that is, we believe that the current system of federal reporting, identity verification, and fraud management are very outdated. So we’re trying to introduce fundamentally new infrastructure to the financial services industry to bolster credit reporting, identity verification, and help drive down fraud in a world where it seems like we’re in this contest between innovation on the one side and fraudsters and hackers on the other. That’s why we’re hoping to change how data is managed effectively within the financial services industry.
Alejandro: How did the band come together, the founding team?
Adam Jiwan: The band came together quite seamlessly because we all worked together for a number of years in a company called Avant. I had seeded Avant alongside its Chairman and CEO, Al Goldstein. Al’s co-founder was John Sun. The first hire was Anna Freedman. Anna was the General Counsel and built a 60-person compliance organization at Avant. Over a period of a number of years, John, Anna, and I, who are the co-founders of Spring Labs, got to work together, got to know one another, established trust. What was interesting about that is that we all have complementary skills. John is a complete product development genius. He’s an incredibly fast eye with technology. He understands risk and data. Anna understands regulatory matters and compliance, which is really important when you’re trying to drive adoption with highly-regulated compliance-minded institutions. I’ve had the experience of how to put together teams and resource companies and develop partnerships with potential customers like financial institutions. We had great complementary skills. We had a foundation of trust. We had a foundation of having success together. When this idea that we might be able to build a business that would be quite transformative for the financial services industry came along, it was a very quick decision to jump on it and spend the vast majority of my time trying to execute upon it.
Alejandro: And this led you to the first time you were booted off a stage. What happened there?
Adam Jiwan: Yeah, that’s true. There are scenarios in which our business will be disruptive to the Credit Bureau system. But there are ways in which we can be complementary to it as well, frankly. We had received a lot of interest from the established Credit Bureaus. One of them, in particular, with whom we have a strong relationship, invited me to speak to their largest bank of customers. Of course, I wanted to be very mindful that I was invited by this Credit Bureau to speak to their large customers, and I wasn’t going to say anything that would make it seem that we were competitors or anything along those lines. I wanted to be a good guest. So I gave my presentation, which was about how technology could be used to change how information is exchanged. It was quite neutral. Then, a lot of the bank representatives who are the other guests started posing questions, and it became very clear that our business, if successful, could be very disruptive to the established Credit Bureau system, and that there were a number of virtues in what it was we were trying to do that resonated with their bank customers. I think once it emerged during this Q&A session that we could be competitors — again, even though it wasn’t my intent to say that — I was booted off of the stage.
Alejandro: How did they do that? Did someone just come in and say, “You’ve got to get out of here,” or what?
Adam Jiwan: I thought we had another 20 minutes for Q&A, and they said, “Listen. We’re really out of time. We really appreciate you coming here,” and that was it. I was asked to exit door-left.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. For Spring Labs, you guys have raised quite a bit of money. How much money have you guys raised so far?
Adam Jiwan: We completed a Series A last year, and the total capital raised is 38.75 million.
Alejandro: Obviously, at this point, you are very experienced when it comes to investments, and when it comes to investors. So why did you go ahead and choose people like August Capital?
Adam Jiwan: It’s a great question. August Capital was the first investor in Avant. I had a long-standing relationship with Eric Carlborg, who is one of the general partners there. Eric and I were on the board of Avant from its inception, so we had worked together in helping Alan and the team to set strategy there for nearly seven years, so we had a long-standing relationship. When the idea of creating Spring Labs emerged, Eric said, “Listen. If you want capital, we want to lead the round.” When you have people you know, like, and trust, and have had success with, it’s a complete no-brainer. I think the vast majority of the capital that we had raised initially came from folks similar to Eric, who had known the founding team in some capacity or had backed us in some capacity previously.
Alejandro: Very cool. If you had to go to sleep tonight, and then you wake up five years from now, and you wake up in a world where the vision of Spring Labs is fully realized, what does that world look like?
Adam Jiwan: That’s a great question. As I mentioned, Spring Labs’ mission is to fundamentally change how data is owned, exchanged, and monetized. In five years, we will replace the underlying infrastructure of the financial services world with a series of pipes that allow for much greater security, much greater privacy than we all have today, where we have much lower instances of fraud and much higher levels of financial inclusion in the economy.
Alejandro: Wow. Very cool. As you’re now building the business, I’m sure that you’ve learned many things on the companies that end up succeeding and the companies that perhaps don’t perform so well. I’m sure that has to do a lot with culture. How do you think about culture, and how are you building the culture in Spring Labs?
Adam Jiwan: You’re absolutely right, which is, if you want to be successful, you have to have an amazing team. And to have an amazing team, you have to have an amazing culture because it all ends up in this virtual cycle of people want to work for a great company, and a great company comes from great people. The things that we try to focus on are recruiting people who are not only exceptionally talented by hard skills, but also great to work with. I think that’s been one of the lessons I’ve had in life, which is, choose your partners carefully. I like to do things with people that I know, like, and trust. When you are able to do that, you continue doing it with the same people. If you look across a lot of the types of businesses that we’ve spoken about, there are two or three people who are common to every single one of them. I like that idea within our employee basis as well, which is, ideally, these are people we are going to do things within Spring Labs for many, many years, and potentially in other things over the course of life. We try to create a culture of people who are not only hardworking with great skills and come from great places but actually are just fun to work with and are fundamentally good people. They know how to listen. They know how to do, and they believe in the mission. It’s hard to always identify those people, but I think where that comes from is from the initial people, which could be the founders, but even just the initial people you hire beyond that. I think that’s been true in our case as well. I can think of two or three people who are part of our founding team who are technically not founders, who have been incredible culture-carriers for a company. So I’m grateful that we’ve been able to find some of them.
Alejandro: In terms of identifying because in a company like yours, you’ve got to grow very quickly, and you need to hire quickly. Obviously, when you do it too quickly without taking a look at certain things like, for example, making sure that there are certain areas that match with the culture of the business, maybe you tend to make mistakes when you move too fast in that department.
Adam Jiwan: Sure.
Alejandro: In your guys’ case or in your case leading the charge here when it comes to, let’s say, onboarding folks, how do you go about identifying these people? What are some of the patterns, or what are some of the questions that you’re asking?
Adam Jiwan: I don’t think it’s so much about questions. Usually, it’s the source. The best people that we have found usually come from word of mouth. They work somewhere with someone we know, or even if they come through a recruiter, we know how to validate their background through references of other people we know and trust. I think how they come to you is a very relevant screening through the tool. Then, I think the next is making sure that you set very clear expectations and boundaries around what the role is and how someone’s expected to succeed within their role. And, I think mentorship plays an important aspect of that, and then, frankly, as you say, sometimes you make mistakes. When you make mistakes in this type of thing, especially when it’s a senior hire, that’s when you, as a leader, have to accept that it’s your fault, or it is not working out. Usually, it’s not the person you hired. Occasionally, it is, but sometimes when you’re hiring a senior person, it doesn’t work out, you have to acknowledge that early, and try to get it on the right path. But sometimes, you can’t, and when you can’t, you accept it and move on, and hope that you can part ways on good terms.
Alejandro: In a company like yours, you guys are doing the technical integration with partners and launching new products. That’s, obviously, challenging. How do you go about that?
Adam Jiwan: You have to hire people who are highly experienced at enterprise, not only sales, but also who are very conversant in how to get large, highly regulated, compliance-minded, and slowly-moving institutions to actually start adopting our technology. We’ve had to build customer support teams. We’ve had to make sure that we have all of the things that large enterprises would expect of a real scaled business meaning that we have all of the security in place, we have all of the redundancy in place, we have the ability audit and monitor the technology that we have the underlying architecture for privacy, that we understand the regulations. It’s about building highly experienced, specialized team that has the experience of not only selling technology to large enterprises but getting them to technically integrate as well.
Alejandro: You were talking about adapting, and adoption, what it comes down to in my mind is you guys are using Blockchain as part of this. There’s a lot of talk going around Blockchain. I think there’s also a lot of noise. How do you think about filtering through that noise around the Blockchain space, and then also about adoption?
Adam Jiwan: As it relates to Blockchain, I agree with you. There’s a lot of controversy largely driven by one use case, which is cryptocurrency. Regardless of whether you believe in the need for an extra governmental currency or not, the reality is that distributed ledger technology and Blockchain can be used for a number of powerful use cases. Blockchain is a component of our tech stack. Frankly, it’s the largest component of our tech stack, but it’s a relevant one. We don’t necessarily shy away from it being a component, but it’s part of what enables our information exchange to operate. I think we focus much more on adoption than we do on technology. In many ways, our information exchange utilizes three different technologies effectively that are stitched together to deliver the solution, but really, these are just technologies that’s intel inside. What matters much more is are you developing use cases that your customers, in this case, financial institutions, can benefit from because you can help them create greater accuracy, you can help them do things more cheaply, and you can help them do things with much greater security. If you’re able to do that, you’ve created use cases that will drive adoptions. We spend a lot of our time thinking about not just pure technology, but what are the problems in the actual real world that we are solving with the technology we’re developing, because if we’re not solving real problems, no one’s going to adopt it. That’s why it was helpful that we’ve had a lot of experience developing, especially through advanced companies and online lending businesses in the past.
Alejandro: Very cool. One of the questions I typically ask the guests that come on the show is — in your case, Adam, your journey and experience are amazing, not only on the investing side but then also as an operator. If you had that chance to go back in time, Adam, and have a chat with your younger self where you’re able to give that younger self one piece of business advice before launching a business, what would that be, and why knowing what you know now?
Adam Jiwan: I think historically, I’ve been someone who has been hyper-analytical, and I’ve ping-ponged decisions in my head endlessly at various points in time. I think that has held me back at various points. If I were to give myself advice, it would be to say, “When you are making a decision, whether it’s to start something or it’s a decision about whether to do something within a business, you’re never going to have perfect information. That incremental data point, as desirable as it might be, might not actually change the outcome. It might not be available, and the cost of obtaining it might actually cause you to miss an opportunity. The advice I would always try to give myself is, you’re always operating with incomplete sets of information, and you just have to make decisions acknowledging that and be willing to adapt. And, frankly, not just be willing to adapt, but also willing to accept the risk of failure. For those of us who ping-pong in your head and have fear of failure, it’s important to be able to embrace that and still make decisions to move forward because not moving forward is a decision in and of itself.
Alejandro: I love it. Adam, for the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Adam Jiwan: I’m a very active user of LinkedIn, and anyone should feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.
Alejandro: Amazing. Adam, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Adam Jiwan: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
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