Mike Cagney led one of his startups to raise the first billion-dollar round in fintech. He’s not done raising or building companies yet either.
Mike recently joined me for an episode of the DealMakers podcast. During the interview, we talked about why to go back to school even after you’ve started and sold a business of your own, why you might actually want a lower valuation and the most important things to know when starting your own company.
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What Trenton Makes, The World Takes
Cagney was originally born in Trenton, NJ. An important manufacturing and export city who’s slogan is “What Trenton Makes, The World Takes.”
His father was in the steel industry. That took their family across the country from Detroit to Southern California.
Looking at future career opportunities, Mike saw that ‘securities’ was the one that paid the highest.
At the time he thought that meant being a security guard. His father introduced him to someone in financial management who taught him what it really meant to be in securities.
He even let Mike take over his hog futures trading account. He got hooked on the space and has been working at the intersection of tech, finance, macroeconomics and entrepreneurship since then.
Intrapreneurship To Entrepreneurship
As with many hyper-successful entrepreneurs I’ve met, Mike Cagney got his start with ‘intrapreneurship’.
His first job out of school was with Wells Fargo. They sat him in a cubicle with a green screen terminal and tasked him with figuring out what wasn’t working with their code and derivatives system.
Always having that entrepreneurial spirit Mike talked the bank into giving him some capital to build out this part of their business. It was effective and profitable. That capital grew and was a bridge to hedging for the mortgage bank and gaining more customers for the bank.
That also allowed him to do more proprietary trading. His trading proved to do well through the Asian and Russian financial crisis. Then the internet and dot com companies started to explode in popularity. Someone said, “Anyone with half a brain would leave this bank and go start a company.”
He figured he had proven he had at least half a brain and decided to take the entrepreneurial leap.
How Not To Name Your Startup
It can be so frustrating to find an available business and domain name that many just leap on what they can.
Given Google, Microsoft, and others, you might think that what you name your company doesn’t matter anymore. Through his first couple of startup rodeos, Mike Cagney found it can make a difference.
His first company was Finaplex. A term he later found out was a cow hormone sometimes abused as a steroid by bodybuilders. Still, the company managed to raise $50M in capital, and find an exit. All despite being an inexperienced 29-year-old CEO, before bringing in someone else to run the operations.
Then he started a hedge fund. He called it Cabezon. A term he later found out meant jackass to Latin American investors. Try explaining that one in a pitch!
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