Kirat Singh’s startup is empowering the future of financial markets. They just put tens of millions of additional capital in the bank to fuel their growth too.
On the Dealmakers Show, Singh shared his background in finance and technology, why he took the leap to start out on his own as an entrepreneur, how they’ve adapted to COVID, and what they are doing to empower the next generation of finance.
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Born in India, Educated in the US
Kirat Singh was born and grew up in India. As a child, on the family farm in Punjab, they didn’t even have electricity most of the time.
Eventually, they moved to Delhi. His father brought home a computer. Even with just two kilobytes of ram Kirat said he began learning to write code.
One of his friends encouraged him to go to the US for college. So, he headed to the local US embassy and picked up a stack of college applications. He wasn’t really sure what Ivy League colleges were but happened to get accepted to both MIT and Harvard.
He chose Harvard for studying mathematics. He loved the experience of meeting and learning from so many smart people.
On graduating he was recruited by Goldman Sachs.
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They were impressed by his computer science and math. Even if he didn’t have the finance background.
He found this small group at the trading desk. All super smart people who were assigned to apply their minds to finance problems. He was sitting alongside PhDs in astrophysics and aeronautics. Including his now co-founder Mark Higgins.
It was the late 90s, and they were busy writing derivatives models. At just 22 years old he was a leading developer for writing databases, distributed computing infrastructure, and more.
They would be there listening to the salespeople and traders shouting back and forth. Then take that and think about how to optimize it with code. How could they get pricing right, manage risk, and other complex and fun math problems? Including FX, equities, and credit.
Kirat then went on to work with JP Morgan and Bank of America. He could enable them to acquire another bank and assume all their portfolio data in a weekend. With each of these big banks, he was essentially building a new trading system for them from scratch. Which would enable their technology to keep up with the fast-moving market.
For a while, he says that it felt safer to be doing this within a big company, rather than being out on his own. They were also working on interesting things. In some ways, it was like a little entrepreneurial venture within them.
However, he eventually realized that he was building the same thing again and again from scratch for these different companies. There was no existing platform to build on.
He says that he decided what he was really passionate about was building platforms to enable others. When that hit home, he quit his job the same week.
Kirat says he was also finally comfortable in taking the leap into entrepreneurship because he knew that he could always go back to work for a big financial institution if he wanted to. Or just code.
He still works every day, though only now he can pause at five o’clock to have dinner with the family.
Throwing himself into his idea for a platform, Kirat says he specifically saw the need for enabling others to rapidly add their own models. Giving them the ability to compete, but also find their edge with new trading ideas.
He created Beacon. Which is cloud-agnostic, transparent, and is empowering others to work far faster. That includes running vast risk scenarios and conjuring up new derivatives. It’s a platform as a service.
In just nine months they had landed their first huge enterprise client. A $50B insurance company.
Beacon started out being bootstrapped. Mark and Kirat focused on organic growth.
Then the CEO of Pimco reached out via email and offered them their first funding. That helped them set up a board, bring in a CFO, develop their investments, business lines, and go-to-market strategy.
Ahead of their Series B they were again strategically considering VCs who could help them grow. That was preempted by an investor before they even seriously started pitching.
Most recently they raised their $56M Series C, which included funding from Blackstone. This has helped them double their headcount over the past year.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Kirat Singh was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Beacon now has a team of 178 people. They are geographically distributed with five global offices. Including having a presence in New York, London, Tokyo, Warsaw, and India.
We are all grateful for the frontline workers who continued to put themselves out there to serve us on a daily basis through this crisis. The healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, and more.
However, when COVID hit that March, Kirat says they pretty much immediately decided to go fully remote. Not something that seems to have been a popular choice in the banking world. Though, they just realized they could. They didn’t really need to be out there in offices and meetings every day to operate.
Kirat says being fully remote does mean that you have to be intentional about connecting with your people, onboarding, and maintaining company culture. Most importantly for this founder, that includes maintaining their values.
Looking ahead he hopes the company will continue to get together to socialize.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Company culture across continents
- What’s ahead for Beacon and its customers
- Kirat Singh’s top advice before starting a business