Anton Katz has gone from Olympic shooter to becoming an instrumental coder who has been creating the framework for the new global digital economy.
On the Dealmakers Show, Katz walked us through his journey from learning to code without a computer to lessons from raising tens of millions of dollars in capital to the advantages of building a company in a down market. He also touched on the future of trading digital assets.
Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.
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From Olympic Shooter To Computer Science
Anton Katz was originally born in one of the Ukrainian cities that have recently seen a lot of fighting in the conflict with Russia.
At 10 years old his family packed up and moved to Israel. There he perhaps got his first taste of what startup entrepreneurship would be like. He encountered a new culture and language, and it wasn’t uncommon to spend time in bomb shelters during the Golf War in the 1990’s.
Katz says that he loved sports. Tops on the list was professional shooting. He was ultimately good enough to be recruited onto the Israeli national team, where he won a gold medal in the world championships in Barcelona.
Then it came time for his mandatory military service. There he found a melting pot of cultures. Working and training alongside people from all types of socioeconomic situations, countries, and backgrounds.
He says this experience further prepared him by giving him the confidence to trust himself, especially when venturing into the unknown. In the military, he said, you learn that real life can derail the best laid plans – you just have to face it, persevere, handle it, and move forward.
Another big passion of Katz’s has always been computers. He actually likens it a lot to professional shooting in that it is largely mental. Interestingly, he learned to code without a computer. When he was 10, his grandfather gave him a book on programming. With no computer, he began writing code on paper.
Coming out of the military, Katz was interested in going back to the Olympics despite his family hoping he would take a more traditional career path like law or medicine. So, he decided he would apply to his one dream college only, and leave his future in the hands of that application. He joked that while the admissions department may have made a mistake, he got into MIT.
Right out of school Anton Katz found himself working at Microsoft. He joined their Windows Live division. There he learned how things were done at an incredible scale.
He got to see how the release of a new feature could immediately touch millions of people the very first day. He also witnessed the diligence regarding security and privacy, with Microsoft treating it with the utmost importance given the customers the company serves.
Of course, all true entrepreneurs also struggle with the bureaucracy and slow pace of big corporations. Katz wanted to move faster.
So, he left to join Broadway Technology, a fintech that was building trading systems. There he got a taste of what it is like to innovate and move fast while serving some of the world’s largest financial institutions as clients. It is also where he met Talos co-founder Ethan Feldman, who Katz calls the most talented technologist he’s ever met
At Broadway, Katz and Feldman learned what it’s like to build a company and culture from the ground up, including how you recruit and hire. It’s an experience both are tremendously grateful for, with Katz noting how much he learned from his Broadway colleagues.
After a half-dozen years helping to build technology for clients, Katz was ultimately lured onto the client side, becoming the head of trading for AQR, one of the world’s top quantitative investment managers. There he loved the collaborative environment and mentorship he received, yet couldn’t shake the feeling that digital assets – which were still several years away from being investable for a firm like AQR – were on the cusp of fundamentally reshaping financial markets globally.
Ever since his time at MIT he had been following the early concepts of crypto and bitcoin. Now he could see how that was turning into a real asset class. Institutions would want to be involved, he believed, they just needed the same degree of reliability, security and scalability they had in other asset classes.
So in mid-2018 he and Feldman quit their jobs and started writing the code that would become the infrastructure of this new digital economy.
While walking away from the incredible jobs both had was a challenge, their decision to do so was affirmed early on by the reactions they were receiving from the VC community to their investment thesis. Those early investors introduced them to other investors, and within a few weeks had a seed round raised from a group who shared Katz and Feldman’s belief in the promise of digital assets.
Together they launched their startup Talos, with the company emerging from stealth mode about a year later with a fully functional platform and a small group of early clients who provided invaluable feedback during the development process. What started out as simply enabling institutions to trade digital assets has become a one-stop shop for them to handle many functions, with many tools.
Looking forward, Katz sees a much more connected global economy, where just about everything can be traded digitally.
Lessons In Fundraising
To date Talos has nearly raised $150M, with May’s B round valuing the company at $1.25B and seeing the addition of traditional financial firms like BNY Mellon, Citi, Fidelity and Wells Fargo as investors. Katz says that he has learned a lot through the fundraising process.
First, he says attempting to grow organically without outside investment would be a mistake. Strategic investors like the ones on Talos’s cap table provide a tremendous amount of invaluable information on market needs, counsel on how to effectively scale globally, introductions to clients and partners and more.
Second, he highly recommends against fundraising without the help of trusted advisors. Specifically those who have been founders themselves, and have personally been through the ups and downs that come with it.
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Finally, he warns to not be distracted with all of the technicalities of valuation, dilution, etc. Focus instead on your business. If you are successful at that, being up or down 1% on the cap table is going to be insignificant.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Launching a startup in a down economy
- The future of digital trading
- Anton’s top tips when starting your own startup