Adam Jiwan has been a successful entrepreneur since he was a teenager. At his most recent company, Spring Labs, he has raised nearly $40 million to change the way companies store, exchange, and monetize data. By leveraging a decentralized network that allows financial institutions to exchange information directly and securely, Spring Labs will reduce fraud, limit data breaches, and finally allow consumers to have control over their personal data.
Adam started his first company when he was only 13, and began investing in the stock market the same year. Adam credits his incredible track record over the decades in large part on his approach to building businesses and teams.
In our exclusive interview on the DealMakers podcast, he shares his unconventional approach to entrepreneurship and growing companies, as well as his philosophy on company culture and recruiting.
Adam Jiwan comes from a family that wasn’t afraid to travel the globe to find economic opportunities. His extended family was very entrepreneurial, and the community he grew up in was also very business-minded.
When he was 13, Adam registered his first company, Ground Rule Double, in Toronto, where he was born and raised. It was a baseball trading card business. He would buy large sets at shows at wholesale prices, and retail them to others. It was his first exposure to the world of business.
After starting his card company, he began investing in the market. He opened his first brokerage account and started investing in equities.
Adam went on to study at Harvard, fulfilling the dream his parents had for him after they immigrated to North America from Tanzania.
That parlayed into a job in financial services. He worked for a summer at Goldman Sachs. Although they offered him a full-time job, he decided to further himself as an investor and accepted a job in private equity at The Blackstone Group. He was interested in finance, as well as paying off his student debt quickly. Blackstone proved to be an incredible opportunity to learn about different industries and business models, an education that would prove to be very valuable over his career.
From Blackstone, he went on to work for Soros, where he spent time investing in both special situations and emerging markets. Adam worked directly with George Soros, who taught him to make big and concentrated bets when extraordinary opportunities arise. He also learned how not to hesitate in moments of crisis, something highly analytical entrepreneurs can really struggle with.
Following Soros, Adam joined TPG-Axon, a global multi-strategy hedge fund, where he became a partner and helped expand the firm globally. He helped establish the European presence of the firm, building an office and a team. At TPG-Axon, he invested globally in both public and private opportunities, and co-ran both Europe and Asia, living in New York, London and Hong Kong during the six years he spent at the firm.
The Hunger For Entrepreneurship
Following the global financial crisis of 2008, Adam watched as short-term thinking engulfed the hedge fund industry: desperate to stabilize their asset bases, many funds were making investments they hoped would yield quick gains. Adam felt he was better at sizing up businesses based on projecting long-term fundamentals rather than guessing where stock prices would be tomorrow.
He still carried that hunger to do something entrepreneurial of his own, though the “what” was still unclear.
He spent two or three years helping others to start companies and buying into some small companies that could benefit from a restructuring or a re-positioning. Not all of them worked out. Some did: his seed investment in Avant has been a home run, and his investment firm Ridge Road Partners has yielded several successful exits.
Adam founded Future Finance in 2013. Together with a partner from Ridge Road and Vishal Garg (listen to the interview I also did with Vishal here), who now leads Better, they pioneered a new solution for funding student loans in the UK.
Then Adam shifted focus to investing in startups instead of starting them himself.
His investments included TrialWorks and Needles, which together form Assembly Software, a leading case management software company for the legal industry, used by over 40,000 users and 2,500 law firms.
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