“How could I possibly do this?” — That is what I asked myself when the opportunity presented itself to leave my 14-year career in corporate and investment banking to join the startup world. It was certainly one of the biggest decisions of my life. I chewed on it for a month, which in my world of decision making, is quite a long time.
One of my most active clients at the time was a TSX-listed DirectCash Payments Inc, a global payment processing company with operations on multiple continents and valued at $460 million when sold to Cardtronics in early 2017. As one of their lead investment bankers, I worked extensively with the management team over the years. We traveled the world doing different acquisitions in order to fuel growth and to raise money for those acquisitions.
When the business was sold, the largest shareholder wanted to start a new company to address concerns that he had with respect to cryptocurrency — primarily around security and reliability. We thought that we could, based on our knowledge of the movement of money, do this better than a lot of the other players in the industry. He asked me to join and start the company with him.
I thought it was a crazy idea. It involved moving cities, moving industries and leaving a career that I spent 14 years building. But, I took a month to think about it over the holidays in 2017. Markets were frothy, but I believed in the industry; more importantly, I believed in our abilities as a team. I had the opportunity to build something completely from scratch while working in a new and emerging industry with a team I knew could get the job done.
I started asking myself: “How could I possibly not?”
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Once I made the leap, everything about blockchain surprised me. But, at the same time, nothing surprised me. I came with zero expectations as to what it would be like. I had never done anything like this before, and I am not sure anything can surprise you if you’ve never done it before.
I was brand new to the startup world. I’d always worked for a large institution. I learned there’s nothing more challenging in the business world than a startup. Every day, you come to work, and you're faced with what sometimes seems to be insurmountable problems that you find a way to surmount. In the blockchain industry, nothing has been done before, so you're constantly trying to figure it out for the first time.
The bad actors are currently the biggest challenge. We must stay ahead of them. Everyone in crypto faces this challenge every day. Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so we need to be increasingly sophisticated in order to stay ahead of them. It’s disappointing that you have that negative aspect of a new emerging industry that has so many positive benefits to it.
Would I make the leap into the startup world again?
It's obviously a massive decision, but one that I certainly don't regret — one that I'd recommend to anyone to do… at least once.
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