Tom McGillycuddy

Co-founder of Circa5000

Sustainable Impact Investments as Key to Building Wealth - Tom McGillycuddy of CIRCA5000

Oct 19, 2021
Tom McGillycuddy

Sustainable Impact Investments as Key to Building Wealth

Welcome to the world of impact investing, where Tickr founder Tom McGillycuddy shares what it was like for him and his co-founder, Matt Latham, to leave their corporate jobs and create a business that allows people to invest in companies that create a positive impact, such as those in the energy, water, food, health, education, and cybersecurity space, to name a few.

Initially crossing paths in Barclays, Tom and Matt realized that they wanted to “democratize” investing and make it more accessible for everyone. Apart from that, they also wanted to give people a chance to support companies they believed were making an impact. So, it was basically offering people a chance to invest sustainably and adopt good investment behaviors. 

In terms of how Tickr works, it first gives people three themes to choose from (people, planet, and people-planet) along with three risk levels, after which you will then be able to select from an extremely diverse array of options the companies you would like to invest in. They encourage their users to invest monthly, which 85% of them do. Currently, Tickr has over 100,000 customers and it’s continuously growing, since more and more people are realizing the beauty of what Tickr offers and the problem that it solves.

Tom talks about the two ways of getting a fintech company regulated, which both have their own pros and cons. He also shares the challenges he and Matt faced when it came to finding investors, and he says their financial backgrounds had a big role to play as it helped them talk to the right people and get the funds they needed. 

Contrary to what you may think, Tom and Matt actually didn’t do much market research, because they were creating this product for themselves and their friends. They simply built their idea off the fact that they knew there was a desire to invest and to have a positive impact, and years later, they proved themselves right. 

Tom’s advice for early-stage founders is that although working in a startup is definitely not a walk in the park, if you’re passionate enough about your idea, work hard to make it happen. Having a vision of the future, he says, is also crucial to investors, so keep that in mind.

In the years to come, Tom would like to think that the term ‘impact investing’ will be obsolete as it will just be considered ‘investing,’ and with the help of companies like BlackRock, a more impact-driven society will hopefully happen sooner rather than later. 

Tom’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “We started to realize after we started working on the idea that one of the only ways to truly engage with investing for the long term, it's good for them and good for everyone else, is via impact, and the stories, and the narrative.” (3:36)
  • “What we should be getting people to do is invest sustainably, not in the impact sense of the word but in the longevity sense of the word, for themselves and build wealth over the long term.” (7:39)
  • “You create sustainable wealth for yourself into the future by investing in hundreds of companies around the world that are doing good for the world.” (12:13)
  • “I think our generation specifically and the way we see our money as a tool that reflects our values and what we believe in the world, I think that will have a massive impact.” (15:08)
  • “In 10 years' time, there'll be no such thing as impact investing. It'll just be called investing.” (16:21)
  • “Our generation wants to solve these problems more than anyone else. The problems are getting worse, and they want to invest at the same time. So, it's presenting impact investing as a vehicle to solve these problems.” (27:18)
  • “We call it ‘good hour, bad hour.’ That's what we call startup life, and sometimes, it's actually ‘good minute, bad minute.’ There's amazing news and absolutely terrible news every minute of every day. It's like this, and your job is to sit in the middle and never waver.” (28:09)
  • “If you don't like having decision making power on overdrive, if you don't like it being fast-paced, if you don't like it being treacherous and dangerous with the things you've got to do and the decisions you've got to make, then it's not for you.” (29:59)
  • “Don't just start a business for the sake of it. You have to start something that you're personally passionate about.” (31:37)

In this episode, we also talked about:

  • The problems Tom and his co-founder Matt realized that led them to founding Tickr (2:25)
  • The difference between trading and investing and why Tickr is centered on the latter (5:39)
  • How Tickr works (11:25)
  • Startups and major companies working hand in hand in impact investment (14:27)
  • What it’s like starting out in the fintech space and getting regulated (17:35)
  • How Tom and Matt used their career backgrounds as an advantage to finding investors (22:03)
  • Tickr today and the problem it addresses (26:25)
  • A useful insight into the world of startups and creating your own business (27:59)
  • The startup mindset (30:49)
  • How the world in 10 years according to Tom (32:26) 

Transcript of the episode

Maiko Schaffrath  00:06

You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems. And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness. My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems. Alright. I'm really happy to have you on the show, Tom. It's been a while since we last spoke. Great to have you here.

Tom McGillycuddy  01:06

No, thank you for inviting me. I appreciate it. Yeah, it was an eternity ago, it feels like, when we last spoke.

Maiko Schaffrath  01:11

Yeah, yeah, it's been a while. Yeah, I'd love to get straight into it and get people to understand how Tickr actually started. And then after that, I'd love to talk a bit about how timely this episode is as well. Obviously, I think in the last few months, there was just this burst of attention on apps, trading apps, and I would love to talk about how Tickr, maybe what you see as your role in the space, especially bringing about change and a bit more long-term thinking than pumping up the stock off GameStop. So, I'll be very excited to talk about that, but before we get into that, before you started Tickr, you were an investment manager at Barclays and Wellington. You were investing there for clients there, and you initially actually created Tickr as a solution for yourself and your friends, because you found it was very hard to invest in impact assets and sustainable assets. So, tell us more about the time you realized there was a problem and how you initially went about creating a solution to it.

Tom McGillycuddy  02:25

Yes, there's two problems and the first one, we kind of unearthed right at the start of our careers, Matt and me. Matt's the founder of the business, and we met at Barclays on the graduate scheme about 10-11 years ago now. That's how old we are now, over a decade of experience. That was the- financial services was not accessible, basically, to anybody from our backgrounds, our family and friends, and we felt like it was unnecessarily complex. That was the first seed that was planted in 2011, basically. And then, as we went through our careers and we started working in impact investing for me and sustainable investing for Matt, we started to realize that this, especially this kind of investing, shouldn't be just the domain of pension funds and wealthy families. It should be everybody. And as we started working on that as a concept and we started to talk to people about impact investing, the more we realized that those two problems could be combined together, because of the way impact investments are framed, and they are values-based, and people connect with the issues or the underlying themes. It could be the ticket to bring people to invest who have never invested before, because they can understand it and engage with it. So, you can solve a financial inclusion problem and an impact problem at the same time and combine them together. I think it's actually a quite- we started to realize after we started working on the idea that one of the only ways to truly engage with investing for the long term, it's good for them and good for everyone else, is via impact, and the stories, and the narrative. And if you can design an investment experience around that, you can then, in turn, get people to adopt investment behaviors that are good for them, because they're in it for two reasons, and they adopt those long-term habits more readily, because they're invested in the things that they care about. So, those are the two realizations from our career that led to starting Tickr the way we did.

Maiko Schaffrath  04:05

Amazing. Let's talk about those two trends, right? Putting investment in the hands of pretty much anyone that has a few pounds to spare, I think it can start with very, very low amounts. I think it's just a few pounds, and you can get started. Obviously, in the last few months, we've actually seen this whole media coverage and everything that happened with Robin Hood and investors putting money into GameStop and screwing over a bunch of hedge funds that had shorted the stock. So, we saw, I think, a lot of people in the investment industry seemed to realize, "Okay, this is a real thing. People are actually messing with us now and with the old structures." What I'm interested in is, first of all, obviously, I think Tickr has a bit of a different focus, I think, in terms of giving people the opportunity to invest in assets that create long-term change and are long-term positive. But also, I'm keen to understand, how do you see the power of the people to put pressure in the financial markets to focus more on sustainable and impact investing and bring about the change that we need?

Tom McGillycuddy  05:19

Yeah, it's a great question, and it's something that we've talked about a lot in the past month, because there's a few things that are going on that I read is very positive, and there's a few things that are going on that I think, yeah, are negative, really, and need to be kind of repositioned, because there's been- I'll talk about a few things in an order that will make sense. There's been a conflation of trading and investing, and they're two different things. Trading is more closely linked to gambling than it is investing, because you're just betting on the direction of something over a course of a day or a week with no real underpinning of whether that thing should be valued that way, or its impact, and we'll go onto impact a little bit later. I think that distinction being blurred is dangerous, because a lot of the people that have come to invest for the first time thinking they're investing have never done it, and now, they've been introduced to trading as a concept before even learning what investment is. So, I think there's this conflation between trading and investing which is potentially dangerous for people that have never done either before, and the trading gaps have been built to, in my view, gamify people's attention to get them to transact more, and transacting more and doing it more frequently is not necessarily a good investment strategy. In fact, it's probably the opposite of one. So, I think there's some education that needs to be done about what investing actually is. My opinion is, as you know, we founded Tickr for accessibility reasons and "democratizing" is a phrase everyone always talks about, and everyone always uses. I fundamentally believe in it. I don't use the phrase because I think it's been killed to death by everyone saying it, but I think there are certain things that should not be democratized. I wrote a Medium post about it, and I used a bit of an intentionally humorous analogy for it. It's like dentistry, in no way, should be democratized, so if people were buying dentistry starter kits and were going to go on each other's teeth, it would be a big issue. And I think trading derivatives and day trading should only be the in the realm of a tiny number of investment professionals who have all the apparatus and experience to do it themselves, and they know the risks, and they still get it wrong, and they still lose money. So, I think it's not appropriate for the vast, vast majority of people. And me, as a former professional, investment professional, managing money for people, I have never traded a single thing in my life, because what is the point in my opinion. What we should be getting people to do is invest sustainably, not in the impact sense of the word but in the longevity sense of the word, for themselves and build wealth over the long term. So, that's why I think there's some guardrails that need to be put around what proper investing is. It's about taking a very, very long-term view, not a day. It should be five, seven, 10 years. The best investors of all time take super long-term views. There's no coincidence they've got the best records, because they're super long-term, and it should be about forgetting about the timing of it, because nobody can time anything correctly. Everyone will get lucky every now and again, same as roulette in Vegas, but you should just ease your money in month by month and diversify as you're doing it. Don't bet on one thing, because you're at the fortunes of one random company that could do anything. So, I think these things are not as exciting as betting on a stock going up 10 times in one day, but it's not meant to be. It's meant to be about you building wealth sustainably over the long term, and the only way to do that is by doing these three or four behaviors consistently. I think we see ourselves as basically the antidote to what's going on, basically. We are the exact opposite and proud of it, of what's going on. We're not trying to gamify attention. We're not trying to gamify to you to transact more. If anything, if we ever use gamification, it's to get you to adopt better behaviors for yourself, not for us, not for us to earn revenue. The other thing I would say before I pause for a second is the revenue models of a lot of the trading apps are built on people trading more. Even if they say they're free, they're not underneath. There's fees whether you look at the terms of conditions or not. So, yeah, if we're genuinely bothered about building wealth for people over the long term, our business models need to reflect that, and it needs to be predicated on building those sustainable long-term behaviors, and it can't be about the hot stock of the moment and the trade to do right now. Whilst on one hand, yeah, it's fun to see hedge funds lose money, but overall, they've made money, let's be honest, because the stocks crashed again, and they've made loads of money on both sides of the trade. The damaging thing of that is that some retail investors somewhere will have lost a lot of money. But regardless of the specific GameStop situation, or Bitcoin, or Ethereum, or whatever it is, I think people should look at these things in the same way they look at roulette, in the same way they think about going to the casino with money to lose. Only bet on these things with money you can lose, because it's better and it's not investing. And if you want to build long-term sustainable wealth, you should do it in a specific way. That's one macro part of it. The other macro part is, imagine if all this attention could be harnessed and used to invest in the companies actually changing things in the underlying economy. Whether GameStop is a good company or not, if you think about how the apps themselves and the Reddit forum have gotten everyone's attention and aimed it at companies, imagine what that attention could do if harnessed correctly for companies that are solving real underlying problems in the world economy. We could have a massive impact, because this is the power of the stock market. This is the power of capital markets when harnessed correctly and when the attention is on them. Imagine if the attention was on the right company for the right reasons, and then they could raise more money and expand their impact. So, that's one pseudo positive. The big positive I take from the past, I say, 12 months is the demand to invest from our generation is clearly established. It was always there in America, but I think it's definitely there in Europe now. I think as long as that attention and that demand is harnessed in the right way and there's a renaissance or a spotlight shone on proper sustainable investment apps, I think it can be a positive thing, ultimately. That's the way I think about it and the way we think about the situation as a whole.

Maiko Schaffrath  11:08

Got it. Give us an overview. How does it actually work in Tickr? What is impact investing for you? If I sign up to Tickr, I set up to put a set amount of money every month into Tickr, what does it get invested in, practically speaking?

Tom McGillycuddy  11:24

Yeah. So, practically in the background, when you download Tickr, there's three themes to choose from: people, planet, and then people-planet together, and then three risk levels. So, what we've built in the background is a set of model portfolios of listed equities and listed fixed income instruments, and they're all linked to the macro theme that you've selected. For example, the planet theme is invested in clean water companies, clean energy companies, sustainable food companies, green bonds, things like that. So, we've curated and built those portfolios, and you select them, which one you go into. Whatever selection you make, you're getting a globally diversified, sexually diversified portfolio, and the way the app is built, it's built to encourage regular monthly investing, and 85% of our customers do that on an ongoing basis. So, you're building that balance up over time. You're building progress. You create sustainable wealth for yourself into the future by investing in hundreds of companies around the world that are doing good for the world.

Maiko Schaffrath  12:19

Got it. In the metrics of your users, do you see that different type of behavior versus some of the behavior you will probably see on things like Robin Hood and stuff like that? Do you see the type of investors that you attract also being in it for the long run?

Tom McGillycuddy  12:35

Yes. We occasionally, like one in 10,000, might attract someone who thinks we're a trading app, and they'll come in and they realize that it's not for them, because the app experience isn't designed to be about intraday pricing and intraday trading. The capability to trade intraday is not there. The intraday pricing is not there, and that's intentional, because if we put that in, we'll start attracting the wrong people to the product. It's about regular monthly investment, and the way we engage people on a more intraday basis is with the impact of the companies. It's with the other areas of the app you can go into, which we'll talk about which are not investing. It's more like learning, offsetting your carbon footprint, spending better with partnerships. So, that's the way that our customers engage with the product on the investment side. It's not designed to be trading in any way, and we don't offer the functionality they offer.

Maiko Schaffrath  13:25

So, as somebody that's been in the industry in investment management and now, you founded a challenger to that industry, I'd love to understand, how do you think the dynamics will play out in the sense that, obviously, Barclays and Wellington, they have realized that impact investing is an interesting space to be in. They are active in that space. They're doing impact investment, and there's big players diverting funds more into impact investment, and you're spearheading that revolution for people to be able to do this. How do you think this is going to play out in terms of diverting more money into impact investment? Is it going to be the big institutions or the masses that are going to bring about the change? Or is it going to be both pushing and pulling and bringing about the change together?

Tom McGillycuddy  14:27

I think it's probably a combination of both. I think you'll have, for example, the biggest asset manager in the world, BlackRock, eight, nine, 10 trillion dollars in assets and assets under management, are now taking impact investing sustainability very seriously. I know a bunch of people in the team that I used to work with them at Wellington, they've moved over to BlackRock, so I know that the caliber of people there are taking it very seriously, and it has a big cascading effect on the industry once the biggest player moves and moves seriously. That's not to say every big asset manager will do it. Some of them will try, will do it weak or  probably won't do it, or do it too late. But when the biggest in the world does it, it will have a big impact. So, I think you'll have that angle. And then, on the opposite side, I think our generation specifically and the way we see our money as a tool that reflects our values and what we believe in the world, I think that will have a massive impact. So, if you think about us, for example, for a business, we may never have 10 trillion dollars under management. That may never happen or not in the next 50 years, but we could have 10, 15 million customers, who all are consumers and have consumer power as a collective. So, the decisions that our customer base make in their portfolios, in their Tickr portfolios and then the buying decisions they make in their other consumption will have a massive ripple effect impact on all those companies in the world. So, think about this as a future idea. If we, for example, put a vote to our customers about whether this company was an impact company or not and they decided it wasn't, what would that do to the perception of that company if those 50 million consumers said that what they're doing is wrong? So, I think we all have the ability to fight above our AUM weight by the sheer size of our customer base. I think there'll be the likes of BlackRock doing it is very important, and I see us as equally as important but in a different way, in a user number way as opposed to an AUM way, and I think you'll have both sides being tackled. I think eventually, everybody will have to get on board with this, I think. In 10 years' time, there'll be no such thing as impact investing. It'll just be called investing. I keep saying that, and I think it's true. I think it will be seen as the third dimension alongside return on risk, and everyone will have to consider the impact of their investment and measure it in the same way they measure return on risk. I think the likes of us doing what we're doing, the likes of BlackRock doing what they're doing will escalate that and will accelerate it.

Maiko Schaffrath  16:43

I'd love to talk a bit more about your entrepreneurial journey and some of the hurdles you had to actually overcome to make Tickr reality. We have early-stage founders listening to this or people that are starting thinking about starting companies, and I'd love to learn from you what your advice would be for fintech founders going into the space in the early days. Obviously, the fintech space is quite regulated. You can't just quickly push out an MVP and start. You have to jump through a bunch of hoops. What would your advice be from the early days of Tickr to make sure that people can get some traction and also make sure that they can raise the right investment and have the resources needed to be able to pull this off?

Tom McGillycuddy  17:33

Yeah, it's a good question. I think one of the reasons why a lot of fintech founders come from the financial services industry is because of the regulatory angle. It's not an industry where you can just test your product tomorrow if you built it today. You have to be fully regulated first. So, there's two ways of approaching that. You either go down to full FCA authorization straightaway, which can take six to eight to 12 months, or you become an appointed representative of another firm with a license, which is quicker to test, and it can be a little bit more stringent, because they obviously have the license and they're lending it to use, so they're very, very strict with how you deploy the license and how you use it. But in order to test quickly, that's the way to do it, but you have to get on boarded at the appointed representative. It's not a quicker way of doing it necessarily from a product development point of view, but the regulatory process can be a little bit quicker and can get you to the point where you actually have customers coming through the app. That's the route that we went down. But in order to do that, in order to build the product, in order to build something that's regulatory-worthy from a financial services point of view, it takes money to do it. Coming into fintech businesses that are heavily regulated, it costs more than some other industries where there's more high startup costs because of the legal fees because of the the standard of the app that needs to be even to get on an appointed rep. The first task when we left our jobs were- Matt and I had some money to live on, but we didn't have enough money to build a fintech investment management-regulated business from scratch, so we had to go and raise money with just a pitch deck basically, which has its own challenges, because in order to get a proper MVP, it needed to be regulated. But in order to be regulated, we needed money. So, that first three months of- I remember, it was 2018, I think, in that summer, there was a massive heat wave in London, and we were just pounding the streets of London trying to raise money, turn up to meetings drenched in sweat, because the streets were 40 degrees, and it must have taken hundreds and hundreds of meetings to get 400,000-500,000 raised at that point. It took a long time to get the connections, to get the money. But once we did that, we were able to build an MVP, get it regulated with an appointed rep, and then start. The other thing is as an investment management company, there's things in the background like KYC payments, custody of assets. There's a lot of third parties you need to plug into, and you need to negotiate pricing with them, need to make a business model viable from a gross margin point of view. So, there's a lot of "you don't know what you don't know," and then you start and you find out you don't know a lot, and you've got to wade through it, and you've got to wade through it like you're wading through treacle, and it can be hard work. It took us, two of us at that time, there was no one else in the team. Those were the real hard yards. Those were the real hard days. It's still hard today, but there's a team of 25, 26 amazing people doing all the work and with different challenges now, but the hardest bit was those first three to six months after our job, because we had no money, we had no product, we had to get regulated, we had to get custody, KYC payments, all sorted, and that was just sheer numbers graphed and getting it over the line. There was a lot of near misses with the app, but yeah, there's a lot to take in if you're going to go into a regulated industry and a lot that your MVP needs to be. In fact, I don't think you can really have an MVP in fintech. It has to be way more viable than just minimum because of the regulatory thing and you're handling people's money. So, there's a lot of work that goes into the product prior to even being tested.

Maiko Schaffrath  20:53

Got it. Yeah, obviously, the suggestion to most startups that are not in a regulated space is go out, test, talk to customers, put an MVP in front of them, get started, and try to sell if you can, if you have something. In your case, obviously, that wasn't the case. And at the same time, I think in the UK, investors can be a bit more conservative than in the US where if you come with a pitch deck and nice idea, it's not necessarily a good way to raise investment, but you don't have a choice. So, what did you do in the early days or what do you do differently now to show that this is something promising, that it's not just a crazy idea? Obviously, you had some credibility in the industry. Was it a certain type of investors? Did you approach mainly angel investors? What type of angel investors did you approach? Well, it's kind of the strategy to show that, "This is going to be promising, although we are not allowed to actually do it until we have the money to be able to do it."

Tom McGillycuddy  22:03

Yeah, genuinely, the answer to that is, if we hadn't have done eight years in the industry and had good reputations in our jobs, we wouldn't have raised any money, I don't think. Because if we had just come out of uni and then come up with the idea, who would be betting on us then? First of all, we wouldn't have the connections to go and ask people for money, angels, but we'd have no track record, and I think what went for us is how well we were thought of in our companies, because half of the money we raised was from senior people at the companies we worked at that we'd worked with along the way. So, I, as a strategy, went to the people that I worked with that knew me personally, that had worked with me for years and was like, "Look, you rate me as an individual. I've got this idea. It may sound crazy to you, but give me some money, and I'll show you in time." I think the thing was, in the industry, in the asset management industry, impact was really becoming a big thing two or three years ago. We saw it five or six years ago. But then, everyone was starting to think, "Actually, there's probably something here, and I like this guy and I like Matt. I'll take a bet," basically, and I think they saw it as like that. We obviously used the tax advantages in the UK of SCIs and AS as well to get them over the line. Those are big helps. And then, after that initial cohort, then we started talking to people that strategically more might understand what we were doing, so maybe angels from fintech or angels that have been involved in other similar businesses. And then, a family office in the Netherlands, we met them, and they were trying to do similar things with their own money in their vehicles that they had. So, that initial bit was about living off your reputation, and then finding people that had a specific interest in what you were doing, and then turning that money into a point where an institutional VC like Ada Ventures and other people would be willing to write a check into once you've proven that the idea has basis in traction and metrics, and then you've got a vision for the future. We always had a big vision, but it wasn't as honed as it is now. It was nowhere near as honed, and one piece of advice I would give, even though it's hard because we could have only got the vision that we have now because of the work that we've done over the past 18 months. But having a clear vision of the future, and how you get there, and what the next three, five, and 10 years looks like from a product development point of view, I think would've stood us in really good stead, and that's a bit of advice that I give to people in terms of, do that work. How does this idea become really big? And what are the trends that are converging to make your ideas super big in 10 years' time? Try and articulate that. You don't have to be very specific around all those years but try and articulate the path. And I think once you have that, a clear vision, people will start to take a bet on that vision.

Maiko Schaffrath  24:32

Got it. In terms of validation, what were you able to do in the early days? Were you mainly looking at these large market trends in impact investing? Or were you talking a lot to individuals as well to try to understand how happy they would be to use a product like yours? What were you able to do in the early days to make sure that this is not something only for you and your friends, but for a broader audience?

Tom McGillycuddy  24:58

It's funny. I could give you a lie or pretend that we did loads of market research, but Matt and I felt like we just knew that this was happening. We didn't spend as much time as people might think of shopping an idea around with people, because we felt like there was a desire to invest. We knew that and there was a desire to have positive impact, and those trends were only going one way. That seems obvious in 2021, but in 2016, 2017, 2018, it wasn't obvious to everyone, but we felt like it was coming. I think a lot of this, a lot of startup is about calling a trend that's going to happen in four or five years' time. That's basically what it is, and raising the money, and building the team and the product to coincide with the trend launching. And it now feels like, in February 2021, those trends are super obvious, but we didn't spend a lot of time on consumer research because we were talking to people we knew, and intuitively, we were building the product for ourselves and our friends, so we knew what we needed it to look like and how it needed to be as the first version. So, when we were pitching to people, we were talking about the big macro picture and, "Something big is going to be built in this space, and this is how we're going to do it." Maybe you get one in 50 people who agrees with you at that point. But now, it seems like everyone agrees with us. Everyone agrees when it starts to go well, obviously.

Maiko Schaffrath  26:08

Yeah, interesting. Obviously, things have been going well for you. You've been growing quite a bit. I don't know if you're publicly talking about user numbers right now, but where are we at roughly in the ballpark with the app?

Tom McGillycuddy  26:25

Around about 100,000 customers, but the plan is to go way beyond that, obviously. That's just a minor stepping stone. It's nice to get to that point, but that was never the goal. I think we, as a business, have impact when we're in the millions of customers, so we have to kind of keep pressing on. The traction is good. The growth has been good. The underlying metrics of the business in terms of how much everyone's investing in it every month, and the products that are adopted, and the behaviors are good. And we've started the year, as have a lot of other investment apps, very strong. I think we've touched on them generally, but there are mega trends that are colliding to create an opportunity. There's the desire to invest in the trading gaps, and everyone else has that as a trend that applies to them. But the desire to have an impact and these big impact problems that need solving, if you combine all those together, that's the opportunity space that we're in, is that our generation wants to solve these problems more than anyone else. The problems are getting worse, and they want to invest at the same time. So, it's presenting impact investing as a vehicle to solve these problems. It's good for yourself and good for everyone else. I think those things are really starting to ramp up, and that's why we started the year so well, and I think that's why it will be a big year for us.

Maiko Schaffrath  27:36

Got it. And if you look at your journey over the last few years since you launched the app, I think, in 2019, but you started working on this for much longer, what was your biggest lesson that you had to learn that you didn't expect even though having been in the industry? Has there been any kind of big learning or lesson learned that you can share with early-stage founders?

Tom McGillycuddy  27:59

There's probably a million, but it's not necessarily a lesson, but it's like an observation. We call it with one of our other friends, Dave, who's got a startup, me, and Matt, and Dave are best friends, and we call it "good hour, bad hour." That's what we call startup life, and sometimes, it's actually "good minute, bad minute." There's amazing news and absolutely terrible news every minute of every day. It's like this, and your job is to sit in the middle and never waver basically, because if you participate in the upside too much, you get complacent, and participating too much in the downside clouds your judgment from solving the problem, and you're always a conversation away from a solution to a big issue. So, it's been learning that, because in the early days, it's so disorientating, because you leave a corporate environment where it's all stable and everything's going broadly fine, whether you're frustrated or not in the environment. And then, you're out on your own, and it's like something could kill you, or something could break here, something could make here, all day, all the time, and that never goes anywhere. You just get used to sitting in the middle and solving the problems, and that's been the biggest. People will tell you that you have to listen to as many podcasts and read as many books as you want, but until you experience it, you don't know what it's like, so that's been the biggest thing to get used to.

Maiko Schaffrath  29:08

Got it. Was it quite a big of a mindset shift for you and your co-founder to adapt from a corporate mindset to modern startup mindset? Was that kind of a transition that you went through personally or did you find it quite easy to? 

Tom McGillycuddy  29:22

Yeah, so Matt and me, I don't think the adjustment from corporate lifestyle was as big as some other people, because we were frustrated corporate employees, maybe a little bit more him than me, but I don't think we were particularly well suited to the world for the long term of our career. We had been preparing for this moment for a long, long time and deep down, Matt and I are like workers and fighters, so actually, the moment we handed out our notice and we got stuck in, I felt like it was an amazing decision. I felt like I was just built more for this world than the corporate world, because of the way I like working, the pace of work that like. So, if you don't like having decision making power on overdrive, if you don't like it being fast-paced, if you don't like it being treacherous and dangerous with the things you've got to do and the decisions you've got to make, then it's not for you, but I was kind of craving that, and it's lived up to it.

Maiko Schaffrath  30:14

Great. Yeah, it seems like you're in the right environment now. It was interesting. I think the other day, Elon Musk was on Clubhouse sharing some lessons and somebody asked me- not me, him. Somebody asked him what would he say to encourage startup founders to launch their companies and he was like, "If you need encouragement, you shouldn't be doing this," and I think it goes to that line as well. For you, it was very clear, "I don't need any encouragement. I'm going to do this sooner or later," and that's great to see you do this now.

Tom McGillycuddy  30:49

I see a lot of people talking about doing it and they're not doing it, and it really means that they don't want to do it, I think. And also, I think it's overly glamorized. People talk about- we've just raised the round and we got all this press, and it was amazing. Someone said to me the other day, "Fundraising looks amazing fun." I was like, "You've no idea how not fun that is." I think there's some amazing positives to the environment, but it's with a lot of hard work, and downsides, and things like that. I love the downside of it, but it's not for the faint of heart. I hear people come to me and say, "I really want to start a business, but I'm not sure." What it's saying is like, well, don't have that mindset, because you need to know the thing that you're passionate about and start a business in that, because it's going to go wrong at some point and your passion for the underlying thing needs to ride through it. Don't just start a business for the sake of it. You have to start something that you're personally passionate about. I mean, for me personally, if it wasn't impact investing, I wouldn't be doing a business, because this is the thing I feel like I'm born to do, and the same applies for Elon Musk. He has those three or four mega trends that he cares about, and that's what he's made his career out of. It's not just anything, random stuff. It's the big thing that you care about, so yeah.

Maiko Schaffrath  32:00

Got it. Thank you, Tom. I have one more question. If you imagine 10 years from now, it's the year 2020- sorry, 2031, and we are only laughing about COVID at that point, hopefully, but how do you think the world looks like if Tickr succeeds in 10 years' time?

Tom McGillycuddy  32:26

Good question. So, even outside of Tickr and pretending it doesn't exist, I'm actually very, very hopeful about the future. I haven't always been in the past 10 years. When I first started caring about these issues, I thought we're doomed, basically, because it seemed like such a small number of people were working on solutions to the problems. But that is, in my opinion, the past two years changed massively. I think the rate of technological advancement when it comes to climate and social-related problems, I think we're at a tipping point. And I think now, a lot of smart people and a lot of capital is going towards these areas, and the rate of change is speeding up and the rate of capital deployment is speeding up, so that gives me a lot of hope for the future. And I think if we can play a small part in that, I think we can genuinely build a useful company. The reason why I talk about scale a lot isn't just for the sake of building a massive company for it to have a market cap of X, Y, and Zed and revenue of X, Y, and Zed is because, if you think about our product, which is predicated on investment and then getting customers to spend better and offset their footprint, the impact that we can drive is really pronounced at scale. So, we have to scale for that reason, because we have more impact. And I think what drives me is we're building something that's fundamentally useful for society, and I think that should be big, not because we're just trying to sell more stuff. That's the opposite of what we're trying to do. We're trying to drive more impact. So, I think, by that point, I'd like to say we're a global business with tens of millions of customers, and we've had a small part to play in changing people's consumption and the way they think about the money.

Maiko Schaffrath  33:47

Got it. Thank you so much, Tom, for joining me. It's great to see this journey. I've been watching you from the outside for a while, and it's been great to now finally do the podcast together. So, thanks very much, Tom.

Tom McGillycuddy  34:02

Thank you for having me. Anytime. It's a pleasure.