Peter Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Blockchain, the world's leading Bitcoin wallet. Every startup dreams of changing the game - here's how Peter made it.
In 2014, 8 of us were building Blockchain from a 2 bedroom apartment in York, England. Our goal was to make bitcoin, still a nascent currency, a more compelling and efficient financial solution for new users. Today, Blockchain has grown from a side project to the world’s leading provider of digital currency and distributed ledger software. With over 50% market share and 100 million transactions under our belt, our software is helping to modernize a financial system that is currently failing over a third of the global population.
Needless to say, we’ve come a long way and while I’m happy to no longer be sleeping on the floor of that tiny apartment, the lessons we learned in those early days continue to serve as the foundation for our work today. Here are my top 5:
1. Build products users love
Fintech companies are disruptors, so in order to survive, we need to successfully challenge banks and other financial institutions by building products better than incumbents and with fewer resources. The only way to do this is by keeping our customers at the centre of everything that we build. We exist to serve our users. Software that isn’t useful and simple just isn’t worth building.
2. Start small
Most of us begin our entrepreneurial journey with a big vision to solve large-scale problems. However, what's important to remember is that tackling the big vision is actually about successfully tackling smaller goals and moving incrementally forward. Many of today's largest tech companies, like Amazon and Facebook, started out as small projects and gradually evolved to what we known them as today.
3. Stay lean
At Blockchain, we didn't raise our first round of capital until we were at about 20 people. We stayed alive a long time on revenue and booked that revenue quickly. The key to doing that is spending very little money. As we scaled, we learned to do a lot with a little, by conserving capital and leveraging opportunities to be influential and impactful.
4. Build a great team
As I look back on my tenure at Blockchain, I am most proud of our ability to hire an incredible team. We’ve managed to keep an (insanely?) high bar despite quickly scaling by focusing on a few maxims. First and foremost, we hire people from a lot of different places. We’ve hired people from 18 different countries, people already raising children, recent high school grads, PhDs, drop outs, anarchists, liberals, and people from nearly every socioeconomic background. Why? Because a diversity of perspective makes your product stronger. As a side benefit, you also discover a lot of talent in hidden places that other companies ignore because the individual doesn’t fit into their mental model. What do these people all have in common? They have a healthy dose of the adventure bug, a genuine excitement for learning new things, a passion for our mission and a drive to be helpful.
5. Be patient
While there are many factors that make fintech more exciting than other industries, there are also factors that make success in the space more time-intensive and grueling. Things like security and reputation become an order of magnitude more important when dealing with financial information and money. At Blockchain, we understand that transformation in the space won't happen overnight, but rather little by little. We’re still in the little by little stage and years - a decade, even - away from ubiquity but we are already starting to see the transformational impact this technology will have on individuals and industries across the globe.