10 Questions with Shachar Bialick, CEO & Founder of Curve
Curve is the ‘over the top’ banking platform that consolidates all your cards into one Curve card – its mission is to move banking to the cloud and it is only just starting on that journey…
1. Describe your light bulb moment?
There was no Eureka moment. With the rise in data transparency and data portability, it was inevitable there would be a service to connect to the best offers in banking. In 2006, I began experimenting with an MVP which I didn’t end up pursuing because I believed PayPal or Facebook would move into this space (which was not the case in the end). In 2013, after graduating from INSEAD, I started to see a similar pattern of market fragmentation or ‘unbundling’ occur in the Finance Sector that had occurred in other industries. Whilst other fintechs went after various parts of the value chain, we worked on the proposition of ‘rebundling’ the market – a similar approach to Spotify and Amazon. We say, keep your bank. Keep your products. Just connect everything to this supercharged experience called, Curve.
2. The biggest challenge your business is facing to date?
Execution. Vision and strategy mean nothing without a team that can execute. This requires attracting exceptional talent and fostering a nimble, frugal and fast culture. Why? Because a) there are always others running in the same race and b) we don’t want to lose our startup advantage of moving fast, breaking things and quickly correcting course.
3. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your former self?
Never compromise on talent. Full stop.
4. Tools/ tricks to perform efficiently?
At Curve, I’d say there are 3 parts to performing efficiently. First, is instilling our 10 leadership principles – a mantra for all employees which include: i) focus on the mission; and ii) obligation to dissent (it’s as much of an obligation to challenge as it is to come to into work at 9:00 a.m!). Second, by decentralising decision-making. Third, by making sure we attain the best talent. We follow the ‘Keepers Principal’ which essentially means we constantly track our employees and pose the hypothetical question ‘If Alice got a job offer from say Facebook tomorrow, how much would I fight for her?’ Whatever the answer – be it a change in salary, equity, role or even simply words of encouragement – it is actioned immediately.
5. Talk through your strategy in building a team around you?
We look for individuals that are extremely smart. The reason being, we are thinking very fast and doing a lot with new stuff. This means, taking analogies or deducting from different industries to connect the dots – it seems obvious and granted but it isn’t. The second trait we look for is grit. At Curve a lot of the things we’ve built, we were told were impossible to do. The only reason we’re here today is because we fought for it.
6. What has surprised you most about starting your own business?
Curve being my fifth business, not much! However, what has surprised me about starting a business in the UK in particular, is that the culture is not naturally aligned to startup mentality. People tend not to challenge which is critical in a business where there are so many unknowns. It’s why obligation to dissent is one of the core leadership principals at Curve. If I compare it to Israel, where I founded my previous companies, I never had to create such a principle as it’s in our DNA to challenge.
7. What keeps you up at night?
Thoughts on how we build a sustainable organisation for the long term by investing in the right opportunities.
8. Talk through one of your daily rituals?
I operate with what’s called a ‘Maker Schedule’ which is based on the assumption that people need to have head space to form good judgments and unlock creativity. I try block out time in the day, away from the noise, dedicated purely to create a space where my thoughts can flow.
9. If you could instantaneously gain a new skill what would it be?
To listen more curiously.
10. What do you read/ listen to keep informed/ inspired?
A lot – what subject? The latest book I read is on leadership called Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet which was really good. Another one I’d recommend reading is called Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.