FF 007 Founding Europe's Largest Trading App with Nick Bortot, Founder @ Bux

Summary Notes


In this episode of the 20 minutes VC, host Harry Stebbings interviews Nick Borto, founder of Bucks, Europe's largest mobile trading platform. Borto discusses his journey from online brokerage to entrepreneurship, aiming to simplify trading and make it accessible for a broader audience with low commissions and a fun, gamified app experience. He shares insights on being an older founder, the importance of a balanced team, and his fundraising strategy, including selecting investors who add value and align with the founder's vision. Borto also touches on operating within regulated environments, recommending partnerships to expedite market entry. He envisions Bucks expanding geographically, building a strong brand, and cultivating true fans to support future success.

Summary Notes

Introduction to 20 Minutes VC and Nick Borto

  • Harry Stebbings introduces the 20 Minutes VC podcast and its Friday tradition of featuring an incredible founder.
  • Nick Borto, founder of Bucks, is introduced as the guest.
  • Bucks is described as Europe's largest mobile trading platform with 175,000 active users.
  • Nick Borto's background includes being a key figure at Bink bank and a member of the executive board.
  • Bucks is praised for making financial markets fun and exciting and has received mentions and awards, including the Fintech 52,015.
  • Hiring Screen is conducting a giveaway competition of the book "The Alliance" co-authored by Reed Hoffman.

"Now, Friday is great for two reasons. Firstly, obviously the weekend is coming, which is great for everyone. But secondly, it can only mean one thing. Here at the 20 minutes VC, it's time to bring out an incredible founder."

This quote sets the tone for the podcast episode, highlighting the tradition of featuring a distinguished founder every Friday.

"Nick is the founder of one of my favorite apps, Bucks Bux is Europe's largest mobile trading platform and app with an incredible 175,000 active users."

Harry Stebbings provides an introduction to Nick Borto and his app, Bucks, emphasizing its success and large user base.

Background of Nick Borto and Bucks

  • Nick Borto shares his 15-year experience in online brokerage and stock trading for retail investors.
  • He observed that many people were interested in investing but intimidated by the complexity of trading platforms.
  • Nick Borto aimed to create an app that simplifies trading, offers lower commissions, and incorporates fun elements through gaming.
  • Bucks was designed to be straightforward, affordable, and enjoyable for users.

"I worked in online brokerage for 15 years, so stock trading for retail investors, and I met loads of investors, but I met even more people who wanted to invest because the financial markets, the stock exchange, have a huge appeal to a lot of people."

Nick Borto discusses his extensive experience in the brokerage industry and the widespread interest in investing among the public.

"We basically created an app that makes trading so stock trading very straightforward, very easy to understand, extremely cheap. Our commissions started at a fraction of what normal commissions are. And last but not least, it's great fun because we added a lot of gaming elements to trading."

This quote explains the core features of Bucks, highlighting its user-friendly interface, low costs, and the integration of gaming elements to make trading enjoyable.

Age and Experience in Founding Bucks

  • Nick Borto was 39 years old when he founded Bucks, challenging the stereotype of young tech founders.
  • He believes being older is beneficial as it brings focus, experience with common problems, and an understanding of the importance of a strong team.
  • Nick emphasizes his talent for identifying other talents and the deliberate effort to start Bucks with a top-notch founding team.

"I think it's good when you're slightly older. I read in an article in the New York Times that the idea about founders being very young is not completely true, actually, because the average founder of a startup is 38, I read, but I think it's great to be a little bit older."

Nick Borto refutes the myth of the young founder and presents the advantages of founding a startup at an older age.

"What really helped me is that during these 15 years in online brokerage, I understood the importance of a team. I kind of developed a talent for finding other talent."

Nick Borto discusses how his prior experience helped him appreciate the value of a strong team and his ability to recognize and recruit talent.## Finding a Co-Founder

  • Nick Borto began by assessing the needs of his company, Bucks, and recognized the importance of gaming knowledge due to the similarities between trading and gaming.
  • He searched for a co-founder with expertise in gaming and mobile within the gaming community in Amsterdam.
  • Nick eventually found a specialist in gaming and mobile, as well as another founder with experience in developing scalable systems and a fourth founder with a background in market making.
  • The team was formed with individuals who had complementary skills and expertise.

"So I thought, if there are so many similarities, I need to find someone with a lot of games knowledge."

This quote explains Nick's rationale for seeking a co-founder with gaming knowledge, highlighting the importance of industry-specific expertise in his venture.

"And after drinking loads of cups of coffee with all kinds of people, I bumped into a guy and he's a specialist in gaming and he's also a specialist in mobile."

This quote details the networking process Nick went through to find his co-founder and emphasizes the blend of gaming and mobile expertise he was looking for.

Convincing Co-Founders to Join

  • Nick Borto used his vision of the market's potential to convince co-founders to join Bucks.
  • His experience and belief in the market being larger than it currently was made his story compelling and did not require much effort to persuade them.

"My story was convincing, I guess, because it didn't take me a lot of effort to make them join me."

This quote emphasizes the effectiveness of Nick's vision in convincing potential co-founders to join his business venture.

Advice for Founders Seeking Co-Founders

  • Nick Borto advises founders to find co-founders who have strengths in areas where they are weak.
  • He suggests a team should have a diverse set of skills, including presenting, coding, and balancing aggressive and cautious approaches to business.
  • A balanced team with all necessary skills is crucial for success.

"The best advice is to find someone who is good at what you're not good at, and the opposite."

This quote offers practical advice for founders on how to build a well-rounded team by seeking co-founders with complementary skills.

Bucks' Product and Growth

  • Bucks has become the most popular trading app in Europe with 175,000 users in the UK and the Netherlands.
  • The app's success is attributed to its straightforward design, low commissions, and user-friendly interface.
  • Bucks' design principle is simplicity, allowing trades to be placed easily, even while biking over Amsterdam's canals.
  • The company creates proprietary content with a specific tone of voice that resonates with millennials, avoiding complex jargon.

"We do not use complex bells and whistles."

This quote highlights the simplicity and user-friendliness of Bucks' app, which is a key driver of its growth.

"So it's extremely straightforward."

This quote reinforces the importance of a simple and intuitive design in the app's success.

"I think we speak the language of the millennials. So no vague jargon or quasi intelligent bullshit."

This quote illustrates Bucks' approach to communication, which is tailored to be relatable and understandable for millennials, contributing to the brand's strength.

Brand Building

  • Building a strong brand has helped Bucks distinguish itself from competitors and maintain its position even as competition intensifies.

"And by building a great brand, it's easier to distinguish yourself from the competition."

This quote explains the strategic advantage of having a strong brand in the marketplace.

Fundraising Experience

  • Nick Borto reflects positively on the fundraising process, particularly the first round.
  • While he does not elaborate on specific challenges or surprises, his overall tone suggests a successful experience with fundraising.

"When I look back, I especially look back at our first round with great pleas"

This incomplete quote suggests that Nick has fond memories of the initial fundraising round, though the specifics of the experience are not detailed.## Early Stage Investment Dynamics

  • Early stage startups often raise capital from informal investors, who are typically former entrepreneurs with their own success stories.
  • Personal stories of investors can be insightful and helpful for new entrepreneurs.
  • Startups can become suddenly attractive to investors, leading to increased interest and investment offers.
  • The phenomenon of a startup becoming "hot" is likened to being the most sought-after person at a dance.
  • The challenge is understanding how to make a startup "hot" in the eyes of investors.

"And those informal investors are often former entrepreneurs themselves, and they all have their own story." "So when you get hot, it's like investors are losing their minds a little bit."

The first quote emphasizes the value of learning from the experiences of informal investors, who are often former entrepreneurs. The second quote describes the sudden surge in investor interest when a startup gains popularity, highlighting the sometimes irrational excitement that can occur in the investment community.

Valuation and Future Funding Rounds

  • It's important to maintain a balance between current valuation and potential future value to avoid down rounds.
  • Contract conditions such as liquidity preferences should be carefully considered alongside valuation.
  • Startups should strive for a balance that benefits both current funding needs and future growth.

"It's good to keep that in mind, but it's hard to say what your value in the future would be."

This quote underscores the difficulty in predicting future valuation and the importance of finding a balance in valuation during funding rounds to safeguard against future financial complications.

Fundraising Strategy

  • Startups should aim to raise slightly more money than needed, but not excessively, to avoid idle funds.
  • It's beneficial to communicate to investors what can be achieved with the initial funding goal and what additional opportunities could arise with more capital.
  • The ability to execute on the additional opportunities is crucial when considering raising more funds.

"No, I think you should try to raise more. Definitely not raise too much, because it doesn't make sense to have money sitting, sleeping on your bank account."

This quote advises startups to raise more money than the bare minimum to allow for unforeseen opportunities, while also cautioning against raising so much that the money is not used efficiently.

Runway Length in Funding

  • The appropriate length of runway depends on the startup's product and market.
  • A standard 18-month runway was sought in the speaker's experience, suitable for a fast product with quick customer acquisition and monetization.
  • Startups in slower markets or with longer development cycles may require a longer runway.

"18 months. Do you think that should be the general standard?"

The quote prompts a discussion on the standard length of runway startups should aim for, with the response indicating that it varies based on the startup's specific circumstances.

Fundraising Approach

  • Entrepreneurs should be selective in approaching investors, focusing on those who can add value and with whom they have a good personal rapport.
  • A shortlist of investors aligned with the company's sector and needs is more effective than approaching a large number indiscriminately.
  • The relationship with investors is long-term, often lasting several years.

"I wouldn't talk to so many investors. I would make a list."

This quote suggests a strategic and focused approach to fundraising by targeting a select group of investors who are most likely to be a good fit for the startup, both professionally and personally.

  • Entrepreneurs in regulated industries, such as fintech, should consider focusing on one aspect of their business and partnering for others.
  • Partnerships can provide advantages like existing licenses and specialized expertise, leading to faster time to market.
  • The speaker recommends leveraging partners' strengths rather than attempting to manage all aspects of a regulated business in-house.

"So my advice would be, don't do everything yourself, but try to find partners and focus at the thing you're good at."

This quote emphasizes the strategic advantage of focusing on core competencies and utilizing partnerships to navigate complex regulatory environments effectively.## Favorite Book and Entrepreneurial Inspiration

  • Nick Borto recently read the Elon Musk biography and highly recommends it.
  • He considers the Elon Musk bio a must-read for entrepreneurs, especially after the Steve Jobs biography.
  • Nick finds Elon Musk's approach to changing organizational methods on Earth particularly inspiring.

I just came back from holiday and I read the Elon Musk bio. This is one of the greatest bios I've read. It's a must read for every entrepreneur.

The quote emphasizes Nick's recommendation of the Elon Musk biography as an essential read for entrepreneurs, highlighting its impact and value.

Elon Musk's Achievements

  • Nick is amazed by Elon Musk's ability to run two significant companies, SpaceX and Tesla.
  • He finds Musk's goal to create a second life on Mars to be his most incredible and final mission.

I think running two huge companies that are SpaceX and Tesla that are probably going to change how we do things here on Earth. I think that's amazing. And of course, I don't know if he's ever going to manage but create a second life on Mars.

This quote outlines Nick's admiration for Elon Musk's ambitious projects with SpaceX and Tesla and his ultimate goal of colonizing Mars.

Diverse Reading Interests

  • Nick enjoys reading about startups and venture capital but also values staying informed about global events.
  • He reads Vice to maintain an awareness of happenings outside the VC and startup sphere.

As a startup founder and CEO, it's appealing to read everything about startups, vcs, et cetera. But I think it's good to also keep having a feeling for what's happening on the other side of the world.

Nick explains the importance of balancing industry-specific knowledge with broader global awareness through his reading habits.

Gamification's Future

  • Nick believes gamification is a long-term trend.
  • He sees it as an effective method for teaching complex subjects, like financial markets, in a gradual and understandable way.

I'm convinced that it's here to stay because it's a much better way of gradually teaching people how something works.

The quote reveals Nick's conviction that gamification will persist due to its educational effectiveness, especially with complicated topics.

Essential Apps

  • Nick uses a productivity app called Braintos, which he finds highly efficient.
  • He recommends Braintos for its effectiveness and frequently uses it himself.

There's one app I particularly like, and that's called Braintos. It's a productivity app. I came across it a while ago, and it's the most efficient productivity app I ever came across.

Nick endorses the Braintos app for its productivity benefits, sharing his personal experience with the app.

Future Plans for Bucks

  • Nick's five-year plan includes expanding Bucks geographically and building a strong brand.
  • He aims to create a financial services company with true fans, allowing for the introduction of related financial products under the Bucks brand.

The next five years I will be with Bucks and we want to build out our company geographically and not only build a great app, but also build a great brand.

The quote outlines Nick's strategic vision for Bucks, focusing on growth and brand development to create a loyal customer base.

Acknowledgements and Resources

  • Harry Stebbings thanks Nick Borto for the interview and directs listeners to additional resources.
  • He mentions a competition giveaway, an upcoming interview, and expresses gratitude to Mark Bernagar for arranging the interview.

Thanks a lot, Harry. It was a pleasure. Now for all the incredible books, blogs and apps mentioned in today's amazing episode with Nick, head on over to our blog at WW dot thetwentyminutevc.com

Harry wraps up the interview by thanking Nick and providing listeners with directions to find more information on the topics discussed, as well as teasing future content and expressing appreciation for the support in organizing the interview.

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