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Chris Maguire: Flibyrd Is The Newest (And Most Comprehensive) Investment Platform On The Block

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Chris Maguire | Flibyrd LLC

Tell us about yourself?

I’m born and raised in the Bay Area, graduated with a degree in finance from Santa Clara University, self-taught programmer. I’ve been following the markets since I was in high school. Previously worked at Merrill Lynch as a licensed financial advisor.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

I think most people struggle to really understand just how difficult the journey of starting a company is. It’s very easy to take for granted all the little systems in place-like a company’s recruitment pipeline or how they source equipment/office furniture- that someone else before them had to figure out.

Additionally, making a new product/service that many people ACTUALLY want to consume/use is an extremely difficult endeavor. It’s easy to make something different or new, but few actually make what we may call a successful product. The few companies that do and become established players are extraordinary.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

Even though this venture is just beginning, I’ve already made plenty of mistakes (and expect to continue to do so). One helpful realisation I had after wasting several weeks on a project that essentially resulted in nothing, was that I can be overly eager and will jump right into solving a problem instead of taking some extra time to really think about all possible solutions.

There’s an excellent book on this called “Thinking, Fast & Slow” by Daniel Kahneman and the main idea is to think slower so you can move faster.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

My age and background. I’m definitely on the young side (23 years old) and normally when an entrepreneur is this young, I feel like they’re usually some genius programmer that’s been writing code since before they started puberty.

That’s not me, but I am in a unique position where I can have interdisciplinary technical conversations combining finance and coding. In flibyrd’s case, that might mean walking an engineer through building some financial model in javascript.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

I think different habits work better for different people, so it’s good to try different things and figure out what works well. Personally, I found taking a longer lunch (1-1.5 hours) gives me a nice recharge in the middle of the day. I usually work 12+ hours during the weekdays, so longer lunches may not be as beneficial if someone only works 8 hours a day or maybe has a child to take care of.

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The most important habits for every person are what we’ve been told since we can remember: getting proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. It’s really simple and boring but most people forget about it at some point, and it does more harm than good. Anyone that’s a decision-maker needs to get those things right to be at their best. I had gotten these habits down for a while last year and lost them due to a few different reasons, and am now in the process of reestablishing them as habits.

As someone more on the extroverted side, I would also add quality time for socialising. If you’re more of an introvert, I would switch that to getting enough time to be by yourself and relax for a moment.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

There was one day while working from home at Merrill, I distinctly remember the whole GameStop fiasco going on and thinking it was absolutely hilarious. There was a post by some user on their company’s Bloomberg terminal showing the short interest for a few stocks. Having access to FactSet (a platform very similar to Bloomberg), I started doing my own research on some of the companies that were seeing these ridiculous price movements.

Then on the weekend, I did some more research but this time with my personal laptop. For someone who didn’t want to pay $30 a month for something they could do in Excel, the best approach ended up being having a dozen Chrome tabs open, copying & pasting data into Excel, and spending an hour plus doing my own analysis.

It didn’t make sense why a lot of this data had to be so expensive and only available on slow, outdated platforms. The current B2C financial data market I feel is extremely disorganised and lacks a lot of tools that would allow people to be independent decision-makers.

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Where do you see your business in five years?

In 5 years, it honestly could be anything. We may have completely pivoted to something else, we may not exist, maybe it’s going public or sold to another company by then, maybe it’s become just a little side hustle. I’ve been trying to not get so lost in the distant future and instead think about our goals on a quarterly basis.

In the next 3 months, I see us polishing our current website (making it mobile-friendly, changing components based on user feedback, & allowing users to personalise their own experiences on it with tools like portfolio trackers, etc). The following 3 months roughly, I see us allocating a lot more attention to growth & marketing. This is is getting the word out, talking to a much broader and more general public, and hopefully, start making any type of profit.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

The biggest challenges will really depend on the decisions we make now (I mean literally what’s decided in the next week). There’s plenty of stuff we’d like to do, but only have so much time and resources available. Deciding what are really the most important things to focus on for the time being could be a make-or break-moment.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

Last week we just launched our beta which is available here. Just getting to that was a huge first step with roadblocks at seemingly every single step in building the app. Finally having a real site up and running allows us to do so much more. We can implement analytics tools and have discussions with users, we can talk to designers and hear opinions, and we can have deeper conversations about some of the technical challenges with engineers.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

A great piece of advice I got when at Merrill Lynch was that the best salespeople act like doctors. When a patient walks into a doctor’s office, the doctor doesn’t begin the appointment by showing off where they went to medical school, how many patients they’ve had so far, or how many lives they’ve saved.

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The doctor follows a classic sales technique called the 80-20 rule. They ask open-ended questions to the patient (what does this feel like? Where does it hurt? etc) and let the patient talk 80% of the time while the doctor talks around 20% of the time. I try to follow this same process when talking to users to get a greater sense of who they are and what they’re feeling rather than sell them on anything.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

When you’re at the very beginning of starting a company, you should really focus on 2 things only: 1. what are the customers saying & 2. building a product. Everything else is secondary and won’t matter if you don’t have a product and buyers. The only exception may be any legal issues founders need to take care of like incorporating and splitting up ownership.

Also, be careful about any money you have. It’s pretty exciting receiving any type of investment and you may be inclined to pay a little more for something to make your life easier, but you’re much better off saving that money, if possible, to prolong your run rate. An example might be, if you’re a tech founder, deciding whether to pay for an API or build a component yourself.

Even though it might save some time now, if that API plays some role in your product/value proposition, it really makes for a more solid company if you build that API yourself. Another option may be you do a free trial of that API, then talk to users, and if there’s positive feedback you then go back and build that component from scratch.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

Consistency… 2021 was the most chaotic year of my life, both professionally and personally. No 2 days felt the same, and my brain was all over the place. My main goal for 2022 is to build a consistent, methodical work-life balance. This means no big surprises and carefully crafted plans.

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