A Day in the Life with René Lasseron, CTO at Fundwise
Next in our series of Estonian movers and shakers is René Lasseron. He filled us in on life as the CTO of Fundwise – the first equity crowdfunding platform in the Baltics.
- First can you tell us a bit about your job? What Fundwise do?
Fundwise is the first equity crowdfunding platform in the Baltics. We provide an online meeting place for both pro- and retail investors and early stage companies in need of funding. For entrepreneurs it gives an opportunity to involve their customers and fans, while also validating the market interest. For investors, it’s a way to invest in startups and local companies with minimal ticket size – considerably smaller compared to average angel investments.
My job as CTO is to manage our platform: work on long-term vision and strategy, analyse customer needs, prioritise features and work closely with our outsourced development team.
- What brought you to this area?
Fundwise holds its roots in Hooandja, the first donation/rewards based crowdfunding platform in CEE which was started in 2012 and has gained great momentum ever since. The same people who started it, began to see a need for crowdfunding small and medium sized companies as well, so Fundwise was founded in 2015 as the next logical step.
My own background is in software development where I have led product teams for last 20 years or so. In addition I’ve been interested in fintech industry for quite a while, so I feel joining Fundwise was a great match.
- What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
As the industry, market and regulations are rapidly changing, we do not have strict weekly or daily routine but usually we work online and have a couple of real life team meetings per week.
My days usually start at eight, going through my inbox which holds both unanswered emails as well as tasks. Each morning I go through the list, answer or complete smaller tasks and reschedule less important ones. In the end, only important tasks remain visible in my list so I can focus on executing them.
From noon to late afternoon I attend meetings and then I’m working again late night, around 9 to 23 pm when there are no external interruptions and when I’m usually the most productive.
- What kind of projects are you currently working on?
As Fundwise is planning to expand to other markets, the work never ends. We are also collaborating closely with the Estonian e-Residency team in order to provide the ever-growing e-Resident network with interesting investment opportunities, this also brings up the cross-border investment layer which needs to be developed, too.
- What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
After a prolonged stealth mode the launch of Fundwise in August 2015 definitely qualifies as such.
- What is the one app you could not live without?
Email app with scheduling/snooze feature such as Airmail or Google Inbox.
- What’s the best thing about working at Fundwise?
It’s exciting to be part of the rapidly evolving alternative finance industry. The numbers alone are impressive – the European online alternative finance market, including crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, grew by 92 per cent in 2015 to €5.431 billion, according to the results of the second Annual European Alternative Finance Industry Survey. The biggest growing market – UK – aside, Estonia, a celebrated fintech hub, ranked first in Europe in “alternative finance per capita”, at €24.
- Where is the after work hangout?
Our office is situated in the famous bohemian district Kalamaja, right in the heart of Telliskivi Creative City (Telliskivi Loomelinnak) which houses a growing number of cafes, bars, restaurants, performance venues, local design shops and also numerous startup offices – be it Testlio, Jobbatical or ourselves – Fundwise. So, there is always loads to do and people to meet.
At home, I work on my electric guitar drills – playing music is really an effective means to switch the rest the brain and switch it to a totally different mode.
- Who is your professional role model?
I have a very able imaginary friend who has admirable qualities from various international and Estonian personalities and I try to be a bit like him.
- What makes Tallinn a good city for startups?
Estonia, being home to numerous and globally known startups (Transferwise, GrabCAD, PlanetOS etc.), is sometimes called a startup of its own. Even though Estonia has merely 1.3M+ residents (Tallinn has 400k) and just 25 years of regained independence, it produces advanced technologies. So the IT-conscious President (sometimes called the President of Twitter) and the Instagramming Prime Minister are just the epitome of the startup-minded locals.
- Motivated, educated and talented workforce.
- A young country with a youthful “let’s do it!” attitude.
- Beautiful scenery and medieval architecture mixed with modernism.
- Lots of cafes, bars, restaurants and sports activities.
- Short distances (= no long commutes!) and free public transportation for locals.
- High English proficiency of younger generation.
- Low bureaucracy.
- What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
- A curious mind, eager to learn.
- Besides being a specialist in his/her field broader knowledge from other areas is a plus – only this enables the team to innovate and grow.
- Ambition and action-oriented.
- And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Never give up. Remember that Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and now the richest person in China failed a college entrance exam three times and once he ruled out college, Ma applied for 30 different jobs and got rejected. When Ma founded Alibaba in 1998, he was met with more obstacles – the brand did not turn a profit for the first three years. One of the company’s main challenges was that it had no way to do payments, and no banks would work with him. Ma decided to start his own payment program called Alipay. The program transfers payments of different currencies between international buyers and sellers. Many people told Ma this was the stupidest idea he’d ever had.