We speak to Tom McGillycuddy who cofounded UK-based social impact investing platform Tickr with Matt Latham
What do you currently do at tickr?
tickr is the first app solely focused on impact investing. It’s built for the next generation of investors to make money whilst having a positive impact on the world.
People can choose to put their money into specific companies spanning four separate themes:
Combination (a mix of the three)
In the background, we’ve built portfolios consisting of global stocks and shares all linked to the theme selected, and we blend these with bonds and cash to ensure that our users’ money is diversified, and invested in companies driving positive change.
We see ourselves as being the most convenient way for anyone to help change the world. The tickr app as you see it today – aligning investments with companies addressing big problems – is just the beginning. Finances should be stacked in favour of the user, and benefit the planet, and we’ll shake up the industry with these two things in mind.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I started working in financial services with Barclays in September 2011 and felt like I’d been let behind the curtain. I’d got a glimpse at how finance works, and realised it was largely inefficient, charged extortionate fees to unsuspecting customers, and had been designed to confuse ordinary people like me. It also seemed geared up to earn revenue and profit indiscriminately, with no real thought about where this money came from and the impact of it; and all of that just didn’t sit well with me at all.
But it wasn’t until I started at Wellington in 2014 that I properly learned about investing in a granular way. I was surrounded by a group of intelligent people, world leaders in their fields, and I tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could from them.
Doing so I became more convinced that if we could channel all this knowledge and money to companies and people doing good stuff for the world, then we could change the world in the process. This led me to impact investing: investing in companies to earn money and have a positive impact on the planet. I started working in the impact team at Wellington after convincing their Head of Impact Investing to take me on (with an impassioned caffeine-fuelled rant about changing the world!)
Whilst working in a team, investing money for pension funds and family offices, my cofounder, Matt Latham, and I started to think: why is there no way for us to do this easily with our own money? It felt like ordinary people were being excluded from something that we thought had mass appeal. So in 2016 we started working on the idea that would eventually become tickr, with the aim of bringing impact investing to everyone, especially people new to investing.
Who do you admire?
The brands we obsess over the most, and that will help you understand how we think of product development and our future, are Tesla and Amazon. And for different reasons.
Amazon started with books and are now the “everything store”. Why do I highlight that? Our goal isn’t to be the “everything financial services” firm, but what Amazon has become is: the most convenient way to buy stuff online. We must become the most convenient way for our users to have a positive impact & provide for their future selves.
Tesla is the greatest impact product company in the world to date. Why? They made electric cars cool. How? They just created the best car, and the kicker is that it’s electric. It’s the best car with a feel-good factor. And now, whatever they bring out is looked at through this lens: “X product is best in class, and it’s good for the world. Let’s buy it”. They can go anywhere – as long as it’s anchored in transitioning the world off carbon – and people buy it and get why they do it.
· Electric vehicles
· Renewable energy storage
· Renewable energy generation
· Building materials & installation
· Charging infrastructure
These things don’t traditionally belong together. But they all make sense because of their brand and mission. And every time they bring something new out, their target market and potential revenue expand.
We have to be the same for financial services. Initially, the best investment experience for our generation & first-time investors, with the kicker of impact. In the process, creating a brand that is so strong in this initial area with our mission so pronounced, that when we develop it into adjacent areas it makes total sense. In the process, allowing our users to amplify their impact with every interaction, so they can feel good about making money.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
We have made a million mistakes since we started working on the idea that eventually became tickr. But it’s hard to say we’d do anything differently, or change anything, because the mistakes made us what we are today.
The one thing we do more now than we did at the beginning is trust our instinct and act on it instantly. But learning that comes in time, and comes from making mistakes.
What defines your way of doing business?
We believe in embedded positive impact into everything we do.
The product we sell is one part of that, but we have to embody it as a business and as a team. It has to run through everything we do.
An example of this is our referral mechanism that we released late in 2019. Most investment/finance apps just give you money for referring friends, but we give money plus we plant a tree for each party in Indonesia, and we map the trees back to you in the app so you can see the tickr forest grow. So far we’ve planted nearly 10 thousand trees. Again, allowing our users to amplify their impact every time they interact with tickr.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Find a co-founder that you trust with your life.
Matt and I have been lucky in many ways along the journey so far, but the biggest bit of luck is having each other. To bounce ideas off, to de-stress and play therapist to one another, and to share the workload. We’re similar, but different enough to work effectively together, and we wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if we were doing this solo.
Something else that’s fundamental is to be astutely aware of what you’re good and bad at. Double down on what you are good at, and hire people in the areas that you’re weak. One of the main things founders have to do to succeed is to build a great team, and you can’t do that unless you’re self aware.