Vivi Friedgut is the CEO and founder of Blackbullion, a digital financial wellbeing platform for young people, providing an overview of available student funding and financial skills training.
It can be accessed for free by over one million students at nearly 50 partner universities, colleges, and other organisations, worldwide. This is an extract from her interview where she explains why marketing was her first hire, why startups should only raise funding when they really need it and why govtech is ripe for disruption (https://www.uktech.news/news/founder-interviews/blackbullion-founder-20221007).
What was the most important early hire you made?
I hired a marketing person first because we had to get the language around financial education and wellbeing out there. At the time, talking about money was still taboo.
Certainly, nobody was talking about financial literacy outside of schools, and some charities – the conversation’s snowballed in the last five years. We were building a category. So, the product was essentially secondary to creating the right conditions for Blackbullion to exist and grow into.
What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?
Bootstrap as much as you can and raise as little. Taking too much funding, from too many people, too early, means you simply lose too much control of the business. You always want to be building. So, raise only when the opportunity cost of not getting funding is bigger than securing it.
How do you prevent burnout for yourself and your staff?
Regular breaks and recharges are how you reward yourself because it’s impossible to sustain high level of intensity. I read a lot, I cycle, I box, and importantly I try to make sure I get seven hours of sleep. My team’s wellbeing is honestly my top priority. We’ve always had a super-flexible culture and I’m obsessive about respecting out-of-office working hours. A few times a year we close the company for a team-wide personnel day.
Excluding your own, what’s a sector that’s ripe for disruption?
I think govtech is an exciting space right now. How we use technology to better influence government policy and outcomes, create more transparency, accessibility, and accountability. And at the same time counter attacks on our democracy. It blows my mind when I think of where this planet would be if great minds and smart tech were being brought to bear to solve so many problems in our society – from the climate emergency through to inflation. The opportunity for innovation here is simply huge.