Bond180 is a startup on a mission. Bond180 is an UK based tech company with a new initiative soon to launch in Singapore. Today, they remain focused on building their core product, the “Demand Management System” - which helps institutional investors deploy their data to bridge portfolio needs to primary deal flow.
According to Bond180’s Co-Founder, Philip Holbrook, the real challenge is
“bridging where we are now to our eventual end-state. Our focus is set on how we can best gain the traction we need in the present, to make our eventual goals a reality. We envisage a future reality where entire industries, including asset management, are empowered to realise value from their passive data-assets through deploying cutting edge technology like confidential computing and distributed ledger.”
We spoke with Philip to hear more about his founder-journey so far and to find out the 10 lessons he’s taken away from it.
Philip Holbrook is no stranger to the unconventional path - after spending the best part of two decades in the financial services sector, it was a career break and academic pivot that brought him to his entrepreneurial journey. “I went to study at Cambridge at quite a senior age and it was there, learning about new technologies like blockchain and breaking down barriers to innovation that led me to develop a deep passion for fintech,” said Philip.
When Bond180 joined F10, they had already gotten early backing from the University of Cambridge and R3. The team was intentional about stepping into the next phase of their growth when they joined the program and was clear about what they wanted to get out of it. “When you’re studying or doing something academic, you have an opportunity to think about the way the world works in abstract terms. But as soon as you get into an accelerated program, like F10, it becomes much more about traction,” Philip shared.
The team’s sharp eye for opportunity has certainly served Bond180 well. Philip attributes this to his instinct to “take a step back and think holistically to capture the big picture”. In his opinion, this is how founders can make sure they’re thinking about their solution in its full and necessary context - “really focus on the commercial applicability of what you’re doing because the major inhibitor to change are silos. This is when we only think about problems and solutions in a narrow space when there is actually huge potential for what you’re building in other domains.”
“We recognise the challenges enterprises face because every single person in our team comes from a deep tech or deep finance background,” Philip reflected. To the Bond180 team, this has been key to helping them build the proper roadmap to respond to current industry hurdles while working towards the end goal of what they’d like to make in the future. “The team always thinks about how technologies, new architectures and the combination of it all can effectively work with the existing system out there so that it’s ready for implementation. It’s a strategic process but one that our collective experience has prepared us for,” he added.
Founders are faced with tough choices regularly, and the Bond180 team is no stranger to this: “over the course of the past 18 months, we've had the opportunity at various times to do things a little bit easier and for example, to pivot away from our strategic focus.” At these pivot points, Philip explains, entrepreneurs have to choose whether they’ll waiver. “We've stayed true to our roots. At the core of that decision is a desire to deliver something truly transformational and apply our blood, sweat and tears to bring our solutions to fruition. Through taking the more difficult option now, we believe our solution will be of greater benefit to all users in the future”
Most entrepreneurs would agree, it’s essential to find the right first markets. In Philip’s opinion, Singapore was a clear choice to expand into: “Singapore to us felt different. Having that sort of vibrant and entrepreneurial environment, it was a key attraction. Moreover, the Singaporean regulatory landscape has always taken an innovation-leads-policy approach, rather than the inverse. In the context of a young, fast-moving space such as the DLT industry, this approach is ideal.”
When asked about where he draws inspiration and support, Philip quickly points to other founders around him. His first port of call was his brother, another founder, who he says was one of his first motivations to step out. “He’s not a finance guy but he’s always helped to make introductions to interesting people who can shed light on entrepreneurial topics.” Philip also spoke positively about others in his cohort, “We picked up a lot from other members of the cohort and the broader network, and actually, that helped us to where we are today.”
On reflection, Philip believes he should have recognised his inclination towards entrepreneurship long ago. “There was always a tension for me professionally between my desire to add value and the pace of transformation in an organisation. The agility of an early-stage business feels more natural,” he said.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and also for 2021, I've believed that change breeds opportunity, right? And the world is shifting - these types of crises accelerate that shift. The pandemic has also highlighted the inefficiencies in the legacy systems and processes we use, and brought focus on the technologies that could reduce those inefficiencies in the future,” Philip said. His take on the year that passed was of immense optimism despite the difficulties, and he encouraged other entrepreneurs to adopt the same mindset.
When asked for his take on what’s to come? “We see a huge inflow of capital into innovative endeavours. Look at the crypto space, for instance, where interest in DeFi and NFTs is mirroring the interest in Crypto currencies. Look at the institutional adoption of blockchain. Look at the traction that some of the innovators in financial services are now seeing, which has suddenly made people view the industry differently. I foresee there'll be a record amount of capital raised within FinTech and the broader blockchain space. In the context of a struggling economic environment, this may not be intuitive, but I think it will be a record period.”