Tom Higgins is the founder of Gold-I, a World leader in low-latency trading systems integration that specialises in connecting Retail Brokers to Institutional Brokers, Banks, Exchanges and ECNs.
Hi Tom, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
Great thanks. We just had a new baby who is 3 months old now, to make 4 children, so life is busy!
Tell me how you initially got into business?
I went to Kings College, University of London, in 1984 after finishing my A-Levels and read Electronic Engineering. This was a 4 year course which allowed me to spend one year working for GEC Research where I designed digital telephone exchanges. All this experience taught me that I did not want to work in Industry, so I became a Management Consultant for PA Consulting Group; specialising in Financial IT systems. I worked at various Financial Exchanges until I decided to do an MBA in Finance at Cass Business School in 1997. An MBA really makes you think about what you want to do so after working my way up the career ladder and heading a number of IT departments in the City I ended-up in a deep recession with no job. My “Plan B” was to do some consulting work until I could find a real job, so I used my extensive network of contacts and got some work with a US company. This allowed me to earn enough money to start employing professional IT staff and begin the journey of creating Gold-i from nothing, to the market-leading company that it is today. My simple message is, “Work very hard, Put Customers first, and never be complacent!”.
How did the idea for Gold-i come about?
When I was employed as CTO in a brokerage I was looking for a software vendor to do what Gold-i does now, but there was no one anywhere that I could find. This gave me the niche that was necessary to break into a market, and so Gold-i was born.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
Getting the first paying client and delivering what they need, at an acceptable price with the right quality is really hard, and you end up working 7 days a week until you can afford to employ staff.
What is Gold-i? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Gold-i is a World leader in low-latency trading systems integration that specialises in connecting Retail Brokers to Institutional Brokers, Banks, Exchanges and ECNs. Retail Brokers need to offer multi-asset trading on a global scale, but still be able to 100% manage their risk. Our suite of software, including the Gold-i Gate Bridge, The Gold-I Gate Link and the Gold-i BoldOns addresses this need.
How have you been able to fund it?
We are 100% self-funded and have always taken the approach of growing as we increase revenue. We have grown our revenue by nearly 100% year on year every year since we started and have no external investors. When you are spending your own money you spend it wisely.
What sorts of advice do you having for entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their startups?
Self-fund or go for Angel investors if you can, then you can concentrate on building the business with no pressure for an exit strategy. If you do have to take VC funding then ask lots of questions and get professional advice.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
I remember walking into my new serviced office; just a computer and me! The phone rang that morning and an old colleague of mine wanted some consulting work, and that was our first paid piece of work. This lead to more work and allowed me to start employing staff. I was never worried as this was my first start-up so I did not know that I needed to be scared!
How did you initially get traction?
The MOST important thing I did was to use my network of connections. I had a reputation as good listener and a great technologist and that sticks. Now many of our clients are old colleagues or friends of theirs.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
We always put the clients first and will help them any way we can. This is a fundamental part of our company Values. We believe in the power of PR to continually reinforce the Brand and what the company does. Most companies think PR is just advertising but it is so different. We use PR to put our name in the heads of all of clients, potential clients, and partners. We passionately believe in partnering with other companies as together we can deliver a winning solution. We do what we do superbly and partner with those who have the same approach.
Choosing the right revenue model has also helped greatly. All our revenue is on a transactional or recurring basis, so every month we know what will come in, and new clients add to that recurring revenue. This allows us to scale up the business effectively, have certainty of income, and also increases the value of the company.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Feeling that I am driving a business that is now vitally important for our clients. We are regularly approached by investors, which is flattering, and have won many industry and general business awards, which validates our business.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the Gold-i team for 2013?
We are launching the new Gold-i Matrix multi-asset liquidity management tool that combines liquidity across the asset class range, centrally risk-manages, and then offers that liquidity to brokers. This is very exciting new product and has been designed with input from a number of our loyal clients to solve a real business need.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Choose a niche that you are really exceptional at so you can have an edge. Use your network of contacts like you have never done before. Be bold and make sure people remember you by your dress, website, and general image.