Bambu: Building a Startup Is Like Being Thrown out of a Plane Without a Parachute

Based on the interview with Ned Phillips, Founder and CEO at Bambu

Ned Phillips from Bambu

What could lead an experienced finance professional and a serial software developer to “risk it all” by venturing into the world of startups? At age 50 and 35, respectively, Ned Phillips and Aki Ranin embarked on an entrepreneurial journey with Bambu.

The journey started with a dream to empower the future of digital wealth through their company. In their first year of founding, they launched the first robo-advisor in Singapore with Crossbridge CONNECT. Four years later, today, Bambu has $14M in funding, millions in revenue, and 18 clients worldwide.

What was the history of Bambu’s creation? Why did the company decide to focus on wealth management?

Why B2B digital wealth software (or Wealth-as-a-service)? The idea was sparked when Ned worked in a B2C fintech company and found banks always asking if their software could be sold to them.

Ned Phillips: We started Bambu in 2016. I had 20 years FinTech experience and I was watching other people build fintechs, so I decided to do one myself in wealth management. At the time it was a space that didn’t seem to have too much technology in it yet, so I thought it would be a good idea to build technology in it.

How has your company evolved and what are the biggest achievements that you’ve already accomplished?

Ned Phillips: It has evolved by hustle rather than planning. So we had an idea we just started building around it, rather than having a long term plan. One of the biggest achievements that we’ve already accomplished is that we’re working with, I would say, five of the biggest financial companies in the world from HSBC to Standard Chartered to Franklin Templeton. That’s our biggest achievement. Being trusted by some of the biggest brands in the world. 

What features give your platform the greatest advantage over competitors? Why?

Ned Phillips: That it’s built by the new generation. It’s not built by people who built finance before. We’re built by people who are doing and who are thinking about it in a new way, rather than people who have been in the industry for a while. The advantage is that we have a new set of thinkers, rather than people who are trying to kind of unlearn what they’ve already done.

What partnerships and integrations does your company have? What are the planned partnerships for the nearest future that you can already share in public?

Ned Phillips: Our current partnerships include Franklin Templeton, Refinitiv, Standard Chartered and AWS. We have some big partnerships that will be announced soon, particularly in the software space. We’re a global company. So we’re also going to be announcing some global partnerships. We want to be the global leader in B2B wealthtech. 

What is your team? Who are the key personas for your product and how do they affect the business?

Ned Phillips: Our team is great. We have 70+ people around the world, from so many different backgrounds, nationalities, and skills. Everyone in the team is a key persona. That might sound cliche, but it really is everybody or at least anybody who has ever done something here. And you know, they affect the business simply by being awesome.

What is your engineering team? What technologies do they use and how do they accomplish their daily activities? What’s your software development process?

Ned Phillips: Our engineering team is a group of passionate and talented individuals. They work hard and play hard. Our main tech stack is JavaScript driven, leveraging on ReactJS in the front-end and to a large degree NodeJS in the back-end with addition of python and C# for more computationally heavy tasks. The infrastructure is powered by AWS.

They will be assigned to a cross functional team that follows scrum methodology in order to achieve the project’s objectives. That means there will be delivery iterations known as sprints and daily stand-up (basically a time-boxed status check) to ensure the project is moving to the right direction. There will be code review done as well between the engineers, so they all can learn from each other in a more practical way.

The methodology followed within Bambu is the Hybrid Agile model,which is the combination of Agile   methods   and   other   non-agile   techniques   which   in   this   case   is   the   waterfall.   It   is   often considered   a   smart   approach   for   adopting   both  Agile-Waterfall  methodologies   as   the   hybrid method  retains  the   clarity   and  tracking  system   of  the  waterfall method,   while   embracing   the adaptability and flexibility of agile.

Do you exchange knowledge and experiences within your team? Is it necessary for engineers to understand finance to build a successful product?

Ned Phillips: Yes, we do. So one thing you should know about Bambu is that nobody will ever have their own office, ever. That puts us all in one open space, which allows everybody to learn from everybody.

It’s not necessary for our engineers to understand or have a background in finance. In fact, most of our engineers did not understand it. But do they need to be willing to learn it? Yes, absolutely.

In what way do insights you gain from your clients help you enhance the service? What features did you implement after clients’ requests, if any?

Ned Phillips: It’s our clients’ customers who help us enhance our service. Our business model is to charge for funded accounts. So when somebody is saving and investing, then we are able to charge our clients. We always learn from what our customers do and respond to that.

What are the challenges Bambu faces the most? What future steps are you going to undertake to overcome them?

Ned Phillips: I think it was Reed Hastings, Netflix founder, who said that building a startup is like being thrown out of a plane without a parachute, that’s disassembled, and you have to assemble it before it hits the ground. Every startup, you’ve got to build products, raise money, employ a great team, all of that. It’s challenging trying to get it all right.

To overcome those challenges we like to say that we use: hustle, humility, hard work, honesty, and positivity.

Are there any trends you can see in Fintech? Are there any trends in 2021 that nobody speaks about?

Ned Phillips: Yes, everybody does it now. If you have money, you’re interacting with FinTech. And that’s the biggest trend. Five years ago, people were confused on what FinTech is. If you’re listening to this, you’ve interacted with FinTech today. That’s just a base statement. Another trend is that the people who build the best fintechs have no experience in finance. The biggest misconception is that you need somebody from a large investment bank or a big consulting firm to build a FinTech. The greatest applications in FinTech are built by people who come without experience. If you’re a bank and you’re listening to us. Go out and hire an entire team who’ve never done banking before. They’ll build you the best bank ever.

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