Specifically to our industry, I believe Bitcoin and decentralized ledger technology are a baseline innovation that will create more opportunity than most people realize. Underestimating the potential of a new technology is very typical in the early days of such. The Internet for example was greatly underappreciated in the early to mid-nineties.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Philippe Bekhazi, CEO of Stablehouse.
Philippe Bekhazi is CEO of Stablehouse, a dedicated FX exchange and custodian for stablecoin payments and trading of digital assets, based and regulated in Bermuda and serving the global stablecoin market. Stablehouse was formed in collaboration with the help of XBTO, a crypto-finance enterprise, of which Philippe is the Founder. Previously, Philippe held roles at Calypso Technology and Citibank, where he created trading, portfolio management, and risk management solutions for clients trading equities, FX, rates, and credit instruments. Philippe also spent four years at SAC Capital Advisors, where he helped build the global macro desk. In 2009, Philippe also founded Derivee Capital to incubate ventures in financial technology and other growth industries. Philippe holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Communications from Syracuse University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! I am the CEO and Founder of Stablehouse, which is a digital asset payment and exchange platform leveraging blockchain technology via “stablecoins” to enhance the user experience for making payments around the world — kind of like a Stripe or a Plaid but for these new digital assets. My background is in finance, specifically in trading global financial assets, from currencies to bonds via equities and their derivatives. I have always been very interested in financial inclusion and democratizing payments and banking, having traveled the world, I experienced situations where there was a complete breakdown of technology and solutions to address things as simple as paying for a taxi cab or a coffee in a fast, cost-effective manner.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
The biggest challenge when you start a company from scratch and put on the CEO hat is that you have to do pretty much everything, from legal to compliance, to operations, to solution and product design, to technological choices. Building an A team takes time and money that a startup usually doesn’t have a ton of, and because we are trailblazers in a new and unproven space, we need the best, most resilient, and most skilled people. It can be challenging to juggle all the moving pieces to get the company on a trajectory and a momentum that is sustainable to a point where everyone understands what they have to do. The ultimate lesson that you learn from this is that you have to hire well and delegate quickly so you can focus on the area where you can personally deliver the most value — and usually that is to make sure the strategy and the products and services being offered are properly thought out and executed.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Generally, you have to have a good amount of self-confidence and have quite a bit of patience because things don’t always happen right away. Flexibility in your thinking and being able to pivot is critical. Dogmatism is dangerous.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Be patient with ideas. Just because no one has produced a product yet, doesn’t mean it won’t work. Some of the investments we made via XBTO Ventures took years to come to fruition in terms of traction. The ideas needed some maturing to become a good market fit.
- Changing an industry takes a bold approach to using new technology and the brightest minds. Ecosystems are difficult things to create and sustain as they require network effects to take hold that can take time and a lot of creativity and confidence that it will end up working.
- When you can’t find an entrepreneur doing what you want to invest in, it doesn’t mean the idea is bad, It means you could be a pioneer. Do it yourself. For example a company like AirBNB started out as a crazy idea (rent your couch out!?) but ended up being a huge game changer.
- Listen to yourself — The more people think your idea is crazy the more you need to push on. Early on in the days of Bitcoin, everytime I mentioned that I thought Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies were something important that was worth my professional time, people truly were dubious and at times condescending. It took a few years for them to understand the paradigm shift.
- Specifically to our industry, I believe Bitcoin and decentralized ledger technology are a baseline innovation that will create more opportunity than most people realize. Underestimating the potential of a new technology is very typical in the early days of such. The Internet for example was greatly underappreciated in the early to mid-nineties.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Spend parts of your day clearing your mind and thinking about nothing. This can be while being physically active or by meditating. If you bulldoze your way through the day you will decrease your productivity and creativity and effectively waste your time and risk a burn out.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have many people who have shaped my life and inspired me to be the way I am. My parents were of course very formative figures that taught me grit and adopting a healthy philosophy toward life. My father would always say that when I was growing I could not sit still and encouraged me to take calculated risks early on.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
One of my goals in life is to focus less on myself and focus more on others, especially when it comes to availability of basic things such as electricity, banking and communication. Eventually, it will be all about others, in a personal setting and professional one. I think the saying ‘you have to help yourself before you help others’ is true even if it sounds very selfish at first. The point being is that you will have a lot more resources and time to dedicate to others if you have done everything necessary for yourself to be happy, healthy and self sustainable.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
A reputation for excellence and doing good for others, specifically by revolutionizing the world of digital finance across the globe.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I want to propel the movement to give all unbanked populations access to the basic knowledge, infrastructure and tools to access the global world of information and payments, so that they could help themselves to not be left behind.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am really active on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can also find out more about me on Stablehouse’s Twitter and LinkedIn.