Our Chief Operating Officer, Fred Becker, has been a member of Aire’s Executive Team since November, 2019. Here’s a quick snapshot of his work, and life beyond.
1. Coffee count so far today (14:05)
☕️☕️- and preferably a double espresso.
2. Why Operations at Aire?
My decision to join Aire last November was a simple one — the opportunity to come in and make a difference in the direction and growth of the company really excited me.
Aire is working to solve an important (and hard) challenge in consumer credit and joining early on in this journey certainly plays to my strengths and previous experience of scaling technology start-ups. I wanted to be part of a company where I could work in partnership with an inspiring CEO to drive the company forward — so when I heard about the opportunity at Aire, I was instantly keen to get involved.
3. Tell us about the day to day activities of an Aire COO?
Heading up our Operations Function at Aire means my role spans a number of different business areas, including Finance, Compliance, Legal, Customer Success and Infrastructure. Day-to-day, I spend a lot of time with my direct reports. On any given day, this can range from working with Kate, our Customer Success Manager, on an agreement with one of our partners, to liaising with Barnes, our VP of Finance and Legal, looking at budgeting costs and vendor management — and anything else in between.
But the role of a COO is also external facing in responsibility, building relationships with our customers, our investors and our board. At a strategic level, I also spend a lot of time with Aneesh, our Founder and CEO, and the rest of the Executive Team, planning for the company’s medium and long-term future — this includes setting our company-wide OKRs to deciding on future areas of focus for the business.
4. Tell us about your career prior to joining us.
After initially training as a lawyer at George Washington University, I went on to study Finance at London Business School. Ever since, I’ve always worked at fast-growing technology companies. My first role since arriving in the UK was at British Telecommunications (BT) and since then I’ve held jobs at UBM (now Informa), Skype, Lumata and two VCs. Most recently, I held a senior operations role with Symphony, the communications fintech based in Palo Alto, California and was involved in scaling the business from 30 to over 300 employees.
In the UK, I’ve long been involved in the start-up and VC communities and currently sit on several boards of early stage technology companies.
5. What’s been your biggest accomplishment since joining Aire?
My first few months at Aire have been focused on structure and alignment. We’re a small business, but bringing together all the disparate parts of the company under a company-level set of OKRs has been really rewarding. The recent work we’ve done around budgeting and forecasting has also been significant — we’ve set-up a highly detailed system by investing proper amounts of time to get this done in real detail. This kind of discipline is always important — whatever stage or size company you are — but in times like these, where the world looks a little more uncertain than it did a few months ago, these are critical for safeguarding the runway of a business like ours.
6. What are you most looking forward to getting your teeth stuck into next?
As a dual citizen, Aire’s US expansion is particularly exciting to me. The reception we’ve received in the US so far combined with the scale and size of the market opportunity makes the laying of our US foundations a really cool development for us. Added to this, the hire of our new US legal counsel, Tom Oscherwitz, adds serious momentum to this stage of our growth.
7. How do you stay up-to-date and keep your skills sharp?
For me, it comes down to people. I keep up a constant dialogue with our advisors, vendors and suppliers — this insight is an important source of knowledge that shapes my decision-making. And it’s particularly useful in uncertain times like these. For instance, I often run with a friend of mine who’s a CEO facing a number of challenges at his businesses at the moment. By sharing ideas on our runs, we bounce strategies off each other that give me a more rounded view of my role and help me to spot opportunities around the corner I may not have otherwise considered.
8. What’s the podcasts/ blogs/ books you swear by?
Choose Yourself! by James Altucher. A great read, it encourages all of us to be entrepreneurial in managing our careers and cites the importance of developing creativity and independence in how we work.
Another recommendation is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Written in 1946, Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who writes beautifully about a philosophy he’s named ‘Logotherapy’ — in essence, it’s about finding happiness and meaning in your life. A really inspiring read.
9. Any personal projects outside of work?
Lockdown living certainly has its limits!
But my daily run on Hampstead Heath (often with my wife) keeps me in the fresh air. A light-hearted hour or two in front of Netflix is also important during this time — protecting our mental health is crucial and we must keep upbeat when things feel so uncertain in the world. Having completed a cooking course with my wife and daughters before lockdown, I’m also doing more and more cooking at home.
And the most important? Eight hours sleep a night. If you’ve read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker you’ll need no convincing…!
— Thanks for your time, Fred