Wharton FinTech
Published in

Wharton FinTech

Building a Financial Communications Unicorn — David Gurle, Founder and CEO of Symphony

In today’s episode of the Wharton Fintech podcast, Miguel Armaza is joined by David Gurle, Founder and CEO of Symphony, a financial services communications company that’s helping individuals, teams and organizations of all sizes improve productivity, while meeting security and compliance needs.

David Gurle is an author, inventor and visionary. David’s ideas have influenced the major trends in consumer and enterprise communications and most recently secure collaboration technologies over the past two decades. He founded and ran Microsoft’s unified communications products (Skype for Business) and as Global head of collaboration services at Thomson Reuters, introduced the first consumer-to-business federated communications to the financial services industry. After the sale of Skype to Microsoft where he was the GM of Skype’s Enterprise Business, David founded and sold Perzo before founding Symphony. David sits on the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s International Technology Advisory Panel, is regularly featured on global broadcast (CNBC, BFM, Fox News) and print media (TechCrunch, Le Monde, Wall Street Journal) and is a sought-after keynote speaker on the future of the digital workplace, collaboration technologies, workplace diversity and all matters related to privacy and information security. In January 2020, he received the Légion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit for military and civil service.

Symphony transforms the way users communicate effectively and securely with a single workflow application. Forging a new path in the financial services industry, Symphony is designed to help individuals, teams and organizations of all sizes improve productivity, while meeting complex data security and regulatory compliance needs. Symphony was founded in October 2014 and is headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, with offices in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Stockholm, Sophia-Antipolis and London.

In this episode, David shares:

  • The powerful influence of his international upbringing and how it influenced him to pursue a career in telecom at ETSI, France Telecom, Microsoft, and Skype.
  • How being an intrapreneur earned him the title of “great, but unmanageable” by his first supervisor.
  • The key role he played in Microsoft’s surprising acquisition of Skype.
  • The thought process that helped him identify a problem in secure persistent communications and how he devised a winning strategy for Symphony.
  • Challenges and anecdotes of Symphony’s early days.
  • The importance of building a no-trust, end-to-end encrypted system, and why that has made a big difference between Symphony and other similar solutions.
  • Why it’s critical to give users control of their data and the reason he thinks Apple has taken the wrong approach.
  • Symphony’s recent explosive growth of 300%-400% in light of COVID-19 and how they have quickly become one of the top mission critical applications for their customers.
  • His vision of a post-COVID world and the steps Symphony is taking to implement a flexible work policy.
  • Valuable entrepreneurial advice and achieving childhood dreams.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts I SoundCloud I Spotify I Google Podcasts

— —

Episode Transcript

Miguel Armaza 01:59

Thank you, David, and we’re extremely happy to have you on the podcast. Thank you for joining us. Can we start by you telling us a little bit about yourself and your personal background?

David Gurle 02:11

Miguel, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me. My name is David Gurle. I am the founder and CEO of Symphony. I’m calling you right now from South of France, where we have our largest research and development center. My background is a bit like you, Miguel, I’m a third culture kid, I grew up with parents as diplomats in Middle East, which gave me a great perspective of point of views and understanding that there is nothing right and there is nothing wrong. And, and very early on, I had a passion for technology engineering. And when I was a kid, I want to be a pilot. So we’ll come to that later. But I ended up being a telecommunications and software engineer and the journey took me a while To France, my parents retired and then all around the world I moved over 20 times in my life. And so I’m definitely the modern Nomad of these days.

Miguel Armaza 03:13

Fantastic. So, you jumped into the communications industry way before Symphony. Do you think your background and your upbringing of moving around the world and having to communicate with several people around the world influenced your career decisions?

David Gurle 03:34

You couldn’t be more right, Miguel. It absolutely did. You know being the only child of French and English diplomat made me very quickly realize how important communication are and the right way of communicating is among interested parties. Obviously, I never thought that I could go and improve our mind to make sure that our intents, emotions, and thoughts are communicated most effectively, but I always felt compelled that when we are apart, we should have the right communication capabilities and tools to convey those feelings, those thoughts, those emotions in the most high-fidelity way as possible. And that really led me to have my degree in engineering and an influence ever since everything that I have done today.

Miguel Armaza 04:32

That makes a lot of sense. And so what was your career path after university and what did you study?

David Gurle 04:39

So I studied a master’s in computer science and telecommunications. I went for a double double major, which felt very compelling to me because I couldn’t see a communication system without the computing and processing at one end, and I couldn’t see a computer without communication on the other hand, so for me, bringing this to worlds made sense, and that was, I think, very convenient and very useful for me because I was a software engineer who really understood networking and telecommunications. And that gave me an incredible perspective of how complex the systems that we need to put in place to make us actually have this very conversation we are having right now. And from there, I was able to go into I would say, the right organizations so that I could hone my skills.

Miguel Armaza 05:34

Right. Can you tell us a little bit more about this organizations? So, what were the influences that they had on you? i? I know that you spent some time at Microsoft at Skype, obviously. Well, very well-known companies and very well-regarded brands. How was it from within?

David Gurle 05:55

I always I crafted my carrier. I’ve never been the guy who did his work and then got hired, I always went to the companies that I wanted to work for. With a very, very, I would say defined purpose. And I wanted, I started my career at France Telecom, which is now Orange. And the reason I went there is because at that time it was the monopoly of telecommunications was a very powerful organization. And I knew I was going to learn a lot. And so that was fantastic. And after that, I went to the standardization universe where, you know, you had to interconnect all these information systems with each other. And there was a company, ETSI, European telecommunications, Standards Institute. So all mobile phone technologies come from there as a matter of fact, and that really helped me to understand the broader picture and that was something I really wanted to do. And then, you know, I realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur one day so I hit the opportunity to go to Israel and I spent a year and a half in Israel in a high-tech startup, which was an incredible experience. From there, I realized that in order to get Voice over IP, which eventually turned into Skype, as we know, I need to go to Microsoft, because Microsoft owned at that time, the computers to the operating system. And it was important for Microsoft to understand and to implement the right software. And I was blessed to be accepted to work for Microsoft. And that gave me an incredible distribution capability of my ideas to hundreds of millions of users. That kind of laid the foundation for real time communications, as we experienced today. And then eventually, I ended up with Skype, which obviously, got acquired then by Microsoft by the team that I used to run at Microsoft, and eventually this all led to Symphony.

Miguel Armaza 07:56

That’s interesting. Could you have envisioned your same team at Microsoft eventually at acquiring your other employer after a few years,

David Gurle 08:09

Not at all. No, we were at war with Microsoft, let’s be clear, you know, you’re competing with Microsoft. And Microsoft had at the time MSN Live Messenger, which they eventually just name Live Messenger and Skype had Skype. And so, you know, we never thought that the Microsoft team will even, you know, approach us to be interested in having a conversation with us, but you know, it happened. And it was really easy, because obviously I knew the cost of Microsoft, I knew the cast of Skype. So obviously, it was a team on both sides who were in negotiations for many, many months. The familiarity, obviously of our relationships helped a lot to smooth the process.

Miguel Armaza 08:56

Got it. Now obviously this were very well received. Respected brands and top places to work at. Was there something also about the internal corporate culture that attracted you to these companies?

David Gurle 09:09

Microsoft? Yes, the others I didn’t really know. You know, when I went to foster comm for me, it was all about, okay, you know, they own end to end telecommunication value chain, so it would be good to understand through their knowledge and gain experience. So I didn’t even know what the culture was, you know, when you’re out of college, you know, you’re looking for it, oh my god, I’m going to be free. I’m gonna have my money I’m gonna be away from home. And, and so that was the culture I was looking for. Over time, obviously, I start realizing that the culture matters a lot, actually is the most important thing. And, and I’m a very competitive person, first with myself. And then obviously with whoever wants to compete with me, so I’m never shy of going into the field and playing the field. And I always heard it microservices. very competitive organization. And I just wanted to go there to play there just to see how good I was. And so that was very attractive for me. You know, after that culture wasn’t as determinant in my choices more than the experience that I was going to accumulate to eventually become a well-rounded executives. And so I didn’t pay attention to it, because I wasn’t ever considering to have the rest of my life in that company. For me, it was no like an internship and I was just gonna go and, and learn for a few years what I need to learn before I move to the next thing, but certainly for Microsoft was an important step in my career in terms of this competitive culture that they had.

Miguel Armaza 10:42

So tell us about the early days when you started considering the possibility of launching Symphony was it a jump directly from Skype? Was there some time in between? How did the process work for you?

David Gurle 10:58

You know, I was always an intrapreneur. So this is kind of, you know, free electron guy in a larger organization who always comes up with his own ideas. I still remember the first manager with whom I had my review, he told me, David, you know, you’re great, but you’re unmanageable. And so I think that that stuck with me. And so I knew that at one day, I need to have the courage and the risk mindset to do it on my own, as opposed to within the realm of a larger organization. And so in the early days, after Skype, I decided not to continue at Microsoft, I did not want to go back to Microsoft, I did what I need to do there. And I knew it was time for me to, to do it on my own fly with my own wings. And I got inspired by a number of events, as well as my background to start Symphony

Miguel Armaza 11:57

got it and How did you assemble the initial team? And how did you approach finding a specific problem to solve?

David Gurle 12:10

Let’s start with the latter part of your question, the problem. So I knew I want to do a start up on my own. I was in Silicon Valley. So in my No, everything was aligned, then I start figuring out what I want to do. And it call it boils down to what I know, and what my experiences and then I looked at, okay, I’ve been building this software products, and it’s been used by millions of people. Now, you know, the question is that, is there still pain points that need to be addressed? And if so, do I have the knowledge and skills and the courage to do it? I realized that we were still in the beginning of that, I would say real time communication experience. And there were things that I could bring to the market that others may not thought about, or maybe they will be Not executing properly. So that’s how I identified the problem of secure communication secure, persistent communications will be the best way. Today, we use slack. But that’s literally what slack is, is secure persistent communications. And, and from there, I was able to validate the idea by basically testing it with few people that I knew in the industry. And I’ll be honest with you, I was hoping they would say no, that it’s a stupid idea that I should not try. So this way, you know, I would have said, how you see, you know, I’m not just ready for doing this company on my own. But no, they thought the idea was compelling. And that’s how it all started. Then the team was the hardest thing to assemble. You know, when you have no money to begin with, and you’re going to have to start everything from scratch, who is the right person? Who are you going to trust? Will they trust you? So it was really, really hard, obviously, we made the right choices. But I can tell you that I struggled with it for the first six months.

Miguel Armaza 14:08

I’m guessing you relied on some of your past colleagues. But why were all some of your other strategies to recruit this team?

David Gurle 14:17

I definitely did. deleted later stage me out. I originally was kind of afraid of disappointing them, you know, I work with them in the past, you know, we had built things together and here I was coming with a completely new idea with no funding. Who knew it was gonna be successful? I was afraid of disappointing them. I was afraid of failing them. You know, what if I were to bring them to this startup and be fail, and you know, I will jeopardize, you know, their well-being? So I waited until I knew that I wouldn’t be in that position. And then I could and then I went with a vengeance after my network. And, and that was obviously proved to be the right strategy. In the beginning, I went to people that I didn’t know. And that’s why it was so hard. Because the trust factor doesn’t exist, the knowledge factor doesn’t exist. And so you have to pretty much start from scratch not only the product, the concept, but also the relationships among the people who are going to build that. And together that was really tough.

Miguel Armaza 15:31

Understood. Let’s talk a little bit about your entry market strategy. Your product is widely supported and used by the financial sector, particularly large banks, not only are their users but they are also investors. Right. Was this a strategy that you devised from the onset?

David Gurle 15:55

Yes. So you know, when you In the universe of telecommunications, you understand very quickly that network effect is what matters the most. And, you know, during the era of fax machines, we used to say, you know, one fax machine value is equal to zero, but 10,000 fax machines value is 10,000 times 10,000, which brings us to Metcalfe’s law. And so if I was going to build the communication product, I needed to find a way to build the network. And I need to make sure that (A) it will go and grow fast and (B) that I will reduce the time it takes to build it. So there were different options. One is to build a consumer one. And I didn’t feel compelled to build a consumer product. I knew the enterprise market better. And then an enterprise market. There was really no network of enterprise customers. There’s no Facebook for enterprise. I mean, you know There’s, there’s no LinkedIn for enterprise. You know, LinkedIn is for you and me individually, but not for an enterprise. So there are no, there is no network of enterprises. In other words. So that’s what I felt to be the key area for me to focus on. Obviously, you need to understand the requirements of that, etc. And then which sector was the next big question? And, and I knew financial services because I worked for Thomson Reuters for about seven years. And that gave me the insider view of how that market works. And I realized that I will not be successful unless I bring to the table all the large financial institutions, not only as a customer, but also as an investor. Play the field and grow the business, grow the maturity of the product, grow the team, you know, until you arrive to a point of no return. And that’s how the strategy was put forward. And when I say we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t chosen the path, because it’s, uh, the barrier to entry in financial services is extremely high, you know, very long sales cycles that could not have been addressed if we didn’t have the resources and the backing that we have.

Miguel Armaza 18:14

Yeah, you’ve kind of answered my next question, which is gonna be about getting inside a bank as a vendor is extremely hard. And it’s obviously even harder as a startup. Right? How were those initial conversations? And why do you think you were successful as an early stage company?

David Gurle 18:36

Here’s a funny anecdote for you. I mean, you have to the first customer we tried to go to as Goldman Sachs. And I knew that, you know, if you were to, if you were able to convince Goldman Sachs, we could convince many others because they are they are one of the top leaders in this industry. So when I went to Goldman Sachs and presented what we were doing, the chief security officer (CSO) looked at me, I said, is your solution in the cloud? I said, Yeah, it’s in the cloud. And then I said, Okay, David, you know, I don’t want to sound too negative, but over our dead body will we deploy anything in the cloud that is, so mission critical as our communication infrastructure. And I. And I said, Okay, please stay alive and healthy. But I think there is a way in which we can make you comfortable and happy and richer by taking your communication selector away from your own hands and putting in the cloud and letting it run by us. And so it took me like about six months, obviously, to convince them that they don’t have to be killed in order to deploy a solution accidentally and they Because, you know, our biggest investors and one of our biggest advisors and partners even since. But it wasn’t easy. I mean, every bank sometimes took us two years to convince institution even though they were invested.

Miguel Armaza 20:14

Six months. And now that that is that’s, that’s quite a good result. So, you know, your product has probably become more relevant than ever, in the last two, three months now that we’re undergoing this major crisis. You know, let’s talk a little bit how you evolved over time. And also what has been your experience very recently because I know that you’ve been experiencing some fantastic growth.

David Gurle 20:46

Indeed, to set the context right. We have to understand how this market works. You know, when you’re selling an enterprise software, whether it is running inside a corporation or outside in the public cloud or whatever, Service, you are not in the freemium model like zoom or slack or other players like, you know, like Dropbox, you are actually selling to very discriminating buyers, and who are basically going to tell you that if you don’t do this come in, don’t even come and talk to me. And then even if you do it, you know, I’m going to take my sweet time to go and buy and therefore your product. Our sales cycle is about 360 days on average. So it takes from inception to selling and then another six months before they deploy the first instance of Symphony to an end user, even though it’s a fully cloud solution. So you can see that there is a significant latency and friction to do this, why I’m saying all this. Well, the consequence of all that is that you have a very linear growth. You’d never see the exponential nature that the hockey stick that car that you see in, in network effect businesses on the consumer universe. So it was pretty much like that for us all the way to March, you know, you’re growing and nice 40% year on year and in this market is exceptional, but you are not seeing you know, the 300 400% growth that, you know, others are seeing, obviously, when they are selling their plan, they have reached this critical mass from which network effect kicks in. But in March, everything changed. We somehow already, first of all, the product was ready. Second, the infrastructure was ready. Third, the performance was ready. So all the stars are aligned, and we had no idea what was going to hit us. We were just still projecting the same type of growth, which was very predictable. You know, the epsilon of our forecast is like, one and a half percent, plus or minus, just to tell you how well we knew, you know, our business But then it tripled by, you know, 300% triple. We’ve never seen it. I was like looking at the numbers and saying, you know, is something wrong? You know, are we are we counting double counting triple counting what, but we are recording here? No, what happened was we were already at the right time, and our customers were already at the right time. You know, it’s an unfortunate event that COVID-19 happened, obviously. But through those turbulent times, you really emerge as the top mission critical application that our customers need and care about.

Miguel Armaza 23:35

Yeah, understand that, for example, cybercrimes are on the rise, particularly during these times. I imagine you know, so the same for online fraud criminality. It really underscores the importance of Symphony right because this is something you are tackling head on. Can you talk about some of your features to help prevent online fraud and criminality?

David Gurle 24:05

You know, the security chain is extremely important. I’m going to say, value chain, you cannot just address one of them and hoping that the rest is going to stand on its own. So everything is kind of linked. And remember when we talked about what Symphony is, is this federated network of companies, and it’s kind of the United Nations of, in this case, it’s united companies in financial services, and you can only achieve that if you put the right game gates for protecting the data integrity, the identity and obviously putting the right rules for compliance to regulations that these companies have to obey. So we started with authentication, no, KYC Are you onboarding you know, anybody or you are only onboarding people who are being authenticated, verified, you know, by the right authorities to be who they are. And that authenticity is where the security chain starts. And then you know, the links that bring those people connect those people and entities together, that need to have flawless security capabilities which we’ve invented, you know, you need to make sure that nobody, including ourselves, can access those infrastructure elements. And without, you know, even if we had any malicious person, even our organization, you know, they cannot read our customers data. So that means that you have to build a no trust system, which is like, don’t trust anybody, especially yourself, and build the framework and technology and process around that. And so, when we build that, we were able to basically push the trust zone to where the data resides which is in our customers. So That made the whole difference between Symphony and any other solution, because in another solution like Microsoft or slack or zoom, you have to trust them with your data, you have to trust them, that they will not do something wrong. And we don’t think that’s safe. Because even if you do your best to build a trustworthy organization, you can make mistakes. There are stakes sometimes in which rogue governments can come and attack your organization without you knowing anything about that. So for all of those reasons, we built this true end to end encryption. And what it means is that we never processed any data that belongs to any of the users within our customers in the cloud. Thanks to that unique exclusive capability of Symphony. Anybody who can access to the cloud will not be able to see the data that’s been exchanged among the parties, whether that data is Messages, files, video streams, audio streams, whatever it is. And that creates, I would say, the most secure infrastructure, by no means that it is an impenetrable one, because you can never be sure, you know, in the interface of technology and internet, but it is the most secure. And that’s how we’ve been able to protect our customers to this day. And, and why, you know, we’ve been able to stand high on the ground of, you know, competitive pressure that we’ve seen from even very large players like Microsoft.

Miguel Armaza 27:35

Fascinating. talking a little bit about encryption and security, obviously, multiple governments around the world for a number of reasons, have had this conversation with companies, you know, apple, obviously comes to mind. Have you had some of those conversations, you know, around maybe Accessing some of this data and you know, how do you manage this balance

David Gurle 28:06

We have, and I really think that Apple is doing the wrong way. And I’ve even expressed that my view in a Column I’ve written. Look, I’m gonna take it to your personal world, Miguel. You probably live in a house or apartment. Am I correct? Yes, correct. You have a door? Absolutely. Do you have a key to the store? I do. Okay, who owns that key? Is it you? Or is it like the company that you are using the apartment for? I guess I just have a copy and they own it. Okay, so you have a copy? Right? If they were to go and break into our apartment, without your knowledge will they violate to though? Hard to tell? They would because it is your property right? But timber is behind it or is your property and you have a contract, a legal contract, etc, that protects you and you have a key to protect. Well, I found it very odd that what we have in our analog world doesn’t exist in our digital environment. Okay. So in the digital environment, we have all of our assets in this digital form, it is either locked in in a computer or in a phone in the form of a computer. But the encryption keys are not your property. And that I think is a fundamentally wrong system. And if we had the equivalent of that key that you have to go to your apartment available to you, then what is really possible is that since you own that key, first of all, you can give the key to me. If you wanted to, if you trust me if I need to water your Plant while you are going on vacation two weeks in Bolivia, okay, or you have a cat that you need to be taking care of, you know, during the day, you cannot do any of those things today in this digital world, in the what I call this hypocrisy of protecting you, Apple does not give you the option to own your encryption key and manage your encryption key for all of your content for all of your assets that really define you these days in 21st century. And they say that, you know, for the benefit of your protection, they are actually going to even prevent the access of that data to anybody else but you and that I think is violating your very much your individual rights. And then it’s also creating a huge problem with the law enforcement. And because law enforcement is what keeps our society stable, and we need to have mechanisms for those people to have access to the information. And today somebody can subpoena you, you know, issue a warrant and come to your apartment to see whether you are doing something malicious. But I do not see why this cannot be replicated into the digital universe. As long as you own your key, you are legally responsible for that. And everybody trusts you for this. So that’s been my opinion from the very early days. And that’s the reason why at Symphony, we do not own any encryption key. We cannot imagine your encryption key. We let our customers to build the encryption keys, manage it rotated, delete it, whatever the hell they want with it, it stares in the same way as the key to your apartment is yours. Obviously I’ve had a number of conversations about that. But I never wanted to go for what I would call a big fight because it’s a very I would say toxic political environment, because you have all these people on one hand who are going to be very extremist of I want to control everything, I will monitor everything. And you have the exact opposite of those, you know, everything should be entirely protected and 100% private, and neither are right. That’s not how society works. There’s always a compromise in society. And those parties are not willing to do the compromise today. And I didn’t want to meddle into that battle. But that doesn’t prevent me from having my opinions, of course.

Miguel Armaza 32:36

Very interesting. And let’s talk a little bit about the world post COVID that you envision, obviously, you know, hopefully, we will go back to some level of normality and, you know, maybe your growth one, you know, be at the 300% levels that you’ve been seeing how do you envision banks and then your customers eventually going back? And do you think you will experience some attrition?

David Gurle 33:07

I think they want to go back. And so am I, and I’m sure that so many other people, but it’s going to be a different, new normal. And that difference is going to have more flexibility in the way we work. I think that’s the biggest takeaway, and it’s not like everybody will work from home, but some people are most people will be able to work from home some from some time to time. And in that new reality, we’re going to have our own position. I don’t think we’re going to grow another 300% post COVID. But I haven’t seen either us going back to the level of where we were, you know, you can always expect a bit of attrition, but I do not see it at this stage. Because people develop habits. And if your product is beneficial to their use cases, then then you know why they should switch? So we will obviously continue to fight for, for that longevity. And people now have come to expect from their organizations that degree of flexibility, which I think is good for humanity, and it has a number of benefits, which I believe will make our organizations we serve way more productive than before because they will have happier employees.

Miguel Armaza 34:27

On this flexibility point, are you and then the executive team at Symphony, implementing new rules for more flexible type of commuting?

David Gurle 34:44

Yes, we will, we are, and we will when we are still all working from home. We haven’t developed a full policy yet but you know, I tell you about my ideas. And obviously I need to make sure that the managers and executives are all aligned with that. That, you know, if you want to work from anywhere in the world for Symphony you should be able to do so. You know, as long as it makes sense, you know from a time zone or from your personal lifestyle point of view. In the past, we had a very, I would say, not strict but relatively strong policy that we want everybody to be located in the same location because there are a number of benefits for that. But you know, we have been the most productive on the last three months that we’ve ever been and, and maybe we should learn a lesson or two from that. We will and I don’t want to do like a top down decision I want to make sure that the organization feels was the right balance and with that we will change it will be different.

Miguel Armaza 35:56

How about on the business front? How do you envision road ahead for Symphony?

David Gurle 36:02

First of all, I hope I can see our customers face to face again. The you know, I used to travel 270 days a year. So you can imagine that, you know, I certainly have a cabin fever these days running very high. I think the business for us is booming, not because we are providing only the communication infrastructure in these difficult times for our customers, but also that communication infrastructure is bringing a slew of innovations to, to them as it’s a platform as well, you know, we, we connect people with programs and programs and programs and, and it’s all trusted. So suddenly, you know, you have this compound effect that comes and people are not building solutions. There is more than 1000 applications that people have built over Symphony, which is, you know, as much as we have increased our number of users We will also increase our number of chat bots that are testing With a bill that is going to continue because the compound effect the momentum that has been built creates now its own wind its own tailwind. So you will see more solutions coming from our customers, we will see more b2b2b2c use cases. And our customers are never shy of now letting us know what new chapters they want us to open. And we are working on that with them already on a number of initiatives. So all I can tell you that it’s very exciting. It’s very busy and fun at the same time.

Miguel Armaza 37:36

David, we have quite a few listeners who are either current entrepreneurs or also aspiring founders. You have the unique position where you’ve been an executive at established companies, but now you’re also an entrepreneur. Do you have some reflections on you know, taking the jump and launching your own company?

David Gurle 37:59

Of course I do. I think if you have a dream, you have the courage and the means to pursue it, just go for it. Even if it ends up being not as successful as you dreamed about it is still worth it. Because you’re truly putting yourself in the field. And it’s you, your person, your corrector, your strengths and weaknesses. You know, your network, your ecosystem, your knowledge, your experience. I think there is no better way for human race, to make progress in that without exposing yourself to reality. And that reality hits you very fast when you’re an entrepreneur. You just can’t hide behind a rock. You can’t go, you know, into a cave and hope that it will pass you have to face it. So, I think from a personal development, it’s one of the best ways I mean, you know, imagine that you if you are a competitive runner You’re just running against yourself versus, you know, you try to go from your league all the way to Olympics, you know, that’s kind of the same thing here and having this opportunity to test yourself and grow with it. It’s an incredible adventure well worth the modern adventure of the human race. What it takes to be successful. First of all, you have to define what success is. It’s a different thing for different people, and it’s unfortunately a moving target. I can tell you by experience. You need to be kind of stubborn, but it’s a bit of your own ideas, but not too much that you don’t listen. You need to have a good dose of optimism, but realism works better. You need to be super resourceful. You know, it’s like Castaway with Tom Hanks, and get stranded in this island. He was resourceful, he survived and resourcefulness for an entrepreneur is one of the key assets to be a good people person, because it’s not the ideas that make the businesses, it’s the people. So you need to have your interpersonal skills good enough that you can attract people you can sell to people you can attract investors, and you need to be a bit lucky. Because luck plays whether we like it or not, in this world, you know, I think Fortune favors the bold is a very, very important saying. And then, and I’ve seen it being true many, many times over the course of my years of as an entrepreneur. So I hope that this inspires people. You know, people say, don’t ever give up. It’s okay to give up. It’s okay to admit failure as long as you learn from it, and you take it as a lesson. You can’t win all competitions, right? Nobody ever does it. Roger Federer doesn’t win all the Grand Slams. No? He is the greatest tennis player of all time. But when he fails, you know, yes, he’s angry, and he analyzes his game and he’s even more motivated for the next time. So think about it this way. And, and seek advice. You don’t know it all. And it’s always good to learn from others whenever you have the opportunity to do so.

Miguel Armaza 41:30

Fascinating. Fascinating. Well, thank you, David. Before we go, one last question. You mentioned your childhood dream to become a pilot. Did you ever achieve this dream?

David Gurle 41:41

Miguel I did. I took after we sold Skype to Microsoft, six months off, six months. First time ever I took time off and I went to a flight school in Palo Alto. I said, you know, can I learn to fly? and of course, you Can. I said, Okay, I’m in, so yeah, I want to fly all the way to professional pilot. And I had to pleasure of accomplishing my childhood dream and also learning a lot from from being a pilot, there are so many common themes that you see as a pilot is that you see as a business leader. It’s been a great experience, I highly encourage anybody who has even the slightest dream of flying to go out for a try, you know, it will teach you a lot, if not for kind of fighting your fear of flying because sometimes you might be fearful of that I was, I can tell you before, but it’s over now.

Miguel Armaza 42:36

Excellent. Well, David, this has been a treat for myself and every other listener. So we do appreciate you coming here and once this is all over, we’d love to see you on campus.

David Gurle 42:50

It will be my pleasure, Miguel, and thanks a lot and I wish you all a lucky, successful, and healthy future. Thank you very much, David.

Miguel Armaza 43:02

Thank you for listening to today’s episode of the Wharton FinTech podcast. If you like the show, please consider leaving us a review or letting us know in the comments. If you want more content from our FinTech community, please subscribe to our podcast channel and find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and the rest of social media at Wharton FinTech. You will find interviews, articles, videos, and much more analyzing all aspects of the industry. Signing off. I’m your host, Miguel Armaza.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store