The Lighthouse Series features a weekly Q&A where we ask five simple questions to one of our CEOs. These questions are matters of the heart, mind and business. This week, we interviewed Joe Wald - the co-founder and CEO of Edison's recently exited portfolio company, Clearpool.
THIS WEEK'S CEO: JOE WALD
Joe is a Managing Director at BMO (previously co-founder and CEO of Clearpool), which was recently acquired by BMO Financial Group. Joe has a proven track record, years of industry experience, thought leadership, and public speaking. Prior to Clearpool, Joe was executive vice president at GAIN Capital where he ran GTX, the institutional electronic FX trading business. Prior to Gain, Joe was managing director and head of Knight Direct, Knight Capital Group’s institutional electronic trade execution business. Before Knight Capital, Joe was CEO and co-founder of EdgeTrade Inc., the pioneer developer of agency-only, liquidity seeking algorithms and direct market access technologies for the U.S. equities market. EdgeTrade was sold to Knight Capital Group in 2008.
1. First Joe, Congratulations on your sale of Clearpool! Can you tell us a little bit about how you thought about this strategic decision?
Thank you. We had a desire to accelerate our vision and objectives. We were faced with the choice of continuing to grow organically, raise additional venture/PE capital, or consider a strategic acquisition. We quickly recognized that we had way more ambition than what we could accomplish growing organically. As we started to evaluate the options before us, coming to this decision of a strategic acquisition was more about the partner and our shared vision of growth. BMO has the financial resources, infrastructure, and reputation that ultimately tipped the scales in us choosing them as the right home for our company.
2. I know Clearpool was a strong grower, but wasn’t it really difficult to complete the deal during this environment?
We were fortunate enough to build a strong relationship between the two firms. Before the acquisition, in the US, they were a customer and in Canada, a strategic partner. In my career, I have continuously found success in investing in building strategic client relationships early. My previous exits were a result of strategic acquisitions by customers. It is all the work that goes into developing these types of customer relationships that makes getting a deal done like this in our current environment. I would have to imagine without our partnership and mutual respect for one another, it would have been extremely challenging.
3. Looking back, what were some of the biggest surprises during your journey leading Clearpool?
We were pleasantly surprised by two outcomes during our journey:
- Buy-side Advocacy. The Sell-side brokers are our primary customer base. However, we were surprised by the favorable response from the buy-side and their desire to advocate our solution amongst sell-side brokers. We nurtured this advocacy and used it to reinforce our position to the sell-side broker that we were not in market to compete for their business but were there to help them better serve their buy-side client in a more bespoke and transparent way.
- Regulatory Outreach. The impact of our regulatory outreach propelled us as thought-leaders in this space. With limited marketing budgets, our efforts to comment on regulatory market structure proposals resulted in meetings with SEC Commissioners and divisions, congress, invitations for panel participation at conferences, and several press opportunities.
4. Do you have any advice for CEOs getting through these tough times?
While this is no surprise, CEOs have to keep an eye on their cash and manage it carefully. With such volatility in the markets, it is difficult to project what your next raise or valuation will be. It is a time to proactively and conservatively manage your burn. In addition, stay steadfast in your conviction and maintain clarity as to why you got into your business in the first place. This is no time to waver or doubt yourself; keep pressing forward.
5. How do you stay resilient yourself?
Two years ago, I started reading about meditation and the benefits it can have on your everyday life. I attended a four-day seminar on Ziva meditation, Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique that features a powerful trifecta of mindfulness, meditation and manifesting that not only has the power to uplevel your health but help you thrive at work and home. Meditation is something I practice actively on a daily basis -- it is the first thing I do in the morning after I wake up, always before work and often twice daily. It has been tremendously impactful on my life, creating a greater sense of focus, energy and clarity. I can confidently say that meditation has impacted my personal and professional life in a positive way. It has enabled me to live in the moment and be more present in a way that has enhanced my ability to make decisions and lead organizations. I would be remiss if I did not mention our amazing team at Clearpool and the energy they bring to work every day that makes me want to be better and do better for them.