Last night Salesforce released its report for the 4th quarter and showed that it generated more than 7 billion USD in income. Salesforce was the main inspiration for me when I decided to start Bricknode in 2009.
Salesforce was one of the first companies in the world to offer a cloud-based Software as a Service to businesses and started in 1998. Salesforce began with a CRM application and to offer it they had to build a core cloud application infrastructure. As the years progressed Salesforce started offering the core infrastructure called Force.com. It also expanded into other product areas together with its marketplace offering and promoting their API for others to use and expand upon.
This is extremely similar to what Bricknode is doing, we started with Bricknode Broker for what is called financial intermediaries. These are banks, brokers and FinTechs which distributes financial products and acts as an intermediary between the issuers of these products and the consumers.
When developing Bricknode Broker we too had to create a core, we call this the operating system for finance. The main challenge for Salesforce in 1998 was technology since there were no infrastructure available for offering cloud based software.
For Bricknode the pure technology behind cloud infrastructure has never been the main challenge. Instead, the challenge was to invent how the so-called financial domain objects should be represented in code in a scalable and generic manner as to not “hard-code” stuff and get us into a dead end. Another challenge was regulations, in 2010 both potential customers and regulators told us that it was not possible to have financial applications running in the cloud…how wrong they were.
Many have failed along this journey and not taken the time to create a real granular transaction engine as the base. It took Bricknode between 2009 – 2021 to do this right and test every aspect of our invention with multiple real life customer cases. It took Salesforce about 10 years to build up the core technology and launch into a real core software provider in the cloud for a whole industry.
Just as Salesforce did when they launched Force.com in 2008, Bricknode is now morphing into being a multi-product company based on a strong core system, which customers can use to build their own applications through our API.
Our own research shows that a majority of neobanks are choosing to use a SaaS provider as their core when it comes to offering financial services and we think this trend will continue to expand. The Bricknode core now covers everything from investments and loans to wealth management and you can basically build anything related to finance on top of our operating system.
During the last few years we have been able to build a number of new killer applications within specialised areas like Bricknode Deposits and Bricknode Fund Manager which are scheduled to be released to the market during 2022. On top of this we are also developing an application for mass adoption globally that does not require the user to be a regulated company. It will help every company around the world to organise their finances and automate administrative activities around this including accounting, reporting and keeping up to date with all of their investments and liabilities. This will be a “must-have” addition for companies to connect to their regular accounting systems so stay tuned!
Salesforce, together with many software companies, have seen their share price fall more than 40% since the end of 2021 even though they continue to show unbelievable long-term growth. The scalability of the offerings are governed by how dynamic and generic they are, if the solutions are custom made for each customer then the scalability of future profits does not exist. A while back I wrote my thoughts on how to value a SaaS company which you can read here.
The gross margins for Salesforce are at 75% while the total operating margin is at 3.5%. If the system is built right the total operating margins could eventually go to +50% but that would mean that the company would slow down its investments into future growth and in reality, borrow from itself which Salesforce is not interested in.
For the last 10 years Salesforce has grown its annual revenues by 25 – 35% each year, this is what having a long-term view can do for a company, like the view that Salesforce founder Marc Benioff has had all the time. Salesforce has become a purpose driven company that does good things for the world and is a great inspiration for today’s entrepreneurs!
By focusing on products and helping customers reach their goals my dream is to make Bricknode into a Salesforce for finance. I love building software that I can use myself and with the coming mass market offering from Bricknode we are truly closing the circle of building the network between financial service providers and financial service consumers where we are driving change to a more efficient and user-friendly way of consuming and delivering valuable financial services to companies and individuals.
As I and Co-CEO Erik Hagelin wrote in the last quarterly report, 2022 is when we use our newly acquired body at Bricknode (going from around 20 to 40 staff members) to launch all our new products on top of our great core and establishing ourselves as the premier software, network and infrastructure provider to the financial industry and all its stakeholders, consumers and providers alike.
This is what really motivates me personally to burn the midnight oil and be highly engaged in coding our applications!
Just as Elon Musk is now able to help Ukraine with internet, I hope one day that Bricknode will be a global powerhouse for good and make an impact through technology!
In order to simplify things and make this method (CreateInternalInstrumentTransferOrders) less error prone we have removed the two properties AcquisitionPrice and AcquisitionPriceAccountCurrency. Instead we calculate these from their corresponding value-properties: AcquisitionValue and AcquisitionValueAccountCurrency.
But don’t worry, we will not make any breaking changes for you but instead deprecate these properties in the API method in the near future. Be aware though that these properties will not correspond to any functionality.
AcquisitionPrice = AcquisitionValue / Units
AcquisitionPriceAccountCurrency = AcquisitionValueAccountCurrency / Units
We also let the user decide if they want the system to use a default behavior to set the Acquisition values or not. If the properties AcquisitionValue and AcquisitionValueAccountCurrency are submitted with any values apart from null we will use the formulas above to set their corresponding Acquisition prices on the order. However, if these values are submitted as null, the system will default these values on the order. The Acquisition values set on the order will be as follows:
The acquisition values on the transactions placed on the account where the asset is transferred from, will always be calculated from the acquisition price taken from its origin position.
The transactions on the account where the assets are transferred to will depend on whether the order will result in a technical trade or not.
If the order will result in a technical trade the acquisition values will be calculated from the current price of the asset that is transferred. An order that will not result in a technical trade will calculate its acquisition values from the current position and will therefore obtain the same values as for the transactions placed on the account where the asset was transferred from.
FinTech startups looking for a breakthrough in today’s marketplace are facing a few key hurdles that I am trying to address, and offer solutions to, in this article.
Having founded, operated and sold a few FinTech companies during the last few years I have faced most of the issues that come up along the way including technical, financial, legal, operational and sales related issues.
I founded my first company in 1998 where I published stock market research online through a web based service and became a writer of some premier periodicals in Sweden. I then built automated algorithmic trading systems and set up my US-based hedge fund in 2001 before opening a prop trading operation in Sweden in 2003.
In 2005 I founded and built the company that is currently called ayondo and is scheduled for a listing on the Singapore Stock Exchange during the first half of 2017 at a valuation of $158 million.
During 2010 I sold most of my stake in ayondo and founded Bricknode to develop a horizontal financial platform to work as a “Windows for finance” in order to support any future financial services that I wanted to build. Since then Bricknode has invested over $3 million of income from customers and over $2 million through our own investments into building the platform. In 2010 I also founded Willebrand Invest (publ) where we invest in FinTech companies and can help entrepreneurs to realize their dreams within the financial technology industry.
In 2011 I built the first financial service as a vertical on the Bricknode platform in order to offer peer-to-peer lending for consumers and companies through a company group that is now called LendyTech with 30,000 customers generating more than $3 million in revenues and more than $1 million in profits.
The lending software is offered by the company called Lendysoft who is a partner to Bricknode.
So, through this journey I can truly say that I have faced most issues that a FinTech entrepreneur will have to deal with and the key challenges, in my humble opinion, are the following.
Each time I wanted to build a new service I was faced with building a new core from scratch with the regular stuff like user management, accounts, transactions and then connecting add-on services like market access, credit lookup services, quote providers…and the list goes on.
With Bricknode Financial Systems (BFS) as the core a FinTech company can get access to a number of partners as illustrated by the image below and the standard objects needed to quickly build the user facing application by utilizing our open API.
A recent example of this is Pensiono, a pension innovator in Sweden, who is using BFS to launch a whole new insurance company, Svenska Fribrevsbolaget, with a very short time to market.
BFS is offered as a SaaS product where you only pay for what you use, simply navigate to the website and sign up with your credit card and you have the complete toolkit to build your next FinTech application starting at $60 per month!
Well, once you have built your beta version, or your first full version for that matter, you need a way to try this on customers. With Bricknode you can publish your application in the Bricknode Marketplace or ask to be introduced to a few Bricknode customers that could try your application and submit feedback to you. This way you can structure a limited live test of your service and communicate directly with a select number of your prospective customers.
The third hurdle is financing, depending on your service you need staying power, or a HUGE amount of staying power!
If you have the resources the best way is to put your money where your mouth is and fund the company yourself initially. This way you show investors that you are assuming the most risk yourself and that you truly are putting both your finances and your standard of living on the line for this dream of yours.
If you don’t have enough resources you need to look for some initial funding or partner up with someone who can help you with this. I funded my first trading operation with $1,500 from my father, had a job during the day and worked nights on my own operation before I got accepted to a government program for people that wanted to start their own companies and got a minimum salary sponsored by the government for the first 6 months.
To help entrepreneurs through this step I am using my investment company, Willebrand Invest, who can make some seed investments and together with my loan platform Kreditborsen.com (Loan Exchange) we can also offer partial loan financing.
Bricknode also has a FinTech sponsorship program where you can get access to the whole platform in a sponsored way.
Finally, a new FinTech company usually needs support and education along the way and Bricknode has a huge Knowledgebase with information of how the financial marketplace works on the inside. If you get accepted into the sponsorship program you will also enjoy free admission into the educational events offered by Bricknode and free support with your use of the platform and its API.
To summarize, me and my teams have spent the last 7 years developing a platform and support system for bringing better financial services to the market for you and I to use and we are just now offering this publicly.
Consider where you are with regards to the four hurdles and I hope you get in touch with us if you have some crazy ideas!
Financial institutions, at least in the Nordic region, is still used to buying core business software like back office and broker solutions that are delivered to them on a server of their own and installed by a team of consultants while paying a large up-front fee. In 1999 Salesforce was launched and the way business software was sold was at least in my mind changed forever.
I am myself a Software as a Service junkie and an avid user of Atlassian, Salesforce, Office 365…you name it. In my opinion there is no reason for every “buying” software where you get a DVD or some other form of deliverable because the value of this piece of code has already depreciated to almost zero.
There is absolutely no value in software if it is not being constantly developed and has a team of developers behind it to make automatic upgrades and increase the usability of the software. This is for the same reasons why you should never own any asset that is depreciating because that is in fact a liability. For example, don’t own a car, lease it! Don’t own software, lease it!
This is why we at Bricknode are offering a completely online based software platform now without any contract terms. You sign up for almost nothing and you can cancel the service within the first 30 days and get your money back. If you want to cancel later, fine, just send a cancellation and you are off the hook.
Now, back to actually paying for what you use. My colleagues know that I absolutely love Atlassian, I use it for most of my companies that I participate in. For my smallest company I pay $30 per month and for my largest company I pay $2,000 per month and guess what, those fees correctly reflect the value I am getting from the subscription for each company.
The same thing goes for Bricknode, where else can you get a complete brokerage solution including back office, broker interface and customer portal for $70 per month? If you have 20,000 customers and you use a lot of add-ons you will be paying above $10,000 per month but that should reflect the value that you are getting from using the software or something is wrong with your or our business model.
Imagine that a financial institution would like to offer a new product, maybe they would like to offer online trading of shares to their customers or distribution of mutual funds. For $70 per month they can have a complete system up and running with Bricknode the same day it is ordered. They can try it on a few customers, see if the business is promising, if not they can just discontinue the service and cancel the software.
I think that everyone building a FinTech company should think in this manner and work with monthly fees like this, remember, if the incentive is not there for developers to incrementally improve their software service there is no value for customers or the company producing the software. Without ongoing development and with the current speed that the financial world and regulatory environment is moving any financial software will be dead in 3 months. Well…maybe a little bit exaggerated but you get the picture!