Skye Hauptman, 41, is the founder and ceo of BlueMatrix. The firm was started nine years ago and now has offices in New York and Europe, employing 55 people. ExecutiveSurf caught up with Skye on a recent business trip to Moscow.
Tell us about BlueMatrix? What does your company do?
We provide an online (web-based) suite of applications to help financial analysts or stock researchers publish their ideas and disseminate them to their clients. The process has become quite regulated over the last decade and our applications try to make this process as quick and accurate as possible.
Our clientele is mostly the boutique or industry vertical investment houses. These are firms that do not wish to build a proprietary system but want to greatly improve the time it takes for their investment ideas to reach the marketplace. We find that most of the really innovative ideas and requirements come from the smaller type of firms; they are usually run by very smart people who have left the major global firms and have a more interesting approach to investment research.
What was your career plan? Did you want to be self-employed?
My career reminds me of a joke I once heard: “How you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.” I originally wanted to be a foreign exchange trader, but realised I was more interested in building something than trading bits of data on a screen. Being an entrepreneur was never really on the cards, and I spent a number of years working in pseudo-technology positions at various firms; Lehman, Merrill, UBS and Goldman. While working I taught myself programming; mostly to bring the various ideas I had to fruition. I find the idea of making a process better very satisfying.
My wife was key to making the transition to running a company. We started the firm in 1998, and we still run it together. Once piece of advice is to always choose your partners carefully. Trust is all important as is give and take when making decisions. I got lucky, she has been the lifeblood of the business and I could not have done it without her.
BlueMatrix is now in Europe; what are the key differences between the US and Europe in terms of business?
We have offices in London and I wonder whether the UK considers itself part of Europe. It seems to change depending on who is asking and in what context. The difference between New York and London is, at best, superficial. The two centres are joined at the hip. In the realm of technology, it is important to be open and to not assume you have all the answers. Americans, in a broad generalisation, have an innate trust in technology which is not necessarily shared by Europeans. You run the danger of coming across as arrogant if you don’t take the time to listen.
Do you have a recruitment policy and what do you see as the key differences between European and US employment laws?
Our firm has grown organically and usually by referral from current staff. We have actually hired a number of husband/wife teams. We run a tight group, and you get to know who will fit and who will not. Occasionally, and more so recently, we have gone outside our network to recruit from the industry.
In general, European labour laws are biased towards the employee and those in the US towards the employer. I may be a product of my American upbringing, but I tend to support the latter, especially when the firm is small.
Loyalty from both the firm and the employee is crucial. Regulations sometimes have a habit of unduly formalising what is essentially a very human relationship between people. That said, regulations are extremely important to protect discrimination on patently incorrect grounds; gender, orientation, race, religion and others like that. It is tough to get the balance right. The most important thing is to treat people with respect and kindness and you tend to get that returned to you.
What is your view on business jargon? Any good examples? Any bad habits yourself?
I have a huge disdain for jargon. We have banned the use of the term ‘touching base’. Jargon is usually used to make people feel either falsely smart or falsely stupid, neither of which is very productive. My feeling is that just speaking simply about something you like and care about carries all the weight you need.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Each time we get unsolicited praise.
How do you relax?
Road trips, with a mechanically suspect vehicle in countries where I do not speak the language.
What would be your ideal job?
Doing exactly what I do now. If I retired, I would show up the next day anyway.
What is your favourite film?
Pretty much anything by Michael Mann. Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice. He has a great style and he places great weight on how we are defined by the work we do. Not that work controls us, but greatness is usually remembered by what people loved to do.
What question would you like to be asked?
How are the kids?