We’re a fully remote team of about 20 people spread across 3 countries, all working together to build Cake and improve the financial well-being of every consumer. Meet the people behind Cake in this blog series. Today, it’s up to Davy, Cake’s CEO and co-founder.
Name: Davy Kestens Role: CEO Making Cake since: summer of 2018 Location: Hasselt, Belgium
Tell us about your workspace
I work from home almost all the time and we founded the company to be remote-only since day one. The fact that we don’t have an office at Cake was a well-considered choice. It is, in fact, one of the core values of our company. Create your own cubicle, that’s what we call it. I believe that everyone should have the freedom to define and create their favourite place on earth to work where they are happiest and most productive.🌴
For me, happiness and productivity are inseparable. I do not believe in the concept of work-life balance. Work is part of my life, and should not be an antithesis at all. So let’s just make sure that working is fun, motivating and fulfilling.
In addition, not having an office has a number of other advantages. It delivers incredible time savings and it also forces us to communicate openly, both internally and externally. All files, projects and tasks are shared and accessible to everyone. And not just internally.
And that makes me usually sit here, in my apartment with a view over the small town of Hasselt.😆 I like a neat and clean workplace. All walls are painted black. The ideal neutral background for video calls!
Before the corona crisis broke out, I was frequently on the road to meetings. But these days, almost all my meetings have been replaced by video calls. And I like it very much. I really enjoyed being at home during the lockdown period, as I can fully control my own schedule and work in peace.
And those who regularly make video calls with me know by now that I have to interrupt them regularly to open the door for a parcel deliverer. My wife and I do more than our part to keep e-commerce businesses running.
Chances are that in the near future I will start commuting internationally on a regular basis as well. We are preparing to enter multiple European markets, and therefore it is important to build up the necessary local contacts with partners, banks and investors.
What are you doing at Cake?
A third of my time I spend talking to existing and potential investors. As founder and CEO, my main task is to keep the lights on and ensure we have enough capital in the bank to achieve our growth plans. And that means explaining to investors countless times a day who we are, what our plans and ambitions are and why it’s a good idea for them to get involved in this story at some point in the future.
That may sound boring, but it is not at all. Despite the fact that I indeed have to tell the same story several times over, each time I get to interact with very interesting contacts that teach me new things, and expand my network, even while these interactions often don’t immediately result in an investment. It’s super interesting to hear how all those different people look at our project and what the reasons are why they are or aren’t interested in getting involved. That keeps me, our team and our product sharp.
Aside from that, I make sure that everyone in the team is on the same page. But actually that goes quite well, even when I’m not involved. One of the lessons I learned at the previous company I founded is that I have to make myself redundant in daily business operations. It is my task to build a scalable organisation and work “on”, instead of “in”, the company.
If I wouldn’t be around for a couple of weeks, things would continue to run smoothly, and that’s how it should be.
Lastly, I am involved with the larger strategic partnerships, customer deals and our international expansion. I keep in close contact with other startups in the industry, our advisors, and help out with recruiting talent. I am incredibly pleased that we have been able to bring together such a talented group of people with an incredible track record and knowledge to work on Cake.
I’ve paid a lot of attention to every hire we’ve made so far. And certainly for the founding team. You often see that start-ups are founded by groups of friends, all with similar backgrounds and skills. In our case, this was very different. Most of the co-founders actually didn’t know each other very well before we got started. I consciously searched for a complementary team with the specific skills, personalities and experience we needed to get started and we believed were needed to grow the company for the first decade.
What are you doing besides Cake?
Besides Cake, I’m mostly into social indulgence, to be honest. I adore cooking and going to restaurants. Inviting friends, acquaintances and business relations to a dinner at my home is something I love.
I also like to travel, but my personal travels are usually related to food as well. My wife and I select the destinations based on the restaurants we want to visit.😅
When I lived in San Francisco I also learned to sail, which I enjoy a lot. But here in Hasselt, which is land-locked, that skill is of little use to me these days…
What’s your most memorable Cake moment?
There are quite a few of them by now. The past 3 years have already been quite a trip!
19 July 2019 was a milestone, when we received our license from the National Bank of Belgium as a payment institution. That was the green light to double down on our efforts and actually enabled us to bring Cake to market.
And that’s what we did. I find it incredible at what speed we’ve made things happen. We managed to build a functional financial application with real users and customers in a very short time. At my previous company, it took us over a year and a half after going live before we signed our first serious customer. At Cake, even before we launched, we had already signed the first contracts with commercial partners such as Foodmaker and Lukoil!
And the day that we paid out the first €500,000 in cashbacks to consumers was also legendary. Because from then on, we really lived up to our mission of making bank accounts profitable again. In the meantime, we have signed over 100 commercial contracts and have nearly paid out €1 million in financial Rewards to our users. And that makes me incredibly proud!
On a personal level, the warmest moment was when someone from the team came to me at one of our onsite events to say how much working for Cake had changed his life in a positive way. He had had a very long career at a traditional bank and it took us quite a bit of effort to convince him to come and work for us. The fact that someone like that came to me after only just a few months to tell me how life-changing working for Cake has been for him was really emotional. He couldn’t have imagined beforehand how liberating it would have been to break through the rusted commute to work.That only strengthens my conviction that we are building something unique. Not only for the Cake users and for our commercial partners, but also for the Cake team itself. And this makes a lot of the stress of creating a start-up worth it.
What’s your favourite cake?
Actually, I don’t really like sweets. I don’t even like birthdays, let alone birthday cakes. 🎂
My favourite cake is actually the one we decimated at the end of the recording of the first Cake video. At the end of last year, when we first came out with our brand name Cake, we decided to have a video made right away to give our brand more meaning.
Sophie, who is in charge of marketing, and I spent the whole day on set among the cakes. At the end of the day we ritually destroyed the cakes that the actor and crew had been filming with all day. 🔨🍰
Any topping on the Cake?
We are planning on launching in multiple countries and will be expanding the team soon. We are still a long way from where we want to go with Cake but I’m hyped up about what’s to come. There is a massive potential for Cake in the market, and we’re looking forward to make a serious dent on the European market.
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