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 Age: 31 Role: CEO Making Cake since: summer of 2018 Location: Hasselt, Belgium
Tell us about your workspace
I work from home almost all the time. 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 look for their favourite place on earth 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.
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. Even our roadmap, for example, is publicly accessible.
And that makes me usually sit here, in my apartment with a view over the small village of Hasselt.😆 I like a neat and clean workplace. All walls are painted black. The ideal neutral background for video calls!
And there are a lot of them. 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 But these days, almost all my meetings have been replaced by video calls.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.
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 to be in the Netherlands on a regular basis as well. We are preparing to enter the Dutch market and therefore it is important to build up the necessary local contacts with partners and investors. It is even most likely that I will start living part-time in Amsterdam.
What are you doing at Cake?
Half of my time I spend talking to existing and potential investors. We are a start-up and currently still have a very limited turnover. As founder and CEO, my main task is to keep the lights on. 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.
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, even when these interactions 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 do or don’t get involved. That keeps me, our team and our product sharp.
The other half of my time I make sure that everyone in the team is on the same line by aligning high level with the different team leads. But actually that goes well, even without me. One of the lessons I learned from my previous company is that I have to make myself redundant in my daily business operations.
I am involved in large strategic partnerships and together with Peter van Hees, Head of Product at Cake, I outline what the Cake app should become. But if I wouldn’t be there for a couple of weeks, things would continue to run smoothly, and that’s how it should be.
I also keep in close contact with our Advisory Board, which is truly valuable to me. I am still really pleased that we were able to involve people with such an incredible track record and knowledge in Cake.
I am also closely involved in the recruitment of new people. Although our team is almost complete for the time being. We have over 20 full-time employees and I would like to keep this core team relatively small. Of course we will have to expand as Cake grows, but I’d rather do that by deploying specialised suppliers than hiring more and more people on a permanent basis. The team needs to remain fast and flexible.
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 6 co-founders actually didn’t know each other very well when we got started. I consciously looked for a complementary team with the specific skills, personalities and experience we needed to get started.
Where you can meet me operationally is in the support conversations we get. Through the chat function in the app our users can ask questions or make suggestions. It is mainly Peter, Pieter and myself who answer all these questions. This can take up quite some time, but I find it very pleasant and insightful. The feedback from our users is extremely valuable and motivating for us. That’ s when we see how our product is used. We are already frequently making adjustments to our product based on the feedback from the Cake users.
What are you doing besides Cake?
Besides Cake, I’m mostly into indulgence, to be honest. I adore cooking and going to restaurants. Inviting friends, acquaintances and relations to dinner is something I love.
I also like to travel. But it’s also always about food. 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, that skill is of little use to me.😅
What’s your most memorable Cake moment?
There are quite a few of them by now. This has already been a hell of 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’re making things happen. We managed to build a functional financial application with real users 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 first paid out Rewards to Cake users 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 already paid out almost €50,000 in Rewards to our users. And that makes me incredibly proud! A Cake user already earns an average of €3 a month, and this will only increase as more commercial partners join us.
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 comes to me after a few months to tell me how life-changing working for Cake has been for him is 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 creating value in all areas is exactly why I started 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?
Despite the fact that we are launching a lot of cool features this summer, we are still a long way from where we want to be with Cake. There is a massive potential for Cake to evolve into an app that will have a serious impact on how the average European will deal with his finances.
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Tell us about Cake, an interview with Davy