Exclusive interview: Co-founder of Finder Fred Schebesta
You’re in New York at the moment. How do you find New York versus Sydney in terms of doing business?
It's faster, it's alive, it's rawer, it's meaner, it's quicker. It's like Sydney's like a little country town and New York's a city.
We're living in a world full of distractions. What’s your best way to focus?
Well, I don't have a TV. I'm not on Facebook. I don't read the news. I am not on Instagram or any of those things. Obviously, I have accounts there and people like to follow me, but I'm not a consumer of that medium, and the attention economy, I don't really participate in those. I just sample the pieces of content that I want to sample. And a lot of that is actually in books, which require a lot of focus and attention to go and read. I switch all my notifications off. You can't call my phone either. It doesn't actually ring, it goes immediately to voicemail. I don't read email. I just stopped.
I sent a text to you today before this interview and you replied within seconds. Is that usual?
Yeah. So I'm in real-time contact with everyone that I need to deal with and speak to. I'm connected globally through text. Texting is fast, email takes forever.
If someone says to me: "I sent you an email." I'm like: "I'm not going to read it. Just tell me what you said." Because we're right here. I'm ready to go. Don't waste my time. Don't make me go and read your email. Just tell me what you have to say and I'll give you a decision now.
So you think emails have seen their day?
Emails are like basically horse and cart. If you like horse and cart, yeah. But if you want to live in the real-time world of 24/7 cryptocurrency where it's a reality, sending an email is like sending me a letter. It's the same. I can't wait. It's already done. I'm already finished and done while you sent me an email. I'm finished. I've already moved on to three other things. I've spoken to three other people at the same time concurrently and brought them all together in a group and we've distributed the context and finished and actually closed out what we're talking about.
So WhatsApp is the mode of choice?
I like Signal as well. Signal's really good.
What’s your best productivity tip?
If I have anything I want to do or anything I need, I immediately figure out who I can delegate it to. I don't go to supermarkets. I don't buy things online. I've bought nothing from Amazon. Nothing, personally. Nothing.
I just don't purchase. I don't engage in purchasing. I don't clean clothes. I don't wash dishes. I don't clean houses, and I'm not a gardener. I do none of that. I don't engage in anything to do with anything other than the things that I productively want to engage in, everything else has been delegated or assigned into a system.
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That sounds like a good system now. But what about before you had lots of money, how could you delegate then?
Well, for example, I would never cook. Never. Very rarely. And so I didn't have to store food and I didn't have to go and clean anything because I never had anything to clean. And then I outsourced my laundry so I didn't have to buy a washer and dryer. I didn't have to buy powder. I didn't have to work out how the machine works, and didn't pay as much water. It all balances out. Yeah sure, you're paying a little bit extra.
Basically there are cost-effective ways to do the same things, except it requires a little more administration. You’ve got to go and get your laundry. You need to find the cheap places to go, and when to go. But there are cost-effective ways to do it, and they're probably not as healthy as cooking at home and they're definitely not as cost effective as cooking at home, but I just don't have that time capital. And so I essentially outsource anything I possibly can.
So, I just didn't clean my clothes very often. All of my clothes are black. I buy extremely strong, long-lasting clothes. So I don't have to go and repurchase them. I don't want to deal with that. I don't want to go into a shop, a supermarket, or a pharmacy. I don't want to go into any of those places. It's a whole set of decisions I don't want to deal with.
What's your favourite reading material?
I read books. I like to read books on the fundamentals of things and then I build on that. And then when I read articles about a topic, because I know the fundamentals, I’m just topping up my knowledge. So I try to read the fundamental books, like How To Win Friends And Influence People, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The E Myth. I'm reading Common Stocks With Uncommon Profits. That’s a book I should have read 20 years ago.
When you’re faced with something where you don’t know what to do, is there a method you use to figure it out or help you with decision making?
I have this belief that the universe is always here to tell me the answer and I just have to ask and be open for reception. So, when I get to a problem I don't know the answer to, I'll just pick up a book. I have a whole bunch of books that I haven't read and they're just next to my bed and I'll just open the book and just start reading. And then as I'm reading the story, it'll just dawn upon me what I need to do. I've done it so many times, it's not even funny.
And you find this works?
Yeah, every time. I've surrounded myself with those books for a reason. They're there for a purpose because there's something in them that I'm challenged by and I'm working on. Books generally have three ideas that just keep repeating in a whole bunch of different ways. Yeah. But that serendipity has served me. It's insane how much it's served me.
Can you give me an example?
I remember the feeling. I was writing the strategy of Finder and at the time was reading a Jeff Bezos book and came across the “flywheel” strategy and I thought, "I see what he's done here". And then I realised you have to tie all the things together. I had that breakthrough moment and then I wrote these bunch of slides and it all came out.
Who do you admire at the moment?
I'm a fanboy of Warren Buffett, even though he thinks Bitcoin's rat poison squared. He missed that one.
You've set up a multimillion dollar business and you’re launching new things all the time. You clearly get stuff done. What's your number one tip for getting stuff done?
Set a deadline. Factor in everything. Agree on the deadline. Set a date.
When starting a business, who are the most critical hires for the success of a business?
You need extraordinarily proactive, persistent, dynamic, adaptive people. You need Swiss army knives. People who have the mindset do a bit of everything. A Swiss army knife's got an OK screwdriver and it can screw in stuff, but you're not going to go and build a car with it. But you can get going. You can make a little billy cart and you can start moving down the hill. That's the key, that's what you need. Just get started.
So people who are adaptive, dynamic and comfortable with ambiguity.
What gadget could you not live without?
What app helps you most on a day-to-day basis?
I’m out of control with instant messaging systems. Like Slack, Signal, WhatsApp. I think I use my phone eight hours each day. I'm like on my phone, but I am distributing things all around the world in real time.
What is one way you think you think differently to your peers or competitors that sets you apart?
I probably think a bit more in the future and I'm probably comfortable with a bit more risk, and I've probably thought deeper on a lot of different topics. I really spend a huge amount of time on things that I'm working on. I read and research and go into the rabbit hole on a topic and probably push it beyond where it should go. But then that allows for creativity.
What are you in the rabbit hole with now?
NFTs. I'm so so deep. I'm going to become a JPEG in a minute.
Can you help us understand the value in NFTs?
OK. I want you to go another level. Here's where my mind's at. We’re here talking through a screen. Imagine I've got a Rolex watch on my hand right now. But you're staring at a piece of glass right now talking to me, Sarah. How do you know I've actually got a Rolex on my wrist?
I don't know.
You don't know. All you see is a picture of me. So what's the difference between owning a really expensive picture versus this Rolex that you think potentially is on the other side of this piece of glass? Same, same. That is why NFTs will be worth so much money.
OK. So if I want to invest in an NFT, what would you recommend?
You can buy one on Open Sea. It's just going to be very expensive. I think it's better to go to say Solana and pay a little less and buy an NFT there, or one of the marketplaces on Solana, Solana Art or whatever it is. Or buy one on the Luna. And there's plenty of other NFT marketplaces there. They're a bit cheaper to begin with and then you can start to go and when you assess them and get used to it, then you might want to get involved with a minting. So when an NFT is first minted, you want to find a project and get involved with that. And I think you can find them on Twitter. That's the best place to go. And then now you're going down the rabbit hole and that's just the beginning.
Do you think we are going to be spending all our time in the metaverse?
Some people will, some people will. They'll make more money there.
Can you describe what you think the metaverse will be in 10 years time?
Well, there have been many examples of this throughout time … like Second Life - and Second Life still exists. And I think it's just about incentive. So, if you have a job in the metaverse or you have a business in the metaverse, then you're going to spend a lot of time probably in the metaverse. And because you're spending a lot more time in the metaverse, you don't really care as much about the other worlds. And so you just won't purchase as much. You won't consume as much of that media.
And I think media, the content that you create, I don't think that's going anywhere. Humans love to read stories and fundamentally sapiens love gossip. We love to gossip about stuff. That's what actually made us really successful as a race. We were able to outlive and really survive.
Another thing is, remember that we started at about 10th in the food chain. So when an animal was killed, the lions came, the hyenas came, the birds came … then the human used to come along - 10th - and feed off the carcass or whatever was left over. And we did an incredible job going from 10th to first. We put those same animals now in cages, unfortunately.
And so I think the same thing happens with every new world that's created. Humans, naturally - and all species that we are involved with - create hierarchy. And so I think the metaverse will have hierarchies as well. We’ll have people who have large amounts of land and huge amounts of space ships.
It won't be fair, and that's just the nature of [the] universe that we've tended towards throughout time.
So, Animal Farm of the future?
Some are more equal than others.
Bitcoin, is it too late to hop on the Bitcoin train?
It's never too late to buy Bitcoin. And if you didn't buy it by now, I'm sorry, I don't have the time to explain.
Are there any other coins you like?
I love Terra Luna. I think Luna's a great coin and what they're doing. I think Solana's something to watch. I love the Axie Infinity coin. I think it's a really interesting one. I think the Star Atlas coin is very interesting, when that game launches. I'm very fascinated by NFT guilds. I think they're fascinating as well. And I think there's some really interesting places right now in crypto. I think that Bitcoin and Ethereum are really the blue chips now and I don't think they're going to stop, that's for sure.
But I think there are a lot of very interesting things that are coming up. And a lot of these NFTs also are going to be built on different ecosystems, not just Ethereum. I think that's already started to happen.
We love writing about ways to invest in megatrends at Yahoo Finance. If I wanted to “invest in the metaverse” - what would be the best way to get exposure?
You could just buy the platform token. So, you might buy Ethereum or Solana or one of the base tokens, and that might be one way. So you’re investing in the protocol layer so that would give you some exposure. I think the big question's going to be, ‘What will be the currency of the metaverse?’ That will be very interesting. And then, ‘What's going to back it up?’ My guess is Bitcoin will back it up. Bitcoin's like digital gold. And so buying Bitcoin, I think, also gets you exposure to the metaverse.
Podcasts, any podcasts that you love?
I like Invest Like the Best with Patrick O'Shaughnessy
You're rich. Does money make you happy?
Does money make me happy? It enables me to do things that I get happiness from. But I love experiences and it doesn't have to be a very expensive experience. It just has to be something unique and different. I look for unique and different things.
What's your most extravagant purchase?
I guess my crypto castle. Yeah, I think it was like $17 million. It's a place on the ocean. It's pretty cool. It's where I do a lot of creative work and create things.
You've been very clever with your business ventures. This might sound like a trivial question, but what do you think makes you clever? Is it something that you think you were born with? Or you've learned along the way?
I don't think I'm actually the smartest guy in the room. Probably not. I'm not actually that smart. I'm not that book smart. I'm not actually that good with numbers. I think what I do is I do it differently and it's clever because it's different. I find a creative way of doing something. And so I naturally get attention. And because of that attention, I get to talk to you and tell you a message, to buy Bitcoin in the Finder app or get 4 per cent return on Finder Earn.
But in the attention economy, being creative and commanding the attention of someone is an art. And doing things differently pays. Imagination and creativity versus knowledge and wisdom is a competitive edge. And that's what I think makes me clever.
What do you do to manage your mental health?
And what do you do to maintain energy, or to boost your energy?
I watch inspirational things. So, I just saw The Lehman Trilogy, the play. That was incredible. Incredible.
So I watch inspirational things. I read inspirational things. I exercise. I hang out with inspirational people. I notice when I'm down and I try to pump myself back up, I just keep putting out the energy and see what comes back. Not everything works out for me, Sarah. I hit the wall all the time. All the time. I burn out as well. But I just keep reinventing and keep going.
If I gave you $10,000 to invest for, say, a niece or a nephew, where would you put it?
I’d buy 10 grand of Bitcoin. 2023, Bitcoin will be $250,000. By the way, I think the bull market's going to keep going until 2026. Because you know why? Because all the millennials have got nowhere else to put their money. And so they're just punting on the stock market. You can't buy a house.
What’s your property prediction for Australia?
Inflation … and low interest rates … [are] going to make it go supersonic. It'll double in five years.
You’ve given me so much more time than we planned, I really enjoyed the chat. Thanks, Fred
You’re welcome, I enjoyed your questions.
Note: This interview transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
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