European Business caught up with the founder and CEO Rob Charles of Goldfingr -a members-only global Investment Club. The Goldfingr (www.goldfingr.net) concept was born in 2014 in New York and is essentially an investors club where entrepreneurs can meet investors to raise capital and vice versa. It has been meeting every month in New York for the last four years. It is also the first 1st Digitized Deal Club that has been held in such high esteem by its members coupled with the fact that millions of capital has been raised that Rob decided to launch in London , arguably the centre of the financial world. They launched on Wednesday the 26th of June at the exclusive 8 Club in Bank where it was attended by exactly the crowd you would expect , budding entrepreneurs from the Crypto and Tech industries looking to raise much needed cash and eager investors looking for the next big thing . Rob sits and talks to us to tell us his story and vision.
Rob, let’s start with a little bit of background. When you’ve first started off in fintech, you’ve had an online art gallery. Tell us about this time.
— Yes, my first tech startup was in 1996, it was called Universal Artz. It was the 1st online art gallery based in Dallas. At that time I was 26, I was still in college, and it was still very very early in the fintech scene. I met a few Australian entrepreneurs and we started brainstorming. We talked about the Internet and how it was the wave of the future. That’s how we came up with an idea of online art. It was about twenty years too early when I think about it now. It failed miserably, but we kept it going for over two years.
— When you say “failed miserably “, what do you mean by that? Was it the lack of online access, lack of social media effects?
— First thing is that we ran out of funding. We had no capital, and obviously, you always need to have the capital to fund your ideas. Looking back, the biggest mistake that I’ve made back then is that I had this idea of doing art type events, social events, and selling art at those events. So we started focusing more on the events, which divided our focus. Instead of building our tech company, we started chasing revenue and established a company specializing in events, and in the end, we ran out of capital.
— So from this point, where did you go? What was your next move?
— When this happened, I needed to get a job. So I went into IT recruiting. It was actually really good experience because I got a broad overview of tech and learned how to sell, which is most important. At that time, although I was working in tech, I was not that technical, and I didn’t really know how to operate a computer very well. One day my boss came in and said: “Hey Rob, I need all the DBAs (database administrators) out of Lockheed Martin and I need you to get in there“. I didn’t know how to get in there. He told me to figure it out and make it happen. So I got creative, and socially engineered my way into the high security defense corp., and a few hours later I came in with the entire phone book of Lockheed Martin faxed to me, and I put it on his desk. He asked me how did I do that. Well, I got someone from Lockheed Martin’s mailroom to fax me the book.
As a recruiter, I learned how to position myself. And my dream was to go to New York and participate in the first digital boom. So I flew to New York. I went to a bunch of interviews and was the 1st guy in at iCIMS.com, which is one of the first recruiting management software companies, still in business today.
— How did you help them built up the business?
— They had the co-founders, they had the concept, they had the idea, they were working on the products, but they had no idea how to market, drive revenue and didn’t know about the direction of the company. At that time I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I positioned myself as an expensive sales and marketing person. So I faked it til I made it, reading sales and marketing books on my way to work everyday. I devised and implemented strategies and systems, figured out the direction of the company and ultimately made it work. I got the company off the ground, it started driving revenue. That was in 1999-2000, just before the bubble of the internet burst.
— Where did you go next?
— At that time everything was going from hard copy to the digital format. I had some really good connections in New York and Washington DC. So I started a consulting company providing solutions for document process management and content management. And then, in 2001, right after 9/11, I had this first idea about Goldfingr. I organized a bachelor party for the guys that I grew up with. We were getting disconnected, everyone was getting married, everyone was successful in their own way. So I went to a few top penthouses in New York City and organized a 3-4 day experience with dinners and night clubs. Then I realized there should be some kind of technology channel keeping us connected, and this is when I came up with the idea of a mastermind network (social network), which later evolved into Goldfingr. At that time, social networks like A Small World and MySpace didn’t exist yet.
But I made another costly mistake. Instead of going after my passion and dream, I started chasing money. In 2003, I started investing in cannabis when it first opened up in LA and real estate. After attending a transformational program, I became clear on how I want to change the world and give back, so I started a foundation for children. I also started Muay-Thai, because it was a childhood dream and I wanted to get in shape. By 2006, I was WKA North American Light Middleweight Champion and got Silver Medal at WKA World Championships in Spain. I wasn’t planning on it, but when I do something, I usually go all-in.
— So when did the idea of Goldfingr start to evolve?
— In 2009 I was living in Asia. At that time the US economy was crumbling, and the Asian market was booming. My current partner Scott came to visit me and did the math, and we decided to start some companies in Taiwan. The market for raw materials was really expanding in China, so we started with gold. We had contracts with 4 banks, but we needed the product. So we went to Ghana to search for gold and found it. If you want to make it happen, you just have to do it.
— So fast forward to the next chapter of your life, what happened then?
— I came back to New York in 2014 and had to rebuild my network. I still had some friends, but I didn’t have all the contacts as I did before. But I was a Co-founder of this global M&A investment group, and it involved people from Vancouver and Hong Kong, So I modified my original version of that 2001 mastermind network and suggested that we develop a tech platform for deals combined with a social network. We had the whole team ready to go, but the funding fell apart because the other co-founder kind of disappeared.
Since we didn’t have fire power to execute the deals, we had to reverse-engineer our concept, and that’s how we came up with the concierge app as starting point. We booked over a million dollars in revenue over the first year through the app.
— So how does it work? Do the members of Goldfingr meet every month?
— We’re a “members-only“ global investment club, based on the mastermind principle. We’re also the first “digital-members-only“ club. We opened up our membership over two years ago and started to do these private events in New York to generate traction and to build a community. We had no idea that our private events would take off like they did. We were doing 4 to 8 events every month for almost 2 years. In 2016 we started experimenting with deal clubs, and it was a huge success. We didn’t do any marketing, only word of mouth, but we managed to gain significant traction and we’re now the Top in New York City and globally.
— So the New York scene is set and fully established. And your next step of coming to London was very successful too. Where did this idea come from?
— Well, I travel a lot, as many investors do. There’s a huge disconnect between investor networks and innovators. All of the investors are looking for quality deals, and both investors and entrepreneurs need capital and vetted resources. All of the companies need to scale and get into different markets and it’s all based on connections and relationships. Moreover, when I go to conferences, I don’t really go there for the speakers. I go to meet the top 10 to 50 people that I need to connect with. So it’s a no-brainer to me. Goldfingr provides the vetted ecosystem globally which solves all of these inefficiencies and problems.
— What are the plans for the future?
— We’ve just opened a Puerto Rico chapter a few months ago. We started this as a test market, and the next step is to have a presence in Europe. London is the financial hub of EU and UK, accessible to everyone. We’re launching our Hong Kong Chapter in September. So we’re connecting the dots between Asia, Europe, and the US. We have a wait list of twenty international cities right now that want to open up Goldfingr Chapters, but we can only do it step by step, one by one.
— You can get anything you need. But I see that it all goes down to being genuine. I had this thought that “These are genuine guys who made money and they are willing to introduce other people and give them connections.“ Shortly speaking, how do you scale this?
— It’s a difficult question. Please note, “these are both genuine men and women”, we’ve modernized the “Good O’ Boys Club’ to the “Good O’ Boys and Girls Club’. But it goes back to my original concept from 2001. I’ve always been a power connector. I just naturally meet people and I’m always connected to other power connectors from different groups and communities. For example, if you go to Israel, the whole country is like this, everyone helps each other. When you go to China — it’s a similar concept, the whole family invests together. We’re just bringing this ethos into one community, and connecting private networks cross culturally. Once people wrap their mind around it, they’re blown away – we’ve created a club that adds exponential value to everyone from every aspect. Most importantly, we help entrepreneurs succeed. It’s not about the money. Money follows success!