Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Taking bets on talent over experience spurred success for Danny Moore from Options

Danny Moore is the chief operating officer of financial technology firm Options. He is a former head of Wombat Financial Software. He also set up Lough Shore Investments to back companies and projects.

How did your career path come to working as chief operating officer for Options?

I've known Nigel Kneasey (the founder and chief executive) for a long time and think Options is a very high potential business that will do great things as the fintech (financial technology) market picks up.

Do you have any regrets about anything you've done so far in business or your career in general?

If I had to do it over I'd go to New York at 19 and try to get a job as a quant (quantitative analyst) instead of going to university.

In the end I didn't get into financial technology until I was 29, so have ended up delivering technology to quants rather than being one myself.

My advice to anyone with an inclination towards a career in finance is to get started as early as possible and spend as much time as possible in London or New York in your twenties.

Name the three people to whom you owe your present success.

Only one person really stands out. I'd have to say Brian Conlon (managing director of First Derivatives) for his policy of taking bets on talent over experience, which is also at the core of how we ran Wombat and now Options.

That's how a guy like me with 14 months experience (and who didn't know what the NASDAQ was) ended up running a sales office in New York. I do appreciate he was serving his own self-interest, as are we, but he's given a lot of people a foot into a career in finance.

Do you ever switch off from work – and if so, how?

Not really. I don't really see it as work. I made the decision when I was 25 only to focus on career paths I enjoyed and which piqued my interest. Life is too short.

You worked for Wombat, a US corporation, and for First Derivatives, which is still independently owned. In the long-run is it better for the Northern Ireland economy to nurture more home-grown success, or to seek to attract more foreign direct investment?

Eight of the first 10 full-time employees in Wombat were from Northern Ireland, so in a lot of ways it was a home grown success. I do think there needs to be a balance.

You head up Lough Shore Investments – is it still active? What was the investment you were most happy with?

Lough Shore is still going strong and my expectation is that it will still be active in 20 or 30 years years.

Sendmybag.com is a cracking company that we're proud to be associated with – and obviously winning the Oscar with The Shore (a short film starring Ciaran Hinds which was funded by Lough Shore) was very cool. That said, I'm most happy with Lough Shore Technologies, a sister company of LSI. It is currently operating under the radar, but we expect great things from it over the next few years.

Have you seen a change in companies' willingness to embrace different funding models here?

I'm sorry to say we think the current technology funding environment is extremely toxic and will do lasting damage to the psyche of tech entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.

At a general level tech entrepreneurs (or anyone trying to build a successful business) should always strive to bring in 'smart' money and avoid 'dumb' money like the plague. Funding in Northern Ireland is dominated by a group of government funds and private investors who made their money outside of technology, the definition of dumb money.

Having entrepreneurs seeking investment pitch their ideas to career civil servants is the definition of insane, as is loading start-up boards with the same career directors again and again – usually folks who've never ran a successful technology business (or any business in many cases).

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