Employee #1 – My learnings from scaling 9fin and growing my career


People and Culture

Employee #1 – My learnings from scaling 9fin and growing my career

Sean Löfgren's avatar
Sanaa Siddiqui's avatar
  1. Sean Löfgren
  2. +Sanaa Siddiqui
4 min read

I was 9fin’s first hire.

My name's Sean Löfgren. I joined in May 2017 as its senior software engineer, and since then 9fin has scaled to over 150 employees.

Startup fail rates are incredibly high, so joining at such an early stage could be seen as a risky move. I was leaving a well-established asset management firm to do so – but I wanted to challenge myself and try a completely new experience.

Here are my top five learnings from my time here.

1. Knowledge management becomes more and more complex

It’s interesting to watch the cracks form in processes that work with five employees, and break with 50.

In the early days, 9fin was such a small company that each employee knew everything because we all worked from the same small office. Sharing knowledge was simple – we would speak to each other across the table.

As the team grew we ran into growing pains, with colleagues addressing the same questions and problems over and over. This showcased the need for documentation.

Now we’ve progressed to a stage where we regularly review our processes and ensure that they will scale with the team whenever we’re planning to increase headcount.

2. Some things change drastically …

My focus

I’m grateful for the talent we’ve hired over the past few years. We’ve brought on great people to make it easier for 9fin to address a wider audience, meet demand, and build a product across multiple verticals.

I’m no longer having to focus on one item at a time  – we have the power to work on 10 different ideas at the same time, and deliver excellent results.

The product

When I joined 9fin, we focused on two offerings – our financials and news offering features.

It was a single vertical, for a select group of people. This was all we could commit to at such an early stage, with such a lean team. The platform itself was functional, but nothing fancy.

Fast-forward a few years and our product is being used by nine out of 10 of the top investment banks, with new features including our structured credit offering and 9fin AI.

My career journey

I started as a senior software engineer, building the product and supporting it on all fronts, from machine learning initiatives to the end points that power the platform.

I’m now leading the data science team. Instead of my everyday code, my focus has officially shifted to strategic planning and managing the data science initiatives.

There’s plenty of exciting work to do, and my role has consistently remained challenging and engaging over the years. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed so long at 9fin.

3. But other things are consistent

Our values

The co-founders, Huss and Steven, listed out 9fin’s values – 11 principles that the company would embody to ensure every employee at 9fin had the best experience we could offer.

Those values haven’t changed or been compromised over time – if anything, they’re stronger now than ever. One of the values, for example, is “have an opinion”, which was designed to encourage employees to speak out and share their thoughts.

This value has helped us collaborate, conduct healthy disagreements, and progress together – no matter how long you’ve been working here.

The talent we hire

We’ve hired incredible people along the way. Everyone joining the business has brought with them invaluable knowledge and talent – sometimes it’s a wonder we managed without them!

Balancing specialist and generalist hires is never easy, but having that talent on board helps us achieve more, and to a much higher standard.

9fin team in its earlier days
The 9fin team in its earlier days. Sean is farthest to the left.

4. The struggles are real

When I joined, there was plenty of scope for career development, plenty of opportunities, plenty of work – but this also meant plenty of challenges along the way.

There was so much to do, and hyperfocus was crucial with such a lean team. Trying to stay on top of the work was a massive challenge; I had several moving parts, was trying to figure out product-market fit, fighting fires, improving the existing product, and much more.

When the day-to-day becomes a grind, the business is on edge, and everyone’s sweating through the problems, it helps make the team more resilient, and sets us up well for the future.

5. You’ll always remember the highs

Getting that first client through the door was a huge milestone for us. I can remember it clearly – 9fin was a seven-strong business at the time, working from a tiny office in London.

It was a strong first step towards hitting our revenue goals, but also establishing product-market fit. It also felt like a team collaboration, especially in the early days of wearing multiple hats and getting involved wherever needed.

We definitely celebrated with a few drinks after that win – and there’s been plenty more to celebrate since, on both a team and company level.

Join us – we’re hiring

I definitely made the right decision joining 9fin – we’re now over 150 employees globally, with offices in New York, USA, and London, UK.

We were also recently recognised as one of the most flexible places to work by Flexa, a careers platform dedicated to highlighting flexible workplaces.

If you’re excited at the thought of joining a scale-up disrupting the industry, then check out our careers page.

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