Sylvia Carrasco founded Goldex – the world’s first ethical gold trading platform. As one of the UK’s pioneering women in FinTech, Sylvia is on a mission to make trading gold simple, accessible and transparent.
Here, Sylvia tells BLM about building a FinTech company, raising funds for a startup, and why investors should look to gold.
What was your background prior to founding Goldex?
I moved to the UK from Spain 26 years ago as I was considering entering the Spanish Diplomatic Service. Part of my university studies involved taking part in a work-study programme and that’s when I started working as a clerk in an investment bank in the City. From there, I began my career trading convertible bonds up until 1999, when Credit Suisse invited me to join an innovative group that successfully launched what’s now known as “electronic trading”.
Ten years ago, I decided to set up my own company, Alion Partners, advising institutions on their brokerage and electronic trading needs. Fast forward to four years ago and my focus led me to gold trading. That’s when I realised that I could take my experience in electronic trading and apply the knowledge to digitally reinvent how we buy, sell and store gold.
I originally thought of the business in 2014. As an investor, and on a personal level, I realised there were lots of issues. Mainly that whilst dealing in an unregulated asset class, the market makes conditions that are not particularly fair for small investors in terms of price and transparency.
The fact is that in a non-regulated, OTC market, all players act as Principals on every trade and clients might not always be given the best prices as they would in a regulated environment.
What is your vision for Goldex? Who or what do you want to disrupt?
I want to reinvent the world of gold trading by making it easy, simple and transparent for anyone to buy and sell gold from their mobile phone. Goldex is the first gold marketplace that powers ethical pricing for individual and institutional gold investors – we don’t own the gold ourselves, but are a marketplace for gold.
In more simplistic terms, Goldex is like Amazon or Uber – we connect you to the best prices to buy and sell from gold markets directly with our mobile phone app, and we deliver the best available deals to customers thanks to the only smart trading technology developed for physical gold.
How has the first year with Goldex been? What were some of the highs and lows?
The first year was exciting but stressful; getting the right team in place is a challenge and raising funding will always be a struggle for entrepeneurs, let alone when you are female.
We are also the first and only marketplace to buy and sell gold so we had to break a lot of barriers and convince investors to believe in us – we spent many months creating our business model from scratch without any examples to follow.
On the plus side, our technology has been well received by consumers and thousands of people are now investing in gold through our app. Our business has grown organically, which is terrific – there’s a lot of word of mouth in respect to what we do and how we are delivering an excellent service to customers.
We’ve attracted some of the biggest names in the City to join our board and we’ve scooped up a handful of awards, while also putting in place the foundations to expand to India – the world’s biggest gold market for investors.
Goldex has raised nearly £2 million in funding. How did you find the fundraising process? How did you prepare?
Raising money is always difficult for women in FinTech, so there were a lot of people that declined to support our company. However, I was able to tap into my existing network of contacts that I had from my years in the City to champion my business and who also know what I am capable of achieving.
We are focused on global expansion as well, so I looked outside to secure investment which proved to be a good move. Finally, we invested in marketing and PR to generate exposure into our business, which helped to provide credibility and excitement around our brand.
What makes Goldex an ethical gold trading platform? How do you monitor and ensure ethical standards are maintained?
Available for iPhone and Android, the Goldex app gives customers instant access to the world’s most prominent gold providers where they can buy, sell and securely store their physical gold. It’s the first smart gold trading marketplace that consolidates multiple prices into one. You don’t need a broker to buy or sell gold – which is fantastic because brokers will never give you the best deals directly.
Our app will always be ethical because we cannot manipulate the price of gold for the consumer – we offer them instant access to the best prices of gold trading in real-time, and they buy and sell when they want, anytime, anywhere.
What makes gold a good investment? What are some of the drawbacks of investing in gold?
There are three main reasons why gold remains an attractive and enduring investment option:
1. Transparency and safety. It is extremely difficult to steal or fake gold.
2. Liquidity. It is very easy to get cash for gold.
3. Value and versatility. Gold is used to make jewellery and many other goods, and therefore, makes it highly valuable.
Gold has been part of our whole human history. It will also be part of our future. Gold still remains a preferred long-term investment vehicle – and trust me, it’s here to stay.
The biggest drawback to investing in gold is the price fluctuations, which happen from time to time, but gold has always bounced back. Another drawback, until now, was the fact that customers were beholden to the gold prices set by brokers, which meant they never knew they were getting the best value for their investment.
Now, with new innovations like FinTech, people can cut the middleman and buy and sell gold directly themselves, with just a few clicks from a mobile phone. This is amazing news for everyday investors, who were previously shut off from gold trading. Goldex is disrupting the gold sector, and giving people access to the world’s most reliable and enduring investment vehicle.
What are some of the most exciting things happening in FinTech right now?
We are seeing big tech titans such as Facebook getting into the payments space – this will transform how consumers buy and sell goods on a global scale – and could also potentially help to promote greater financial inclusion.
You are the only woman in the Goldex management team. What advice would you give to women looking to succeed in FinTech?
Get on with it. If you have an idea, don’t waste time. You are as good or better as anybody else. However, be aware that it is hard. VERY hard.
If you believe in yourself, are ready for a rollercoaster of emotions and you want to try your hardest without knowing if it is going to work out or not, then do it as you don’t want to look back in 20 years’ time and think “what if I had done this…”
Once you are taking the plunge, surround yourself with the right people who should always be smarter than you and just as determined. Be part of a strong network of men and women who believe in what you do. Never allow anybody to put you down and if they do, get up and fight.
Nobody says it is easy, but being an entrepreneur is rewarding. More women have to take the plunge.
Do you have any initiatives in Goldex to encourage better gender parity?
Not directly – at Goldex we promote a diverse culture as we believe in creating a more inclusive, gender-neutral team that’s based on skill rather than ethnicity, race or gender.
We take that culture approach to our relationships with providers and partners. We have a global approach, and therefore we deal with companies and individuals from all over the world. We are fair, transparent and loyal in our dealings with everybody since we want to be treated the same way.
Another important aspect for us is Corporate Governance. From day one, we had clear in our minds that even if we were a company of two individuals, we had to behave as a company of thousands. Cutting corners in compliance, regulation and business procedures is something that we do not entertain.
Doing things well might take longer, but it is the only way to succeed in business in the long term. I have seen too many companies ruined because they took the view that not doing things appropriately was justifiable in order to grow faster. It never is.
What plans and goals do you have for the future of Goldex?
We are looking to expand into other countries and whilst we are bringing innovative features to the retail market, we are developing a very advanced trading API that will, for the first time, offer Best Execution policies in physical gold to institutional investors.
What advice do you wish you could give yourself this time last year?
I wish I started Goldex with the same vision as we have today and I wish I raised money earlier. Hindsight is a beautiful thing if used correctly.