LaKeisha Turner is the CTO and co-founder of AlgoPear, a marketplace that connects retail investors with artificial intelligence investing technology. Making wealth creation more efficient, secure, and hands-free.
AlgoPear came to be when the CEO, Ronnie Green, had a vision of starting AlgoPear while working for a Hedge Fund, noticing that retail traders did not have access to algorithms but only hedge funds or wealthy individuals. When he asked his management, they had no answers. So, like any great entrepreneur, he decided to fill this market gap before someone else did. Ronnie needed the skills of a tech professional to bring the vision to life, so LaKeisha and he got together and started working on their MVP. Ronnie had the idea, and LaKeisha was able to translate it into technology. After completing the original MVP, LaKeisha began to build her tech team and thus became the CTO.
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“I already had AWS cloud engineering experience, so I built the architecture in a server-less stack, which was the most cost-effective option. First, I built the services, both individual and lambdas, with the API gateway and AWS for the back end and then built a relational database on RDS. For the front end, I started with the most recent technologies, such as React, and finished the first original MVP in six months.”
LaKeisha described how, to keep costs low, AlgoPear avoided outsourcing and instead got to work on it herself. However, it got to the point where she needed assistance, and they started thinking about hiring more people, so they turned to interns.
“I led and instructed interns on what needed to be done, and we broke it down into tasks. I was the initial product manager, and while I didn’t do the best job as a product manager because I lacked experience in that role, I did well enough for us to get something out there. I’d formerly worked on numerous agile teams, so I observed what they did for the engineering team and attempted to replicate it. I wasn’t great at things like specs, brainstorming ideas, and organising everything into a roadmap. As a co-founder, you have to wear many hats, so I didn’t have time to hone my product management skills.”
LaKeisha often turns to interns for the initial engineers due to their ability to learn and, right from the onset, acquire the ‘AlgoPear’ way. The time and effort AlgoPear puts into the interns is no small feat but often worth it as, if they show the right aptitude and successfully pass the trial period, they can become fully-fledged AlgoPear employees and join AlgoPear’s mission.
“I think there are more pros and cons to hiring interns. There are obvious cons, but many of the interns we chose were already in the technology industry, with some programming skills, which made the teaching component much easier.”
AlgoPear took the approach of hiring in-house, as they wanted a core team. LaKeisha tells us they lacked the money to outsource in the beginning stages, with everyone working on equity. However, this was a decision they are glad they made because it created that company bond and care for what they are doing.
“We’re all in this together, growing with the company. We’re in pre-seed now and starting to pay people, but the funds to outsource are still lacking. As a result, we are still offering equity and payment to individuals. So, I believe we will consider it when we reach the next level of Series A. Like many other co-founders looking to outsource, the issue of the time difference and its challenges came up.”
“You have to look at a place similar to your timezone. I wouldn’t want to work with a place that doesn’t coincide with your timetable. If one is working in the daytime and another at night, it’s when communication turns sour. I want us to be able to communicate in a timely manner and for there to be a mutual understanding of what’s going on.”
“The approach to teaching interns should be no different from how you would teach any other employees, providing them with equal support and time training,” says LaKeisha. She told us how they would get together a few times a week and have a session on React or other skills they need to perfect. They also paid for access to Coursera or Udemy for the specific tools that AlgoPear was interested in their interns using, helping to get them to a point where they would benefit the company.
LaKeisha named keeping up with the workload and its prioritisation as one of the biggest tech challenges AlgoPear faces at the moment. It comes down to a contest between speed and their battle, trying to tame it so that it works to their advantage. As a female founder in the tech world, LaKeisha tells us how she hasn’t faced too many challenges, at least with those she’s so far worked with, but she stresses that there is undoubtedly a lack of female founders out there. LaKeisha calls on other females in the industry to be bold, speak up, and ensure that their ideas and voices are heard.
In the beginning stages of creating AlgoPear, LaKeisha mentioned how pivots were part of the job, and any promising startup has to be prepared to make these pivots if it is what the customers require.
“Our customers wanted a system that could trade for them. So listening to this, we pivoted from just offering signals and instead offered a marketplace of algorithms. That was our major pivot. However, our most recent pivot is our pricing. That’s always something up in the air, but we’re trying to find the best way to maximise our pricing and the amount of money we receive so that we can be efficient for our customers and our algorithm creators.
The AlgoPear team has standoffs every morning, and their product team would meet for different brainstorming ideas. The engineers would have their deep dive meetings. Additionally, each week, LaKeisha holds a product kickoff meeting where she brings all the latest business information to the team, plus an opportunity for all to bring up any grievances or issues that need addressing. LaKeisha calls it a meeting to ‘reset our focus and vision.’
LaKeisha told us how at AlgoPear, they had adopted a 4-day working week, 6-hour days. LaKeisha told that the original intent to work the 4-day week was because she didn’t want anyone to burn out like she almost did upon staring at AlgoPear. But, as most founders find out, in the beginning stages, you’re often required to balance so much and work 100-hour weeks to get your business off the ground.
“We want our team to feel happy about working with us, and this approach has worked out very well. By Fridays, people have already mentally checked out in any case, and then it gives everybody a three-day weekend. So, Monday through Thursday, we hit it hard, work hard, and meetings are set only between 9 am and 3 pm. No meetings after 3 pm Central Time. Then after this time, everybody has a chance to work or whatever they need to catch up.”
“I find that people work more efficiently during this period because we know that we have a set number of hours in which we have to complete all our tasks. So we don’t have issues with our staff not being able to complete their work because by providing this 4-day week, we’re giving people their time back.”
“We want to be a broker. So, we’re going to start working towards that – to become a broker and allow people to use our company without third parties, as right now, we use a third-party broker to make our trades. So, therefore, our goal is to become our broker and become more compliant in the finance world. So, we will seek after all the compliance, licenses, etc., and drive our mission forward. Obviously, to accomplish this, we’ll have to increase our staff and make some specific hires for security and business-type hires.”
LaKeisha believes that anyone can work in a startup, but only those who have patience and the ability to sit tight for the long haul, only those will thrive. She tells us how a startup provides people with meaning and the ability to make a change in the world.
“You can make a lot of money working for bigger companies, but really, what do you have? You just have money; you’re not even a part of something you’re building; you’re just a number making a lot of money. Look at things from another lens, look at the long-term goal, a long-term vision, and know that you’re building something that’s going to be impactful. You will be part owner of that impact it has. Look for ownership versus just a quick dollar.”