The CEO and founder of Argyle, Shmulik Fishman, has a vision for a new world of work and isn’t shy about sharing it. We recently sat down with Shmulik to chat about productivity, failing upwards, and where to find the best business ideas.
First question: Coffee or tea?
Tea is for the queen. I drink coffee every morning, just like every other New Yorker.
When are you most productive?
In the still of the morning, before everyone else gets up.
How would you describe your work?
Organized optimism–I try to stay zoomed out, seeing the bigger picture of how the daily grind leads to broad change.
What good habit has been the most difficult to cultivate for you?
Taking notes during meetings and then being able to get those notes to the right team members.
You’ve spoken in past interviews about learning from failure. Can you give any advice to help more people fail upwards?
You don’t get any points on the board by sulking in your failures or blaming others. When you’re met with failure, you create solutions. That’s how you need to spend your time and energy. You should also get comfortable with the idea that you’re going to have a lot more failure ahead.
What’s the last thing you read or watched that impressed you? Why?
I recently watched a video of a song made entirely from Apple product sounds. I must have watched it 20 times in a row. It’s a genius way to market a product and tell a story of decades of innovation. It made me feel personally attached to Apple products, simply putting noise together.
Since starting Argyle, what has surprised you the most?
How things in plain sight are so little-known by most. The selling of employment data is in plain sight—no one is hiding it—yet so few people know it’s happening.
Picasso once said, “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Are you more of a Picasso, or do you wait for a lightbulb moment to come?
I don’t force innovations, but if you’re working to solve a problem, innovations and moments of inspiration will come.
Tell us about the last lightbulb moment you had?
To stop talking about Argyle in terms of the data we provide and start talking about it in terms of the solutions we’re creating and the problems we’re solving. You have to humanize your business.
Hot take: What’s something you find beauty in that most people don’t?
Font sizes, button curvatures, the formatting of a document–all of those subtle details that most people don’t notice (but impact us all on a subconscious level).
We’ve heard you talk about the importance of the ugly side of tech–the plumbing behind the eye-catching stuff. How can people apply this principle to their own lives and ideas?
A fertile ground for creating great businesses is to actually look at “gross” industries and try to make them better. Do we really need another app that shares photos? Go look at the underbelly. That’s where you’ll find space to improve.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Being an executive/leader is about disappointing people. And so, you shouldn’t try to make everyone happy; you’re never going to achieve that. You need to be okay with disappointing people and telling people no.
How does it guide you forward?
It reminds me to not get caught up in internal processes or too caught up in pleasing people.
What do you want to see from the fintech industry in the future? What do you want to see from Argyle?
I’d like to see more companies focus on solving problems for the masses instead of solving problems for themselves. As for Argyle, it would be to use income data for mainline credit decision making instead of being secondary to credit scores.
And lastly, when you leave a room, what do you hope people say about you?
While I might not agree with everything Shmulik said, he has conviction in his beliefs.
To learn more about the work Shmulik and Argyle are doing, check out this blog post.