Luca Martinetti is the CTO at TrueLayer, a fintech dev platform designed to power the open banking revolution.
Co-founded in 2016 by Martinetti and his childhood friend Francesco Simoneschi, London-headquartered TrueLayer is currently focusing on growing its presence in France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the Nordics, Spain and Australia.
The startup closed a $70m Series D round in April to that end from investors including Anthemis Group, Connect Ventures, Mouro Capital, Northzone and Temasek.
In this Q&A, the 46th in our series of CTO Talks, Martinetti reveals how the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the push towards open banking, the real reason why he never became a professional drone pilot and what he looks forward to the most during his parental leave with his newborn child.
Eric Johansson: Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in your current role?
Luca Martinetti: I’ve always been passionate about technology since I was a kid. That also led me to become friends with my co-founder Francesco when at school in Rome. Although I’m a CTO, I consider myself as a co-founder first, just the one who took it upon himself to really take care of the technical side of this venture and then scaling it. Over the years I’ve worn multiple hats being a founder, a software engineer first and then ultimately the CTO.
What’s the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?
The pandemic has pushed more people than ever before to use digital financial services, especially those that are enabled by open banking. That shift was already underway but the last 12 months have seen it accelerate to new levels. It also meant we’ve seen services around specific uses cases, such as saving and investments, really take off and many more emerging.
Which emerging technology do you think holds the most promise once it matures?
This is a tough question because there are a lot of what I might call “obvious” answers. But some of the modern system languages excite me and, for example, we already use [the new programming language] Rust. I believe it will change the way services and applications are built.
How do you separate hype from genuine innovation?
I think there are two components to this to help answer this. The first is whether you see an active community around the technology, building and experimenting with it. The second is whether you are seeing large tech companies and corporates invest in them for the long term and adopt them into their stack.
What one piece of advice would you offer to other CTOs?
Focus on the things you love. This might seem obvious but can be very hard to do, especially at the earlier stages of running a startup. The CTO role involves so many things, from financial planning, people management, mentoring, problem solving. It is so broad that it is impossible that you’ll enjoy all of them equally, or be good at them all, so really focus on what you love and bring in smart people to support you with the other stuff.
What’s the most surprising thing about your job?
Probably that the more the company scales, I’ve realised it is less and less about the technology. It still matters but it becomes much more about the people you have, the culture you have built. It’s about the talent you can attract and retain, how you mentor people so they can do their best work and feel fulfilled by it.
What’s the biggest technological challenge facing humanity?
There are many but if I take one that’s related to the industry I work in, I find the cryptocurrency and DeFi movement fascinating. However, we also have to admit it is not that environmentally friendly today. So how do we transition to decentralised finance underpinning the monetary system, and the innovation that could create, without killing the only planet we have.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for fun?
I love building things. A few years ago, before you could buy high spec drones I built my own. But let’s say my engineering skills were maybe not matched to my piloting skills and I crashed it into someone’s house in San Francisco. If they’re reading this, I’m really sorry about that!
What would you be in another life?
If my drone experience is anything to go by, definitely not a pilot. I’m honestly not sure but it would be building something…
How do you think the UK stands out in terms of its ability to nurture startups?
In financial services, I think it is amazing that we have such a forward thinking regulator that embraces innovation because they understand it’s a competitive advantage. It has made the UK the centre of open banking excellence. It has made it easy to establish a firm, minimising the red tape while also still maintaining a high standard. That is reflected in the number and quality of the firms that have started here and are now expanding across the world.
What do you look forward to the most during your paternity leave?
I’m really looking forward to it, because it will be a big change. I’ve worked with my wife since the first day of TrueLayer so this is also a way to get back a little life/work balance too. Maybe come back in six months and I will have a different answer.