We sat down with our latest Xinja – Co-Founder Alistair “Alfie” Thomas – aka #appyxinja – Director of digital delivery and shot the breeze about why he’s here and what he’s looking forward to most.
“Why don’t you set up your own bank?”
Tell us what you do at Xinja
My job is digital delivery director. Which basically means I’m responsible for building a functional, useful and easy-to-use app.
What is your Xinja origin story?
I’ve known Eric, the CEO, for about 30 years, we go way back; we went to high-school together, he’s the godfather of my children, we were both the best man at each other’s weddings…think you get the idea.
We’d always talked about going into business together. Eric understands people, and I was the guy that could build the tech. One day Eric spoke to a colleague in London – Jason Bates(a Xinja board member) – about how he was tired of the banking system in the Australia, and Jason said, “Well, why don’t you set up your own bank?I’ve built two!” Eric came to me and asked how we could technically do this.
We knew a few bright software development people in Canada and London that we thought might be able to do this. They loved the idea. We started collaborating, and after several months of planning, we did; we began building a bank.
What does a typical day look like for you? Who do you work with and how does the team run?
My typical day is split between the office and working from home, because our tech team is globally distributed in Sydney, London, Calgary and Cleveland. Mornings usually start with a conference call at 7am and then there’s one again at 8pm. When I’m in the office, I’m taking people through daily scrums, talking to different people of how we’re working in the app and making sure everything’s running smoothly.
What are you most proud of working with Xinja?
Probably the fact you can be considered an equal with the rest of the team. Working alongside people that are experts in their field and getting to make an impact with them. Also it’s incredible to be building something so relevant that people will actually find useful.
What have you learned in your time working at Xinja?
We’ve got very similar problems to the larger companies; it all comes down to people and communication – not about your process and your tools. Hire good people and let them get on with the job they’ve been hired to do. We give our partners a lot of autonomy, giving guidance at the macro level and allowimg them to make those micro decisions (with the right checks and balances, of course). A startup is ultimately the same as any other company; you have to communicate, and then stand back and let your people build it.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?
Can’t wait for a Founding Xinja to make their first payment with a first xinja card. Once we can make this useful to people, we can develop great features that solve real problems. The other thing I’m excited about is starting to see Xinja cards around in completely unexpected circumstances. Oh and the AI capabilities of course.
What future technology excites you the most?
Something I’ve always been passionate about is looking for ways to integrate the physical world with the digital world and synchronize that with tools. Developing games or apps that encourages kids to interact physically and augment that experience – and getting kids away from screens. You’re never going to get them away from the devices entirely, but we could bring them closer to the physical world.
If you weren’t at Xinja, what would you be doing?
Working for a startup has opened my eyes to how much I like working in that type of environment. So to answer your question I guess I’d be starting my own project or working for another startup – really anything that uses technology to make a positive impact.
List 3 words to describe Xinja?
Innovative, relevant, needed.
What is your Spirit Animal?
Has to be Monkey – Was always a running joke in family back home.
Split between spending time with the kids and surfing.
In my youth I taught English in Japan and South America.