This interview is part of Hum-an Stories, a Q&A series with Hum Capital leadership and employees providing a look under the hood at what drives Hum and its funding platform, the Intelligent Capital Market.
Chris Olivares is Hum’s CTO and a Co-Founder of the company. Prior to Hum, Chris was a founding engineer at ClassDojo, the world’s fastest ed-tech company now used by two thirds of U.S. schools and across 190 countries globally. Chris earned his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
As Hum’s CTO, Chris is passionate and focused on leveraging technology to achieve Hum’s mission in the most efficient and impactful way. In this Q&A, Chris shares his founding story, Hum’s most notable tech and engineering achievements thus far, and what success will look like for Hum at the end of this year.
Q: How did you get together with Blair & Csaba (Hum’s other co-founders) to start Hum? What drew you to Hum’s mission of democratizing capital raising?
I’ve known Blair since our freshman year of college where we met at a seminar about entrepreneurship. I guess you can say we were both pretty fascinated on what it means to be an entrepreneur and build a successful tech company and became good friends throughout college. After spending 6 years building ClassDojo, I decided to take some time off to figure out what I wanted to do next. During that time Blair and I would catch up every few weeks, and one call he told me “I think I know how to build Blackstone 2.0.” I don’t have a background in finance, but any statement that ambitious always catches my attention, so I asked him to share more.
Over the next few months I read a 200-slide thesis deck, took a crash course in finance, stress tested the idea with friends, and decided we had a contrarian go-to-market strategy that could work. But that alone wasn’t enough. I’m a pretty mission driven person and the more I learned about how inefficient raising capital is, why that is, and how large of a positive impact making the process better would have on the world, the more I found reason to dedicate a part of my life to making this possible.
I then moved to Austin for a few months to start working on the company. The first call we did together was with Csaba who Blair met while working in Venture Capital. The only thing I remember from that call was Csaba saying “let me know how I can be helpful.” We took him up on his offer a few months later and asked him to join Hum as a co-founder. Csaba joining was a critical point for Hum, because I had no background in Wall Street and there was almost no chance Blair and I would be able to raise institutional capital, which was critical for the first few phases of Hum’s journey. Luckily this is Csaba’s bread and butter, and I guess you can say the rest is history.
Q: Before graduating college and starting your career, did you always know you wanted to be a company founder?
My dad was an electrician in the navy- so he would maintain and debug the electrical systems on ships. Growing up he would explain how circuits worked, what a sine wave was, and how digital signals worked, which peaked my interest in electronics from an early age. Entering college I only had one academic goal which was to figure out how computers worked, so I naturally chose electrical engineering.
But one thing I found more interesting than how computers worked was how company building works. One of my early mentors was Josh Reeves (founder of Gusto), who at the time was working as a product manager for Zazzle. I was inspired by the way he talked about products, technology, and how it’s possible to combine all the things computers make possible to build a business that improves people’s lives. From then I was sold and became fascinated with learning what it takes to “build a company.”
Q: As Hum’s tech and engineering leader, what do you think has been the team’s greatest achievement thus far?
I think we’ve done a phenomenal job going from “no one will ever give you financial data” to “how can we build more sophisticated tools to help our customers faster.” Hum had a tricky cold-start problem – we wanted to build tools to help companies understand how much capital to raise, but had no idea what private company financial data looked like at scale. The early team had to simultaneously invent while building a large-breadth of features to power Hum’s initial products – and anyone who knows how difficult it is to build amidst ambiguous requirements knows this is no easy task. I couldn’t be prouder of the grit, persistence, and dedication our team has shown to keep iterating, building, and improving what we have in service of hitting Hum’s mission to make capital allocation more transparent. And we’re just getting started :).
Q: We are halfway through the year. Fast forward a few months to December 2022 – what will success look like for Hum?
I think by the end of the year success for Hum will be launching and iterating through a few versions of an exciting new product we’re working on. Stay tuned!
Q: Now for a fun question. What’s your favorite activity to do outside of work?
Right now I’m enjoying the New York summer – concerts, park days, rooftop gatherings, and lots of fun times with close friends.