“I’m basically a circus principal,” laughs Marek Šandrik as he thinks about how he would describe, as specifically as possible, exactly what he does at the Rockaway Blockchain Fund. And he’s really not even exaggerating,…
The offices of Rockaway Capital are full of talented and inspirational experts. In a series of articles aptly entitled “Humans of Rockaway”, we will gradually introduce them to you – starting with Radek Musil, a member of the investment team, who will explain, among other things, what his Project Lead position really entails.
It’s a story that could come straight out of motivational books. In the beginning there was a problematic D student whose mother would come home from parent-teacher interviews with tears in her eyes, and at the end there is a graduate with an honours degree from the prestigious London School of Economics, a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30, the former head of the Fundlift crowdfunding platform, a partner in the Roklen financial group, and today an indispensable member of the Rockaway Capital investment team.
Well, at the end – Radek Musil will convince you that at the age of thirty-two his story is really still just beginning. But first things first. “I was a D student and one of the worst – I ended up attending three different gymnasiums in Prague, all private and all very bad. The way they taught us meant nothing to me, nothing challenged me. So I played a lot of tennis and said to myself that I’ll enjoy myself for now, and once it’s needed due to my future work, I’ll start doing something,” smiles Radek.
And he evidently did start doing something: when we press fast-forward, a few years later Radek not only had the academic title of MSc after his name, from the London School of Economics, but also “CEO”, of the successful Fundlift investment platform. All this at an age when his peers were still getting their bearings and starting their first jobs. It must be said, however, that Radek’s “mental switch”, as he himself says, didn’t come out of the blue and overnight: in the end he was influenced by his family; after all, Radek Musil Sr., today the executive director of Raiffeisenbank, is a seasoned investment banker with many years of experience, for example at PPF, Dresdner Bank and Capital Partners.
Nevertheless, at the age of eighteen Radek had a pretty decent amount of self-awareness: “I always wanted to be either a lawyer or work in finance. But throughout gymnasium everyone was terribly disappointed by me, and half of them said that I shouldn’t be there. And I decided to show them that I’m not a complete bonehead, that up to then I just hadn’t been motivated.”
LSE: From zero to a thousand
At the University of New York in Prague, Radek started studying with the same energy that in high school he had expended on building the image of a problematic student, with quick results. During his bachelor’s studies he was the best in his class, and he soon realized that he needed to change his environment, specifically by the 1300 kilometres separating Prague and Britain’s capital. The obvious choice was thus the London School of Economics, one of the most prestigious universities in the world teaching law and social sciences, as well as an institution that is part of the classical “G5” along with the universities in Oxford and Cambridge, University College London, and Imperial College London.
By the way, admission to LSE is highly competitive: a mere four percent of applicants have their status changed from “applied” to “admitted”. But Radek didn’t feel exceptional: “Some people probably thought it was weird that they’d known me as a complete loser, and suddenly I was a major nerd.
I never stopped being friends with anyone and in London I was certainly not exceptional; there, big ambitions were basically the norm.”
Back to the Czech Republic
During his extremely demanding studies in the British metropolis, to which devoted virtually all of his time and (once again) became the best in his class, Radek Musil got an offer from the then new FinTech group, Roklen, founded in 2014 by Adrea Lauren, currently a Rockaway Capital investment partner. Here, too, Radek avoided the cliché that a real career, especially after graduating from a foreign university, can only be had outside of the Czech Republic. With a fresh diploma from London, he started at Roklen practically immediately.
“Back then I didn’t consider staying in London. Being there at the start of – by Czech standards – a large project with such a great group of people seemed interesting to me. Plus, even though I was only twenty-five, right off the bat they saw me an equal member of the team, and not as a mere junior analyst,” says Radek.
The Fundlift crowdfunding investment platform on which he worked at Roklen, which allows small and mid-sized companies to obtain financing from the general public, was something that he and Andrea Lauren started putting together basically already during the first interview. Both correctly estimated that though Czechs tend to be on the conservative side, at that time many companies were interested in this style of financing. And on the other hand, there were small investors who wanted to make alternative investments on-line, if only a few thousand CZK. But the risk paid off, and after two years the manager of an interesting FinTech experiment became the director of a prosperous and very well-received project, as well as a partner in Roklen. “We built something that was unprecedented in the Czech Republic at the time. And I think something very successful,” says Radek.
Next stop: Rockaway
In 2018 Forbes Magazine also noticed this unusual talent, and included Radek Musil in their ranking of young Czechs under the age of 30 who were changing the world around them. In this selection he was joined by the likes of investment manager Petr Rieger, Young & Rubicam creative director Dora Pružincová, and hockey player David Pastrňák.
But after six years at Roklen and Fundlift, Radek felt that it was time to look around again – this time the change wasn’t particularly geographically challenging, as Můstek (where Fundlift has its offices) wasn’t much more than a stone’s throw away from the Kavčí hory neighbourhood where Rockaway had its offices then. He joined the investment team almost a year ago and focuses on FinTech projects that overlap with other sectors such as logistics or consumer electronics.
“As part of the investment team I find it incredibly interesting to be working on acquisitions, plus to also think up ways how companies could be built with various parameters,” he says, yet in the same breath adds that he was also enticed to join Jakub Havrlant’s investment groups for more personal reasons: “For me, Rockaway was always synonymous with a dynamic company full of energy, with large ambitions and interesting people who want to accomplish something. That’s probably something you can’t say about lots of other Czech companies. And despite its large ambitions, this company has an informal atmosphere and everyone likes working here.”