Meet the man behind Reef Finance, Denko Mancheski.
We recently sat down with our CEO, Denko Mancheski, for an insightful and personal interview to help our community get more familiar with him. In this interview, Denko speaks about everything that led him to build Reef. From his childhood to the inception of Reef, he talks about it all.
Where did you grow up? How did the place where you grew up influence you?
I was born in Macedonia. It’s a nice country but the opportunities are very limited. The food is really the best (especially vegetables such as tomatoes). Due to how globalization affected countries of this level, people have very limited mindset and ambition in young people barely exists — everybody aims to secure a state-sponsored boring job. During my primary school years I mostly did math competitions and gaming. I think gaming was one of the most important things I have ever done. It really helps you build a strong character — especially if done on a competitive level. I think it’s way harder to succeed as a professional gamer than to build a low 7 figures revenue business nowadays. After high school, I moved to Slovenia.
Did you have a nickname growing up? Why?
Actually I didn’t. My name is quite unique (I have never met anyone named Denko in my entire life) so there was no need for a nickname.
What were you the best in school at? What were you the worst in school at?
I was always interested in math and computer science. I was the best at this. I was worst at biology, but I was good at figuring out workarounds how to do minimum and get away with it (still achieve a high grade). Today I think diversified knowledge is the most important factor, so I wish I put some more effort back than on subjects such as chemistry and biology.
What led you to blockchain? What led you to your career? Why did you study what you did in college?
I was always passionate about Fintech and that’s how I discovered blockchain technology. I knew this was the next big thing right away since I could see how it was becoming harder to innovate in fintech due to how overregulated and saturated (or established) is this industry. That’s when I decided to fully focus on this technology.
I started programming in early high school, did algorithmic competitions for a few years, then I moved into commercial software development. Worked for Enterprise and Healthcare tech companies. By the time I started in college I already had experience with programming way more than what was taught there. This made me feel like college is an opportunity-cost since there were so many new things happening around me while I had to learn the structure of coaxial cables and what primitives are in a programming language — so I dropped out. To this day, every time I call my mother she is asking me when I am planning to get a diploma. I think it will never stop.
What do you consider to be your core values?
I believe in meritocracy and team work. Also, I believe that knowledge is king — especially if you combine concepts from different, seemingly unrelated subjects. The outcome of combined knowledge is called a lollapalooza effect. I also believe that as humanity progresses, understanding psychology (both on individual as well as collective level) and how society works is becoming more and more important. Usually in order to understand this well, one requires learning history.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana
“The ‘lollapalooza effect’, a term coined by Charlie Munger in 1995, is a concept that several smaller scale factors of human biases, tendencies and/or actions, when acting together, can lead towards a certain (and often very significant) outcome”
What are some things that make you different from other entrepreneurs?
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. Charles Darwin
I believe in markets. One needs to provide what the market needs and not what the entrepreneur thinks it needs. Learn how to validate your product fast and stop playing the “I have a great new idea” odds. We (humans) are very bad when it comes to applying statistics in the real world. You know who knows how to play the odds? — YCombinator — stop being a lottery ticket as an entrepreneur — it costs a lot of time and energy — Focus on what people need now. Oh, and don’t get too emotional about your idea unless the numbers show you that you should.
What are some of your hobbies and interests? How have your hobbies and interests made you a better professional?
Besides gaming and motocross in the past, now I love to read books on finance and psychology and meet new people who can give me new perspectives about those things. I think I can’t separate my hobby from professional life these days. I actually do what I love (I am super grateful for this)
What do your parents do? Has that influenced you or your career choice at all?
My father is a Dean at a faculty of economics in Macedonia and runs his own ERP company for around 25 years now. My mother is a chemistry high school teacher. I was definitely influenced a lot by my parents — my father has been talking business to me since I can remember. This allowed me to understand how the real world works earlier which gave me time to develop my own understanding and notice the mistakes that he has made himself.
Do you have any brothers or sisters or relatives that you look up to? Why?
I do have 2 younger brothers. The older one (21) is a professional CSGO gamer while the younger one is on its way to become a professional handball player (he’s 15).
Why do you think you have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur?
It’s really about attitude and how one approaches things — “How you do anything is how you do everything”. I have a very addictive personality — I just can’t stop doing something until I get to the imaginary goal that I set for myself. I proved this multiple times to myself (competitive math, programming, gaming). Oh, and I am not sure what people mean when they say “burnout”, I think it’s a side effect of expectations. Just lower or completely dismiss your expectations and do the work. The harder you work the luckier you get.
What do you see as your biggest strength and weakness as an entrepreneur?
I think one of my biggest strengths is that I am always trying to combine things which haven’t been combined before to achieve a new outcome. This approach allows one to sit and think. Just like physical exercise, creativity needs practicing in order to become applicable. Weakness — sometimes I spend a lot of time trying to improve some detail while I am clearly aware that it doesn’t contribute much to the big picture. I definitely need to improve on time allocation and responsibility delegation.
What has been your biggest challenge so far while starting Reef? What has your biggest challenge in life been?
The biggest challenge was forming a competent team which can execute.
Biggest challenge — achieve work-life balance (I think I know what this means)
Who was your best friend in college and why?
A friend which I met in kindergarten when I was 4. He is a chemical engineer. We can just talk for days and have been through many “life cycles” together.
That’s the end of our interview. This was Denko’s journey that led him to establish Reef and this community. We hope you found this interview informative and it helped you get more familiar with our CEO.