CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Daniel Harman, Co-Founder & CEO at Darksquare

Daniel Harman is the Co-Founder & CEO at Darksquare, which allows individual investors to access the type of assets typically reserved for hedge funds and ultra high net worth individuals.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

Of course, so I started my career in investment banking where I originated bonds for European investment grade corporates, which I didn’t love to be honest, the work was very repetitive and the hours were, of course, long.

I then moved to RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) where I worked on the distressed credit trading desk. I worked as a trader there for just over 3 years, trading a variety of sub-investment grade bonds, loans, unlisted equities and CDS.

Then I left at the end of 2020 to co-found Darksquare. I was seeing hedge funds and other institutional investors generate decent returns through investing in distressed credit and other assets, and thought it made sense to open up these asset classes to a wider audience, which is what we’re looking to do.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Yeah so it varies every day, we just closed out our first funding round which is nice, I was spending a lot of time before pitching to investors but now I can focus solely on getting the platform up and running.

The three main areas of focus now are platform development, deal sourcing/vetting and marketing. I try to do a balance of all 3 each day. I think our marketing strategy is the most creative work, so I try to do that in the morning when I’m most fresh.

Our marketing budget isn’t huge so we need to be tactical where we can be and think of interesting ways to get our name out there, we also do a lot of direct outreach to potential clients, which involves a lot of relentless DMing, which can be draining at times.

Overall though I try to split my time across different areas to avoid getting burned out and taking quick breaks, even if it’s just 5 mins to stand up and stretch, really helps.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

I actually think going into the office helps with maintaining work life balance. If you work from home then you’re kind of always at work, and I think that working in a different physical location to where you relax/live definitely helps.

I think doing some sort of activity between finishing work and starting your ‘down time’ also helps. Whether that’s going to the gym, going for a walk, making dinner etc. it helps me transition and start thinking about other, non work-related things. If you stay on the sofa and just close the laptop and switch on the TV I think it’s harder for your brain to understand that ‘work mode’ is over.

Finally I know it varies a lot from role to role, when I was a trader I’d leave the office and would rarely have to do anything until I got back in the next morning, start-up life is definitely less intense intra-day, but it’s more of a slow burn where there’s always something that could be done, so it’s tough to know when to stop sometimes.

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Yes when COVID first started and everyone was forced to work from home I used to do ‘fake commutes’ where I’d just walk around the block a few times before starting work. If I work from home now I still try to do that, I think it really helps to take that time to think and get some steps (and coffee) in before the workday starts. I’ve never been a morning gym go-er, but I’m sure that would be even more beneficial.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

One of my favourite books is The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. In particular chapter 7 where he talks about the notion that “controlling your time is the highest dividend money pays”.

The entire chapter is actually only 6 pages long so you could probably read it for free whilst in a book shop, just don’t tell Morgan I said that.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Not really! I think everyone’s approach to work-life balance is different so it’s important to do whatever works best for you. 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.