In our latest “Between Two Palms” fireside chat, we got to know our CFO Thomas Antonioli a bit better. He talked to us about his journey to Grover, gave us work-life balance wisdom, and recalled a heart-warming childhood memory. 

 

What’s your go-to drink order? 

THOMAS: The beer-o’clock beer on Fridays at Grover. That’s one of my favorite moments of the week. Otherwise I like gin and tonics. 

 

What’s your favorite book?

THOMAS: When I was a kid, it was Die Geschichte vom verkehrten Tag (A Topsy-turvy Day) by Hans Fallada. My family knows it inside out from reading it to me a hundred times. For something a bit more current, I love The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz — It’s about building a startup. 

 

What kind of music are you into? 

THOMAS: I listen to a lot of different music, although I’m a lot less of an expert than most people at Grover (everyone seems to be a DJ here 😉). I like electronic music when I go out.

 

What’s your favorite city that you’ve ever lived in? 

THOMAS: I lived in New York City for a couple of months when I was 23. At the time, I was in California for an exchange program and got an internship opportunity in investment banking on Wall Street. It was hugely exciting at the time to be in New York and to walk down Broadway in the morning, flanked by an impressive cityscape of skyscrapers. Everything seemed so big and people were so open. 

 

Walk us through how you got to your current position. Was there one defining moment that got you to where you are today?

THOMAS: In hindsight, everything inevitably leads up to the position you’re currently in. My first job was in banking in London, in 2008, which was the heyday of investment banking. A month later it all went crashing down in the financial crisis, and within 4 weeks of joining, job security went down drastically. 

I worked in investment banking for almost 5 years, then I got tired of the crazy working hours. For years, I rarely got home before 2am. I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial so I decided to do an MBA. The program I chose was very international, with stops in Paris and Singapore, and 500 people from all different cultures and walks of life. From artists to bankers to consultants to doctors. It widened my perspective on how people think in different professions and different cultures.

Afterwards, I decided to join the startup world. Some of the people I work with at Grover today were also my colleagues at the time. 

I guess it all boils down to when I met Michael (Cassau). It was through a mutual friend  who said to me, “hey Thomas, I met this guy this week. He’s very pushy in terms of building a business, but the company he’s working on is really cool. I think it has a lot of potential and he’s looking for a CFO. So if you’re interested, I think you two should talk.” And the rest is history.

 

 

What was it about Grover that convinced you to join?

THOMAS: We scheduled a meeting for 4pm on a Sunday afternoon in a cafe. I got on the train from Hamburg and met with Michael over a piece of cake. We chatted, our brains connected really well and the vision sounded incredibly appealing. Then I talked to a few more people from the team in the old office — which, by the way, was so charmingly chaotic with a bunch of tech boxes stacked up against the walls. 

The team was super energetic and excited about what they were doing. I believed in the market potential of the idea. And the sustainability aspect of the business was what really made it clear that this was a better way to access consumer electronics than buying a new phone and then letting it collect dust in your drawer later on. 

 

What is one thing you think everyone should know about finance?

THOMAS: We shouldn’t think about finance as something outlandish, something external to the business. It really just helps everybody do more of what makes the company successful. People in finance are a lot more like normal people than you might think. They don’t just care about numbers, they still care about making a product that really works for the customer. 

 

 

How would you describe your working style? What motivates you to keep going?

THOMAS: Two things: The first is the relationship with and trust in my colleagues. That is really important to me. I believe you always find a solution when the underlying principle is that you trust each other. It makes it easier to achieve alignment and results that everyone is happy with. 

The second thing is the startup setting. I really love it. At first, everything is less structured, but that also makes it possible to try a lot of things and be really agile as an organization. At Grover, we’re now transitioning to a more grown-up, structured organization, and that process in itself is really exciting. Still, we’re preserving the entrepreneurial spirit while simultaneously providing enough structure to function efficiently with a large team. 

 

What daily habit do you think helps you be successful?

THOMAS: My morning run. I don’t manage to do it everyday, but it fulfills a meditative function for me. If I don’t do it for a while, I get really tense and unproductive. I’ve learned that when it’s crunch time, my reflex is to cut down on exercise and to be at my desk for an extra hour. But that’s actually counterproductive. It’s so much better to go out for an hour instead, to clear your head. After that, a lot of things that may have seemed insurmountable before are suddenly much easier. 

 

Stay healthy and be nice! These are the two takeaways that everyone can surely take from this session. Thanks Thomas, for taking the time to sit down with us!