Together with Vlad Tenev, second-generation American Baiju Bhatt founded the stock brokerage service Robinhood, which lets users trade public stocks from their mobile devices without paying a commission or maintaining a minimum balance. Their app has over two million users. Baiju started Robinhood, his third company with Vlad, when he was just 27. Here's how he works.
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Current gig: Robinhood Co-Founder and Co-CEO
One word that best describes how you work: Scientifically
Current mobile device: iPhone 6S
Current computer: A 2013 MacBook Pro that is covered in stickers
First of all, tell me a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I'm an only child and the son of two immigrants; my parents moved to the United States when my father was accepted to a PhD program in theoretical physics at University of Huntsville Alabama. I grew up in a small town — Poquoson, VA — and went to school at Stanford, following in my dad's footsteps to study physics. In university, I met Vlad Tenev, who at the time was a long-haired, string-bean kid with a quirky sense of humour and a penchant for late-night games of chess. The two of us would become the best of friends and go on to co-create two companies in New York together before starting Robinhood in California.
Baiju and Vlad in New York City
What apps, software or tools can't you live without?
My ballpoint pen and my Moleskine notebook.
What's your workspace setup like?
It's pretty simple: An external monitor and my laptop.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
I run outside almost every day of the week. I'll usually step out during lunch for an hour-long jog around the neighbourhoods of Palo Alto and through Stanford campus. It helps me clear my head and put all the things I've been thinking about back together in creative ways. Also, by the time I get back, I'm energetic and generally feeling awesome.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I use the Notes Mac app. It's simple and gets the job done!
Baiju with his father
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I have always had strong willpower. Over the years, I've overcome challenges when I've set my mind to them, which has proven especially relevant as I've created Robinhood and grown as a leader.
A personal but very important example comes from my childhood. As a kid, I had always struggled with being overweight. When I was in Year 10 in high school, I decided I wanted to change that once and for all. That spring, I started exercising every single day, and by the time I started Year 11, I had lost nearly 32kg. I looked and felt like a completely different person.
What do you listen to while you work? Got a favourite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?
Lately I've really liked the new Arcade Fire tracks, "Everything Now" and "Creature Comfort". I'm usually listening to music while I work, though mostly instrumental stuff since it's difficult for me to hear lyrics and write or read at the same time. A few albums on heavy rotation are "Moon Safari" by Air and "Selected Ambient Works 85-92" by Aphex Twin. Oh, and for a fun fact: In university I played guitar in a jazz/funk band and I DJed under the moniker "Thelonious Moustache".
Baiju on guitar, in univerity
What are you currently reading? Or what's something you'd recommend?
Last week I read a graphic novel called Head Lopper which just has awesome artwork. Last month I took a trip to Japan and read The Way of Zen by Alan Watts. That was fantastic too.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
I spend so much of my time either using technology or thinking about building technology, so I like to spend my free time on old-fashioned, analogue activities. Two of my favourite ways to recharge include going for long walks in the forests behind Stanford and playing cards with my friends.
What's your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early riser?
I'm usually out of bed by 7AM. I like beating the Bay Area traffic by getting into the office early, plus I get at least an hour most mornings to work on personal projects before I'm pulled into meetings.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle." — Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech 2005
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.