Matt Leibowitz is the co-founder and chief executive of Stake, an online stock brokerage launched in 2017 with the goal to “open up Wall St to the world”. Stake is available in New Zealand, Australia (its base), the UK, and Brazil and has attracted more than 540,000 customers through the brokerage of 8,000-plus stocks across the US and ASX markets. Stake has over 60,000 customers in New Zealand. Leibowitz grew up in Perth and went to university in Sydney, where he now lives with his wife and three young children. Before co-founding Stake, he was a senior partner in a law firm and then worked as a stock trader. 

I grew up in Perth, Western Australia. Back then, Perth was more like a big country town than a city. I was like any other kid and liked to run around with my friends, climb trees, kick a ball. It was a time of big backyards, big parks, and screens didn't dominate the existence of humans. It was just a really good, healthy upbringing. I was a little bit introverted but quite sporty. 

I'm the oldest in my family. My sister lives in London. I’ve got a brother who's very close to me in terms of age but we’re very different. We like to say we “wear different stuff but we're cut from the same cloth”.

I have great memories of school and I keep telling my kids to enjoy their school years because life only gets more difficult, more complicated and more nuanced as you get older. I think school is quite simple: you spend time with your friends, you learn a few things, and you get every opportunity to have fun. 

I was good at school but I wouldn't say I was spectacular. I was naturally competitive. When I started to be a bit more competitive – you know, really trying to hit a target to get a result I wanted – I put my head down and did pretty well in my last years, and that really carried me through after school.

I did double degrees in finance and law at the University of Sydney. I also did an exchange at the University of Colorado Boulder. I spent some time over there – a couple of seasons skiing as well during the holidays. 

I really like numbers. My maths probably got me into law school.

I love the markets – the energy and the excitement. I really respect them – what they can do, the innovation, the people, the characters you meet, and how things move around and how the markets don't discriminate.

I say to my parents sometimes that I wish they had pushed me a little bit further. They wanted me to do what I enjoyed. And obviously, like any kid, I wanted to do what I would enjoy, and as much of it as I could. 

The biggest thing my parents taught me was how it's all about being good to others. Treat others well, be humble, and work hard. 

My dad always told me this great quote, and I use it all the time: "Success only comes before work in the dictionary." Put in the effort and you'll ultimately get what you deserve.

As you become older, you realise everyone's got something to work on. My relationship with my dad, particularly, is a lot about that and having those sorts of discussions about how you can be better. With my mum as well; she had a slightly tougher upbringing than my dad, to be honest, and there are some deep conversations there. Not every kid gets to have that with their parents.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day, everyone is living their own life and on their own journey. 

Life's not all about you. It's about understanding where others come from and what others experience. You're not going to do it alone. You are in this world alone, yes, but we're all in it together at the same time. So enjoy it. It's never as bad as it seems; it's never as good as it seems.

I’ve got a very optimistic view on the world and people. This comes from seeing the world as this opportunity to travel, try things, and throw yourself at it. You learn on the way that others know a lot more than you do, and you just try to soak that up. 

I don't look at things as failures but as learning. It's pretty cliché, but it's the truth. I've probably made so many mistakes, and I continue to make mistakes and I'll make more mistakes, but I think the reality of business and life is you make decisions, you execute them, but you're not going to get all of them right. You just learn from the ones you get wrong and as long as they're not disastrous, that's probably okay.

I try to get up really early so I can exercise – I went for a run this morning – and then the kids are awake and I can spend some time with them. 

Everyone should get a library card. When I want the kids to buy their friends a present, we go to the bookstore and get whatever they want, but I'm not going to a toy store. At a bookstore you get to escape and learn at the same time. 

I like to read every night as it sets you up for the next day. You’re not on a screen, you just mellow down and you get to bed earlier and sleep better. And then in the morning, I'm up early and I can go. Whereas if you get caught up on watching Yellowstone, you can be up past midnight watching episode after episode. If you do that, a 5.30am run isn’t going to happen. 

I alternate between fiction and non-fiction. Right now, I'm reading Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. 

Every year, I reread a book that I really admire. It's called Invested, by Charles Schwab, and I feel like it's a Stake story. Every time someone new starts on my team, I give them a copy. I really believe there's so much you can gain from other people's journeys, and we share a very similar mission.

Once a week, I rent a basketball court for me and my mates to go play and run around. It’s a great way to get together. And we have a pickup game here at work as well. We book a court, get all that energy out, and then go for a bite to eat. It's awesome fun, and it's also a great way to get to know people you work with and change the scenery a bit. 

I like making computers. I reconfigure them and then put Linux software on them. It's a little nerdy thing I do; I absolutely love it. I like tinkering. When we were kids, we probably took just a radio apart. I like pulling apart old computers. I reconfigured one for my father-in-law. I think you can recycle and be quite crafty and it's interesting just to learn a new wheelhouse. Everyone sort of laughs at me.

My son wants me to build him a computer, so we're going to do that together for his birthday. He wants one of the ones that you can see through and you can see all the things, so that'll be fun.

As told to Ella Somers. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.