Our Story

by Rich Counsell, CEO & Founder

Part 1

Down on the Farm

Before I tell you about the Club, it’s probably worth setting the scene so you know where Stable came from.

It actually started life in a small office, in the corner of a stone barn. The barn is on the farm where I live with my family near Glastonbury in the UK. I'd built the barn a while back to look after a list of family animals that seemed to get longer every time I traveled anywhere for work. 

I also find the slow, methodical and physical process of stonework the perfect antidote to running a fast paced fintech business.

Our teams are now based in offices in cities across the US, as well as London and Bermuda but the stone barn still stores some of our company stuff, (that we probably should have thrown out years ago).

Glastonbury is a pretty rural place. Before the music festival became famous, no one had ever heard of it unless you were a farmer like my dad. His family have farmed around Glastonbury, (Wedmore) for over 400 years and I grew up around tractors, cows and an amazing local community that knew each other well from plowing matches, local horse races, pubs and livestock markets. Before Dolly Parton and Elton John came to sing in these fields, they were better known for producing cheese and cider.

Despite over 200,000 people a year arriving for the music festival, not much has changed really. It's still home to lots of small family sized farms making a living in a landscape that inspires them, (and me) to this day.

If all of the above sounds pretty idyllic, then by now I'd agree with you, but twenty years ago I was desperate to experience something completely different. My plan, as much as I had one at 21, was to get as far away from 400 years of farming the same fields as I could.

Change in farming often happens only once in a generation, so it blew my mind that in a software business you could make a big change in a weekly sprint.

The sheer speed and scale was breathtaking. It was everything farming wasn’t at that time. There were so few barriers and the possibilities were endless; as Mark Zuckerberg espoused, just ‘move fast and break things’ which was eerily similar to my tractor driving back on the farm.

As my career in software developed I started to travel for work and eventually found myself in Chicago, at a startup based in a tiny office above a Subway store behind Union Station. I used to walk past the CME building in Chicago on my way to work each morning. It always intrigued me to think what happened inside those slightly ominous four walls.

Growing up on a farm, I was naturally interested in commodity markets but anytime I read about it, I got an overwhelming sense that this was a financial world for people who like trading numbers, more than building businesses.

Little did I know then, but my world was about to change

In 2015/16 the price of milk in Europe dropped and thousands of family farms faced having to stop farming as they became increasingly exposed to global markets.

In 2016 there were 10,500 dairy farms in the UK. Ten years earlier, that figure was close to 21,000.

These businesses weren't just numbers to me. They were people I knew well growing up and I totally understood what losing the farm would mean to their family, their way of life and their sense of identity. There I was sat in Chicago, the spiritual home of commodity risk management, yet where were the supply chain solutions designed to help real people, with real businesses that simply wanted to manage their risks?

It felt like a huge problem and one that I just couldn't ignore, or walk away from.

There was a slight problem. I knew nothing about commodity markets or insurance, and had only just scraped a B in Math at college. It wasn't a promising start…

The ability to understand untraded risk was essential to the project, and that was clearly a massive challenge. The price of a financial option uses a formula called Black Scholes Merton and to work properly, that formula requires the implied volatility that you can only get from a traded market. For Stable to succeed, we needed to redesign that famous formula and use machine learning to simulate the implied volatility surface so we could price the risk in a consistent and measurable way.

Part 2

One Man and His Dog

Even saying that last sentence is enough to bring back the memories of that period at Stable and just how daunting this all was back in those really early days. My only coworkers at the time were a gorgeous, (but slightly fat) chocolate labrador called Tanner, and a badly behaved horse that would reach into my office and eat the plants.

By this time I'd had a simple idea that might help us create what was to become Stable. It was inspired by a very old fashioned farming phrase, ‘Up horn, Down corn.’ written in 1929 by a writer called A. G. Street.

I realize that phrase sounds a little strange, but it's trying to explain the benefit of a traditional mixed farm where a farmer produces multiple crops each year to protect their family income from volatile prices. If the price of Horn (beef) goes up, Corn might stay down.

It gave me an idea to explore how much diversification we could find between a wide range of commodities and other supply chain risks. If we could measure this, then we might be able to build a solution that could track and manage risk in a simpler and more modern way.

The other thing that changed around this time is that people started to join the team that had definitely never got a 'B' in their life!

I would never have guessed that a loud farmer from Somerset and a quiet math genius from China would be a combination that worked, but after an early meeting at his University, Simon and I quickly became friends and we've worked on Stable ever since that first day we met.

He is now our CTO and 'Si' (and now Rach) are still at the heart of everything that's technically brilliant about the company.

As we progressed from whiteboards covered in formulas, to actually starting to build a business, other people started to join us to try and make this crazy, complicated, impossible idea a commercial reality.

Louise joined us from Rabobank, Joe from Platts, Rachel, Charles, Teddy and so many more truly brilliant people that are still part of the Stable family to this day.

The team in another barn - it's become a 'thing' at Stable!

They all took such a big risk to join what was then such a small startup, with big plans to build something special. The fact they made it happen and built Stable into what it has now become, still makes me catch my breath to this day.

They are simply brilliant and I am just so proud of what the whole team has achieved so far and what they're now working on for the future.

As the team grew, we were fortunate enough to have our friends at Notion, Greycroft, Anthemis and ACrew join us on our journey.

The reason the team was always so crucial for Stable, is that I personally didn't want to focus on the math one little bit.

What I wanted to focus on was the output, because the real product we were offering wasn't formulas, software or contracts, but confidence.

It's all about Confidence

I realize managing risks in supply chains may not be exciting to everyone. Sometimes I really do wonder why I love it so much; but then I remember what it can enable and it's actually pretty extraordinary.

"Because when you replace caution with confidence, and concern with clarity, you regain the ability to invest in extraordinary things.
Ideas, people and the future."

Part 3

The Club

The most recent update to our story involves the emergence of our membership Club. I have a feeling this chapter is still being written, but the reason we evolved into a supply chain risk Club is simple, but important.

It's connected to all those years ago when I was sitting in Chicago, thinking about how many other people around the world must be worried about the same problem without any tools, or support to help them.

The inspiring supply chain professionals I still meet on our roadshows aren't traders or financial engineers. Their passion is helping to operate and grow businesses by hitting their budgets and ensuring the right volume gets to the right place on time.

It's a job that can make you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. It's complex and challenging because there is so much that can go wrong and so much that you just can't control. So, in short, our members have a tough job and they definitely need plenty of help to succeed.

Insurers, financial service firms, brokers and software providers can all help, but they're not really on your side. Their interests are not your interests, so they're never truly part of your wider team that you trust to help build your career and transform your business.

At the end of 2023 we realized that being a part of that trusted team and solving supply chain problems is what makes us all excited about coming to work.

We thought long and hard about what changes we could make to transform our solution so we could help more people, manage more risks in more sectors.

Who do you turn to that you can trust?
We had one last chance not to become like everyone else and compete against our clients. So we took it.

Fast forward to today and we have turned our business upside down.

The Club operates on a fully transparent fee basis to support our members in every way possible.  

It's how I always wanted to build Stable, all those years ago. A risk solution that stands shoulder to shoulder with our users to deliver increasing value and protection over time.

"Just like building a barn by continually adding one 'stone' at a time, you eventually end up creating something incredibly strong and resilient"

It's been a big change for us and it felt scary at times to disrupt a successful business in the way that we have. I know now that it was the right thing to do, but there have been some sleepless nights along the way.

As I write this in spring '24 I'm delighted to say that the Club is now one of the fastest growing supply chain businesses in the US. We're moving faster and have the confidence to invest in new ideas, new technology and new offices to bring the team together and create space for the brilliant new people that are joining us to write our next chapter.

That should get us one step closer to our next big goal of transferring $1bn of risk for our members and the feeling that we're living up to the trust placed on us by our members.

It will also mean the Club's Foundation will grow in lock step, as it continues its focus on supporting food chain projects across the world.

If you're interested in finding out more, then it may be worth booking a demo to see if applying to join the Club is for you.

There's no joining fee and we can show you how it's helped similar businesses and answer any questions you have.

Book Demo Today
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