LFP193 – GovernanceTech: Changing Companies for the Better w/Antoine Argouges CEO Tulipshare

In the hundreds of incoming requests to be on the LFP there are few that truly stand out as something fresh and innovative that I haven’t heard of countless times before. Tulipshare is one such rara avis being the first on the show who do GovernanceTech. They are a broker-dealer through which you can buy shares – so far so normal – but with one important twist. They also have campaigns to change companies that you can buy shares in to support and hopefully make them change for the better.

In this show we discuss ethical investment and its challenges, but simply put one of the things that I really liked was not just GovernanceTech per se – putting governance power into the hands of the people in a world in which power gets sucked ever higher and ever-more centrally – but that their campaigns are specific and actionable. All too often “ESG” can simplify to a few high-level bromides. These may be helpful and even necessary but at a minimum are just one side of the coin. In the real world there a million detailed things that are actionable well below super-politicized PC/globalist concepts like “climate change”. As practical examples campaigns at present include demanding that Apple allow 3rd party technicians to fix their products, that Amazon improve the working conditions of Amazon warehouse employees and that Coca-Cola uses recycled plastic. You see what I mean – specific, implementable proposals that make a mockery of any politicised divide in our polarised society. Who wouldn’t want those campaigns to succeed? Plus people can propose new campaigns to Tulipshare making this even more grass-roots/democratic.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP192 – From Startup To Global Without Raising Equity w/Ben Richmond CEO CUBE

Creating a global firm without raising equity is rare but possible and an important route with many advantages for certain types of business. which many young entrepreneurs are relatively unfamiliar with. Ben Richmond founder and CEO of RegTech CUBE certainly knows this path intimately and shares with us his insiders experiences having built CUBE from inception in 2011 to today a global business with offices around the world, clients using their products in 150 countries, some 250 staff and seven-figure monthly revenues based on that most oldskool of concepts organic cashflow alongside debt.

It is a topic we have touched on in prior episodes. In LFP189 we heard about the non-dilutive (ie non-equity) sources of finance via govt grants and tax credits and bridging finance while one awaits those. Back in LFP071 with Faisal Husain founder of former LFP brand-partners Synechron we heard his amazing story about how he founded and grew a company to “7,000 employees in 18 countries in 16 years” without any external capital or debt showing that organic growth can be amazingly powerful for the right businesses.

And just to finish off with prior references another key episode was  LFP163 with Alex Baluta CEO of Flowcap who took us on a deep dive into Venture Debt.

What business characteristics are required to go that route? What the pros and cons of raising equity? What are the pros and cons of debt financing? What does one need to be wary of? All these topics and more are discussed in this episode: Continue reading

LFP191 – Serving Microbusinesses Payment Needs with Fintech w/Ravi Jakhodia CEO Coupay

Serving the sole trader or microcompany is super-important right now as economies and indeed societies continue to try and build themselves back from the ground up after widespread government actions in 2019 which massively favoured MegaCo and governments never-ending pork-barreling monetary printing presses at the expense of the little guy. In this context we define microbusiness as those firms with less than 5 staff or £150k turnover.

Coupay offer a simple way for customers to pay microSMEs faster and easier and supply surround to that basic offering to keep the SME’s admin running smoothly. As such CEO and co-founder Ravi Jakhodia  has spent some time considering the needs of this segment and the issues they have,

In LFP179 we heard from  Jay Bregman joined us to discuss how tech innovations in insuring the small business can help the little guy or gal, the microbusiness get cover they wouldn’t easily be able to otherwise get and hence compete for business which otherwise they could not.

In this episode we hear how a similar mentality applied to payments can empower the microbusiness which would otherwise suffer disproportionate costs.

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LFP190 – The US Pension Market: Past Century, Present & Future w/Jodan Ledford CEO Smart USA

In this episode we cover the super-big picture from the fascinating origins of the US pension market which is barely a century old through the complexities of the current market with some 40 million Americans having no access to a retirement plan and looking into the future how official advice over so-called “low risk investments” – aka “bonds” – is insane in a world of rampant commodity price inflation and over a decade of money-printing.

Jodan is the CEO of Smart USA which is looking to provide the technology which will empower major providers to meet the new and ever-changing needs of tomorrow’s pensioners.

He also gives us a masterclass on the important question of “how we got here” along with the pressing issues of the market at present before we get on to the future.

The US in FS in general is a paradoxical combination of world-leader and far-behind – and this also obtains in their Pensions market. But what are the details behind this sweeping generalisation? What can the US learn from the world and what can the world learn from the US? Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP189 – Navigating Through The Thicket of UK Govt Aid To Firms Inc >2,000 Grant Schemes w/Bhavik Chauhan VP OKR Financial

This episode is a sign of the state-centralist times. Fintech grew in a very different world from our ever-expanding State, super-high tax-burdens, massive regulation et al. However why should SMEs leave all the food on the table for better-resourced BigCos to take? Especially when it falls into that vital category of “non-dilutive funding”. In this episode Bhavik guides us through the plethora of schemes – in particular how to approach tax credits and grant schemes. OKR was set up in Canada by two entrepreneurs who solved a funding problem they had one day with a grant in Canada and gradually grew from there.

In this episode Bhavik guides us through the plethora of schemes – in particular how to approach tax credits and grant schemes.  Did you know musicians can get £5k grants for going on tour (that’s some good beer money)? Did you know new authors can get grants? Did you know Cities give grants? Good to know where taxpayers money goes.

However back in the real world BigCos ace tax credits whilst I’ve heard of founders who even when they get them end up in a thorny bush. How to address this (&the inevitable funding gap)? How to apply and get grants even without matched funding without eating into your “build, build, build” time? All this and more…

So sad as it might be to see a business climate that is the very antithesis of that which led to Fintech forming in the UK, we are where we are, and complexity will keep expanding until we end up like all those places where such happened in the past. To take a simple long pre-Covid example under Gordon Brown the UK tax code tripled in length. Osbourne came in promising to simplify it. And promptly doubled it in length. It is just this kind of ever-increasing complexity of environment that so tilts the table in favour of BigCo at the expense of SMEs. However as there is a private sector left help is at hand and, sad to say, I do think every Founder needs to know, indeed needs to have a way to get this gripped the opportunity for important funding from the plethora of State schemes.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP188 – How to IPO w/Nic Brisbourne CEO of recently-IPO-ed Forward Partners

Every startup in the tech world is after a “realisation” – or put in other terms a point in time at which someone puts a real as opposed to notional valuation on your firm – when you sell out in whole via a Trade Sale or in part via an IPO. But how do you IPO? What is the process of IPO-ing actually like? How much does it cost? How long does it take?

Nic Brisbourne, CEO of early-stage VCs Forward Partners, is well placed to explain these topics and many more to us as he is a long-term VC and VCs’ funds rely of course on getting money from successful companies not just putting money in.

However this is merely his indirect experience. We have the great benefit here of not just one who has seen the process countless times as an investor but someone who has initiated and now gone through the process with himself and his firm.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP187 – Architecting Fintechs to put Customer Support/Service at the Centre w/Hristo Borisov CEO Payhawk

is it possible to do Customer Service well whilst not going bankrupt employing thousands of PhDs in Customer Service at megabucks? And back to an old favourite of FS vs Tech why do we even need it if the tech quotes works unquotes? In retail FS or even FS as a whole Customer/Client Service is essential. However (a) we all have horror stories of dire experience whether its Ye Olde “we are experiencing abnormal call volumes” while you slowly age being held in a queue, on (b) online like my recent attempt to check out my ISAs only to keep getting error messages and when I called the phone number the automated system cut me off and (c) in Fintech where, as I moaned about some time ago, due to having done what I was told to do in their quotes help unquotes chat I was locked out of my Revolut card for weeks with no way back.

Payhawk combines credit cards, payments, expenses and cash into one integrated experience. Which must be A Thing as they recently raised $20m in their Series A. And they must be keen on this experience thing as when I asked Hristo to come up with a fresh topic that hasn’t been flogged to death and is often done badly he suggested Customer Service as his first thought and as we shall hear Payhawk’s business design makes it central not peripheral.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP186 – “Doing Culture Well” as a Key Growth Tool w/Richard Arundel Co-Founder Currency Cloud

Currency Cloud are one of London’s oldest Fintechs being founded over a decade ago. As they recently sold themselves for £700m to Visa – in cash – they clearly know something about the entire startup-realisation process. Big time. One of the aspects whose importance grows along the journey which co-founder Richard shares with us is that of Corporate Culture, a topic we have touched on before but one which is no more ever fully-sorted than your relationships are. It might be tough enough to keep one relationship going well for a decade but imagine the countless relationships between everyone in your firm and you get some idea of the scope of the challenge.

When you and a chum start your Fintech you don’t need a culture – your culture is whatever and however you guys do things. For some time the vibe remains collaborative as you are quotes “all in the same room” and like any bunch of folk you develop a modus vivendi as well as a modus operendi.

Indeed it is these characteristics that give the new starter great advantages of speed and flexibility over incumbents.

One of the key challenges is – and this applies to us as people as well as at the scale of businesses – growing up without growing old. You want to mature whilst retaining the fun, experimental, playful, flexible aspects of childhood.

Naturally this is easier said than done both for people and for companies. For companies the increasing specialisation and physical scale leads to greater speciation and it is all too easy for oganogramitis to creep in. Naturally the challenges are only magnified when your colleagues become not just at worst a floor away but thousands of miles away.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP185 – Network-Based Finance And “Open Commercial Transactions” w/Gert Sylvest co-founder Tradeshift

In this episode we have an awesome deep-dive by Gert into what Network-based Finance is – a super-cool topic even Google doesn’t know about (within an hour of this LFP release it became the only example :-O). We cover how, in a sense, it inverts the whole “Open Banking” paradigm putting the opening of transactions first (which after all represent real business) with banking rails (open or not) below. And as Gert explains there are many reasons that this works smoother/better.more naturally in this space yielding superior information and hence insight and ability to offer more competitive products. Nor is it just a question of strategic sketches on the white board – there is a lot of devil in the detail about how one makes real digitsation work (cf just using the internet).

Gert and his two co-founders in Tradeshift have done an awesome job. Just check out these soundbites:

  • Tradeshift’s last round of financing in 2018 was led by Goldman Sachs
  • raised a cool quarter of a billion dollars
  • they have an amazing 1.5 million companies connected on their platform (currently doing supply-chain finance on top of being a transaction network)
  • they have done an astonishing over 3/4 of a trillion dollars in transaction value

This is an episode that even those who have spent a decade or more in Fintech can learn from.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP184 – A Fintech Dominating Its Sector – Prime Real Estate Lending w/Uma Rajah CEO CapitalRise

I can think of very few UK Fintechs that dominate their sector as successfully as CapitalRise who have something of a monopoly of being the only independent prime real estate property finance provider. Not only that but to date they have an unbeatable 0% loss-rate on loans that have returned ~9%pa to investors. The Credit markets really reward detailed expertise – an obvious conclusion perhaps, and yet so many new Fintechs launch into a sector with relatively superficial expertise and just a desire to “innovate”.

In this episode we dive not just into the secretes of CapitalRise’s success but also generic lessons for Fintech and FS success as a whole.

CEO Uma Rajah shares what it was in her career that led to being able to deliver these results, including founding a Fintech which didn’t.

All of these topics perhaps point to the continuing maturation of the sector. FS is super-specialised and so is it much of a surprise that sectoral-specialists and older wiser folks who have scraped elbows along the way are dominating most UK Fintech sectors right now?

Topics discussed include: Continue reading