Fintech Connect: How to scale up while continuing to be innovative
14th December 2022
Learn all about the factors needed for a business to scale while being innovative.
The Founders’ Forum stage at Fintech Connect was filled with gold nuggets of information for new and existing founders. We focused on the panel discussing how to stay innovative while scaling, which was packed with founders’ and c-suite perspectives on the importance of product market fit, culture and flexibility, among other things.
Meet the Speakers
Irfan is the founder and CEO of mmob, an embedded finance technology provider enabling service providers to embed their products within the channels of digital brands.
Fiona is the co-founder and Chief Product & Marketing Officer at Pollinate, a fintech offering digital tools for banks to improve their offering for SMEs.
Stuart is the Chief Operating Officer of Railsr, formerly Railsbank, that delivers embedded finance experiences such as banking and credit cards for a variety of businesses.
Iana is the CEO of OpenPayd, a digital BaaS and embedded finance provider focused on delivering the infrastructure for businesses to move funds cross-border in a faster, seamless way.
Andrew Auden (moderator)
Andrew works as the Senior Director of B2B at FIS, that provides innovative fintech solutions for a range of solutions from financial institutions to local retailers.
Three key factors needed when innovating and scaling:
When hiring and developing a team culture, it is important to look towards scaling from the start and hire the right mindset and skills to do that. Irfan discussed the importance of a team with an ‘engineering mindset’, that come to problems without bias and have the space to make and then learn from mistakes.
Iana agreed, specifying that it is important businesses create an environment where innovation can happen. A key factor is defining what success looks like in the business and focusing on tangible, incremental steps with contributions across the team.
Product Market Fit
Product market fit was brought up at several points during the panel, with Fiona emphasising businesses shouldn’t scale unless they have product fit conviction. With the downturn in fintech investment removing excess capital, Irfan thought businesses should be more critical about their innovative solutions and ensure there is a product market fit, rather than just adding features for the sake of it. This is an important distinction and will ensure businesses continue to be client-led, rather than swayed by new technology or industry trends.
When discussing international expansion, Fiona shared that Pollinate have expanded into new markets only once they have established a partnership with a bank. Having local ambassadors does not have to be costly and can help establish the product market fit to about 70%, leaving a degree of flexibility for after you have entered the market. Stuart also advised that sometimes business owners have to realise where there isn’t a product market fit and make the decision to exit. Railsr chose to do this in the APAC region following a partnership falling through and regulatory difficulties, and instead focused resources on well-performing markets.
The above point leads nicely into flexibility. Innovation is all about staying agile and should reach every corner of the business; as Stuart put, once you’ve got a separate innovation team, you’re already failing to innovate.
There are several ways a business should be flexible while scaling. Lots of start-ups hire younger talent for their agility and fresh perspective, but there is also a time and place for more experienced leaders (Fiona emphasised the need for recognisable names behind an unknown brand to accelerate growth, for example). Appointing experts from the financial services industry that also have the flexibility associated with fintechs will be important in future innovation.
Flexibility should also come from above. Irfan says early innovation will be driven by the founders, but there will come a time when the business reaches critical mass and the baton should be passed to the rest of the team, at which point it is important an innovative culture has already been established. Irfan also noted the shift he experienced from being the founder to being the CEO. The founder will have eyes on everything happening in the business and be able to align the moving parts of the business. As CEO, more moving parts will be delegated and there are likely to be issues that you can’t resolve. That release of control and trust in your team is crucial to business growth.
Culture, product market fit, and flexibility are crucial behaviours shown by the best global fintechs. It was great to witness the expertise of the panel and we look forward to joining more events in the new year.
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