Fintech investment has crashed. How can startups build their businesses?
Navro Co-Founder and CPO, Eddie Harrison explores how startups can build their businesses and shares insight into the Navro journey.
If you’re a fintech startup looking to build an international business then times are much tougher currently than in years gone by. VC funding of fintech startups has plunged globally from an annual high of USD 130 billion in 2021 to just USD 23 billion in the first half of 2023.
Of course, as that well-worn trope goes, if life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. Startups around the world don’t have the option of pausing their growth ambitions to wait for better times. We have to push forward and make the most of the opportunities available.
This is easier said than done of course, but there are principles firms can follow to put themselves in the best possible position to succeed. These principles will differ from company to company, but here I’d like to share a few of the core tenets that guide how we approach our work trying to stand out in the fintech crowd and to reshape international payments.
1. Never cut corners
Regulation and compliance can be expensive — especially for a growing business — which is why there can be a temptation to skirt around the most onerous requirements. But, doing so will ultimately prove to be a false economy. If you cut corners or take an easier route, at some point you’re going to come up against barriers that could have been avoided if you’d tackled things systematically and comprehensively from the beginning. This includes things like deciding which licences in which countries you apply for, which partners you work with, and how you comply with relevant regulations.
If, like us, your aim is to build the gold standard in licensing and compliance then you need to build things in the right way from the get go. More than anything, this is about creating a competitive advantage. After all, if you have not put in the necessary work to build a truly compliant service, potential customers can find what you offer elsewhere or even look to build something themselves.
“Move fast and break things” may be a suitable enough motto for other tech startups — but when it comes to reshaping financial services, having a deep understanding of the regulatory landscape and innovating within its parameters is likely to offer a more solid basis for sustainable growth.
Make sure you have the requisite people and expertise in place as well as robust technology and processes. It’s all about putting in place the strongest foundation for your business to build a reputation for reliability and excellence. Creating and maintaining trust with customers is important for all businesses, but it is absolutely fundamental to financial service providers.
2. Focus on sound business fundamentals
From around 2010, investors channelled money to hyper-growth businesses. Profit was viewed as less important than the ability of a startup to gobble up customers or subscribers and secure dominant market share before anyone else had time to enter the market. Call it the “Uber” model for funding a startup – win customers first and then focus on and deliver profitability.
In the current economic downturn, this approach is far less attractive to investors. What matters now is a clear trajectory for revenue growth and sound business fundamentals. In this environment, you should look to demonstrate steady, incremental growth and burn, rather than focus on overly aggressive attempts to hit headline targets. What investors want to see more than anything is forecastable, trackable income that’s in line with the burn rate and has a path to positive cashflow.
Reliable revenue and sound business is back in fashion and that’s great news for investors and the fintech sector as a whole, which will operate on a much more stable footing as a result. It’s also great news for customers. Firms that focus as much on customer retention, if not more, than acquisition will by nature offer exceptional customer experiences and find new customers deliver growth rather than refilling revenues.
3. Build in resiliency and buffer
In March this year, a confluence of adverse events and circumstances led to a classic bank run as panic spread among the global investment community. Many institutions felt the strain and the first half of the year saw a number of traditional, startup-friendly banks close their doors.
Thankfully, regulators in both the US and the UK stepped in to prevent contagion spreading and to safeguard bank deposits, but there was a clear lesson for internationally-minded startups — that they cannot leave all their eggs in one basket.
At Paytrix, we believe in partnering with the very best payments providers and financial institutions around the world. Any responsible financial services business will want to build in redundancy and buffer which can then serve to protect them from unexpected shocks. Bad things can and do happen to the companies that support you – whether these are technology providers, or other financial institutions and partners. Make sure you have contingencies in place and conduct risk assessment before the risks become real.
4. Make sure you “do the vision thing”
The skills gap in the tech sector is well documented, and fintechs need to do everything they can to recruit the best people available – particularly if you’re a startup that has yet to build a household-name brand. Ping-pong tables, flexible working and other such perks are all well and good, but they’re increasingly table stakes when it comes to winning and retaining talent. So what makes a job seeker choose Company A over Company B during a downturn? It largely comes down to a matter of shared vision. Your people need to believe that there’s a real need for your product or service, and that a promising future in which they will thrive beckons.
This vision needs to be complemented by clear employee-brand values that articulate exactly why people should join your company for the long term. Being able to communicate your vision and values well through the company culture and leadership is critical to your talent strategy and will help to recruit, retain and motivate the talent you need to build your business at a time when other firms may be struggling.
5. In it for the long haul
Markets fall, but they also rise. Over time investment levels will pick up and the fintech sector will no doubt have further booms and busts in the years ahead. But regardless of what happens in the macroeconomic environment, success will always come to businesses with strong business fundamentals and resilient operations. This may not be as “sexy” as smashing subscriber growth records, but ultimately it is more demonstrably linked to revenue growth. When all’s said and done, that’s what matters most – to businesses and investors alike.
Interested in learning how Navro’s payments curation could help your business scale smoothly? Then reach out to Eddie or the sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org