It’s been a year since Paytron, a multi-currency payments startup, raised $4.35 million in launching the product for the SMB market.
Co-founders Jaco Veldsman and Francois Henrion wanted to tackle the pain point of small business owners doing too much paperwork to manage their international payments, and they’ve spent the past 12 months building a comprehensive payments platform for SMEs and accountants.
Last June, they had 3 full-time employees and bold ambitions to disrupt the archaic payments industry.
Now they have grown to 30 people helping a rapidly growing customer base. The roadmap ahead includes a new business card feature launching in the UK and improvements to the existing products.
Veldsman and Henrion say “it’s been a great year” for Paytron.
“It has not been easy and the journey of the past 12 months has taught us a lot,” they said.
“We are still learning a lot, but that makes it all the more exciting.”
So we wanted to know what they had learned as the founders of an early stage fintech.
These are the lessons they are eager to share.
2 ears, 1 mouth – listen twice as much
“In the beginning we thought we knew exactly what our customers wanted. We’ve built and built and built and wondered why these features and improvements weren’t adopted. This caused frustration for us and our developers.
“In hindsight, this was an obvious mistake. What led us to get our seed funding was listening to our ideal client and focusing our efforts on their biggest pain points, one by one. Today, this methodology is embedded in our DNA.
“We will not build unless there is strong customer demand, and we have the work laid out.”
Build it and they will come… does not work. Quick turn
“We started Paytron after working collectively in investment banking for 40 years.
“We met through a mutual acquaintance and started doing consulting work together with an SME client, seeing how manual their business payments were.
“We were shocked at how they merged five to six different apps to manage their business payments. This consulting work led us to build Paytron, with a relentless focus on alleviating pain points in all facets of payments: accounts payable, accounts receivable, international payments, payroll and expense management.
“We have been able to significantly expand our customer base by never assuming what customers want and actually asking. The benefits of listening and customer obsession mean it’s much easier to know when you’re wrong and need to change. †
Hire a solid team – and trust them
“We hired well and we hired poorly. What we’ve learned is that as a startup, we need to hire people who can roll up their sleeves, get stuck, and have no ego.
“In the beginning, we assumed that people from well-known companies were the right kind of people and believed in their ability to be self-starters.
“However, over time we have realized that the transition from corporate to start-up is much more difficult than most people think. When we hire people, we look for hunters, not farmers.”
Don’t be distracted by shiny things
“In the beginning we tried to be everything to everyone. We were distracted by what our competition was doing, or by reading about innovations in payment in other countries.
“We quickly learned that we needed to focus on what would make our customers’ lives easier.
“Yes, we had to keep an eye on the competition, but it wouldn’t work if we hunted all the time. †
Juggle, but don’t drop the ball
“In a growing company, it becomes increasingly difficult to juggle. As the team grows, the work changes and you have new challenges.
“It’s true that we suffered a bit from ‘founder syndrome’ and found it difficult at first to let go of things that we previously had on our ‘to-do’ list.
“Our focus now is on making sure the team is on the same page and helping where we can.”
“Founders are by nature rather bally. You will probably leave an established brand, a healthy salary and a very stable environment in a very different world.
“This new world is plagued by uncertainty and constant challenges from external factors.
“Counter-intuitively, to survive you have to take risks, which on balance increases your chance of success.”
Ask for help when you need it
†We don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay.
“When we got our seed funding, we carefully selected the VC and angel investors we wanted to work with.
“We were looking for more than money, we wanted guidance in areas where we weren’t that strong.”
Celebrate the wins
“It’s important to stop, pause and celebrate the great achievements across the company.
“From where we were as a company, and as a product 12 months ago, versus where we are now, it’s crazy to see how far we’ve come.
“Sometimes you feel overwhelmed by what you haven’t done, but then look back and realize how much you’ve accomplished and get another injection of excitement and enthusiasm about the future.”
Choose your battles
“Be ruthless with your time. We were always used to growing business with limited resources, but doing this in a start-up is a next level challenge.
By nature, growing a start-up is an iterative process that has inefficiencies in its own right.
“You just can’t afford to spend your own or your team’s time on tasks that don’t move you forward and closer to your next goal.”
- 1 2 ears, 1 mouth – listen twice as much
- 2 Build it and they will come… does not work. Quick turn
- 3 Hire a solid team – and trust them
- 4 Don’t be distracted by shiny things
- 5 Juggle, but don’t drop the ball
- 6 be bally
- 7 Ask for help when you need it
- 8 Celebrate the wins
- 9 Choose your battles