A Q&A with two FinTech CEOs: iwoca and Tide Banking

By Christopher Reiche, iwoca

1. Tell us what you do and what sets you apart from the competition.

iwoca is providing vital financing to the millions of small businesses that are chronically underfunded and underserved by the banks. We have developed a data driven technology platform that enables us to make credit decisions within minutes of an online application. We’ve funded more than 10,000 small businesses to date. Customers love our straightforward and user-friendly process which is unparalleled in the industry.

2. iwoca is one of the most successful FinTech startups in the UK. What is the secret to your success?

The entire team is passionate about and driven by our mission to solve an important macro-economic challenge that banks were unable to address effectively. Providing small businesses with the funding they need to grow their business will create jobs and prosperity. Furthermore, we are fostering a growth mindset within our team to ensure that we never become tired of questioning the status quo. This pushes us to constantly get better at what we do.

3. FinTech companies have to compete hard for talent – how do you attract the workforce you need to scale?

Hiring is one of the most important disciplines for any growth company. We are proud to have a team of 150 talented iwocans that come from all over the world. Behind the scenes we have created a thriving community where friendships are fostered and people genuinely enjoy spending (a lot of) time together to enjoy the ride as we work frantically towards achieving our mission. This, coupled with attractive career prospects and competitive compensation, helps us to compete for the best available talent.

4. What is the best and worst part of setting up a start-up company?

The best part of setting up a start-up is the autonomy to define its purpose and mission at the outset. Thereafter, it is an incredible feeling to win people for your mission and see them progress over time. It is also a bit of an insane undertaking to build a global champion from scratch which requires many sacrifices in other parts of your life.

5. You recently signed a strategic partnership with Tide Banking. Tell us more about that deal and how working with another FinTech company differs from your relationship with more established institutions and business.

In short, small businesses can now get a credit facility from iwoca via their Tide account within minutes of applying and without ever leaving the Tide app. Tide is using our new Lending API which enables our partners to offer a market leading credit product to their customers via a seamless and fully automated integration.

6. Running a start up is hard work – any tips on managing stress?

It’s not for the faint hearted but I am privileged to have an amazing co-founder in James as well as a smart, humble and passionate team with a huge growth mindset around me. They remove a lot of the stress by giving me the confidence that all parts of the business are in good hands.

By George Bevis, Tide Banking

1. Tell us what you do and what sets you apart from the competition.

Tide is the next generation banking service which saves small businesses time and money. As well as offering (better versions of) the services SMEs expect from traditional banks, free of charge and with instant online signup, we also add a range of unique time-saving tools like automatic bookkeeping, expenses management and invoicing.

2. Raising funding is always a major challenge for startups – what is the key to getting investors to back your company? 

I’ve found the personal story of the founder is disproportionately important to investors.  I don’t think it should matter as much as it does, but investors seem to love a fairytale story of how and why you came to build your business.  “I studied the sector at McKinsey and it seemed like a good idea” may be the truth but nobody is excited to invest in that.

3. What is the best and worst part of setting up a start-up company?

The best part of setting up a start-up is the autonomy to define its purpose and mission at the outset. Thereafter, it is an incredible feeling to win people for your mission and see them progress over time. It is also a bit of an insane undertaking to build a global champion from scratch which requires many sacrifices in other parts of your life.

4. How do you pick a good chairman? 

It’s hard.  The requirements are that (a) they aren’t going to be pain to work with (unless there’s a very good reason), and (b) that they can add real value. I think (a) is more important than (b).  We got both with our Chairman, who is terrific, but I think we got lucky and I hate the thought of ever having to replace her.

5. What were you doing before you set up Tide and how has this experience helped you as a founder of a new business? 

I’ve been an entrepreneur and a banker before, and I also did a fair amount of work on small business policy for a political party before.  As a result I had the (almost) unique experience of having suffered the admin pains that small business owners experience, the knowledge as a banker of how to fix the problem, and the awareness of the national (and international) need for someone to fix it.

6. Running a start up is hard work – any tips on managing stress?

I don’t have children so I get to sleep in at weekends.  For me it’s a life-saver and I protect it fiercely.  I really have no idea how entrepreneurs with young children cope.  I know many people swear by regular exercise.  Tide also has a work-from-home scheme on Fridays for most staff and it really helps to clear out the inbox before the weekend.