Lessons from Fintech with Rich Ashton
Meet Rich Ashton, Business Development Manager at Braavo in Barcelona. Rich joined Braavo from FastPay in London, where he grew the business development team from an early stage. We talked to Rich about his impressions of the fintech industry and what to look out for if you’re an early stage app business founder.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from working in fintech?
As soon as there’s a new buzzword in fintech, people like to jump on the bandwagon. Crypto is a great example of that. But there’s a lot more to building a financial product that solves real problems than just developing a nice app UI and calling it fintech. Some of the most interesting fintech companies are using tech to disrupt incumbents by de-risking the financial world and old school models for due diligence.
With all these new fintech companies, it’s tempting to optimize for the lowest cost of capital based on the headline rate. But customers should be aware of the full list of fees and terms. They need to consider vital aspects such as the finance provider’s track record, access to capital, flexibility, and security requirements.
There can be hidden costs too. For example, there is nothing more precious to a founder, and his/her team, than time. If you manage to save a few dollars in financing fees, but go with a solution that takes a lot of time to arrange and manage, then ultimately your real cost of capital will soar.
There’s probably more money available today than ever before, from a wider range of providers. However, this financing can come with strings attached. Cash is not a commodity.
What advice would you give to an early-stage app founder thinking about funding options?
Make sure you’re looking at all the funding options available to you. And make sure that the funding you pick fits with your vision for your company.
I’ve found that more experienced mobile app founders understand this. They have a different awareness of time and value. They’re more interested in exploring different funding options, because they see the value of preserving equity.
I often see less experienced founders still wooed by the idea of having a VC onboard and chasing VC funding. They think it’s the only or the best way to fund their business, and they lose a lot of time and energy to pitching. Then, if they do get funding, I’ve heard a few horror stories about founders and VCs who weren’t on the same page at all about the company vision.
I think that a combination of debt and equity is better for most companies. It doesn’t make sense for many app businesses to continually raise large amounts of equity from investors that only expect a handful of companies from each fund to succeed.
What makes Braavo different from traditional fintech and/or mobile companies?
For a company of its size, I was surprised by its global reach. Braavo is in 20 countries already. It’s an amazing opportunity to work with a trusted US lender if you’re running a company in a country that doesn’t yet have a mature financial services sector.
I was also impressed with the depth of Braavo’s analytics tool. We have 40+ custom integrations, giving our clients seamless access to funding and reporting. Most fintech companies don’t and can’t bridge the gap between analytics and funding like Braavo does.
What is the best part about working at Braavo?
Transparency. Each month, Mark and Sergei meet with us and share the company’s financials, goals, and vision. They’ve created a real culture of trust and transparency that is open and where the founders are directly available to anyone. It’s awesome.
When I meet with mobile app developers and show them the product, they’re amazed to realize this product exists. This is really encouraging feedback for a business development manager, to know that you’re solving a tangible issue.
What is it like being a part of the team building Braavo in Barcelona?
It’s great! I enjoy building and shaping the team. I work with smart people in a great location. We have a good amount of autonomy within structure to do it. And, for me as a London expat, Barcelona has been great. There’s also a growing tech hub here, with a number of VCs and startups. I see a lot of tech companies relocating staff to Barcelona, which is exciting for the tech industry here.