The Entrepreneur: Abe Smith, Dealflo
"If you're not simultaneously terrified and excited, something probably needs to change" - Fintech founder Smith talks business...
Founder: Abe Smith
Company: Dealflo Limited
Description in one line: Automating the world’s $15 trillion financial agreements
Previous companies: Geneva Partners, Proficient, Atomic
12 month target: £7m in annual recurring revenue
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- The world transacts $15 trillion of financial agreements annually. Human intervention in those agreement processes causes problems such as miss-selling, errors, lost sales, and high costs.
- Dealflo completely automates the financial agreement process ensuring customers and institutions alike are protected with compliant sales processes whilst reducing costs, increasing conversion and improving the user experience.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Automating over $20bn of financial agreements for some of the world’s biggest global companies.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
I have an app which tracks our service transaction volumes and system health which I’ll keep an eye on. In terms of business metrics, rather than looking at numbers on a daily basis, I tend to look at trends month-to-month for pipeline, order intake, recurring revenue growth and churn.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Today, we service clients in most major European countries but already have plans, partnerships and pipeline in place to roll out in the US and Asia.
Describe your growth funding path:
We were self and angel funded at seed stage and did our Series A round with Notion Capital in 2014. The team at Notion have been extremely supportive and will participate in our forthcoming Series B round this year.
After that we will likely raise one more [smaller] Series C to propel us to our 2020 objective of achieving £70m in recurring revenue.
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Where would you like your business to be in three years?
We would like to be recognised beyond Europe as the market leader for financial transaction management with circa £30m turnover from an established EU, US and Asia client base.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Turning away new business. The company is experiencing hyper-growth and we sometimes have to make tough calls when prioritising new clients.
I do realise this is a quality problem to have (and we may not always have it) but as someone who’s grown up on the sales side of business, it goes against my natural instincts.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Blurring the lines between family and work time. I’ve had to work on that over the years (and it’s probably still a work in progress).
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
Red tape tends to affect our clients more than us – think compliance and data protection regulation. Both are necessary for the industry to evolve safely but regulation is getting more onerous over time.
Since we help clients manage the cost and risk associated with compliance I guess you could say that instead of hampering, red tape has actually served to help our growth!
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Excessively focusing on product over market and strategy.
How will your market look in three years?
The need to automate higher risk agreement processes will drive consolidation within the identity, e-signature, compliance and trust service sectors. We’re the first offering in the marketplace which combines these areas of intellectual property (IP) but I think others will follow.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
If you’re not simultaneously terrified and excited [running your business], something probably needs to change.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
On the job.
What would make you a better leader?
I’d like to spend more time running the business than raising capital. It’s a huge distraction but a necessary one if, like us, you’re investing for growth.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing when you start a business. If you knew all the hurdles you’d have to overcome at the outset, you might never get out of the blocks.
Sometimes you just have to jump and worry about the consequences later.
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
Wall Street Journal and Google Maps
Favourite business book?
I don’t read them!