RateSetter: Rhydian Lewis and Peter Behrens
Company name: RateSetter Website:www.RateSetter.com Founders: Rhydian Lewis, Peter Behrens Age: Both 33 Based: Southwark, London Staff Numbers: 9 Date started: October 2010 Tell us what your business does:RateSetter is a peer-to-peer lending site, bringing together savers and borrowers directly with each other, at interest rates they agree themselves. RateSetter’s role is to make sure it is safe and all works smoothly – it is a middleman like a bank, but a thinner one. The purpose of RateSetter is to close the gap between what savers can earn on their money and what borrowers pay for their loans.
Where did the idea for your business come from? I had been looking at peer-to-peer finance for a while. Following the banking crisis I started looking into it in detail. I love exchanges for their efficiency and transparency and I knew something about banking so set about trying to work out how to optimise the existing model to make it simpler and potentially more mainstream. That was the genesis of it. Then Peter and I spent four months trying to work out how to make it very easy for the consumer to understand.
How did you know there was a market for it? There’s a lot of discontent with banks, and people are looking for alternative investments where they have control of their savings. The established peer-to-peer models are complex and opaque: we’re making peer-to-peer finance simple and safe.
What were you doing before starting up? I was working at Lazard in their financial institutions team. Peter was working at RBS. Yes, it is hard to leave the security of a job but the opportunity seemed worth it.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? For both of us, the motivation was about creating a product that would be popular and a business that could prosper. It was not about being my own boss per se: we have a vision of what we want to achieve, and we’re all committed to making it a reality.
What planning did you do before you started up?I did a lot of planning myself – reading, research, writing things down. A friend of Pete’s then helped us organise some market research which was very helpful. We received a lot of good advice from lots of people but in the end you have to go with your instinct and just focus on making things happen!
How did you raise the money? It was raised from private business angels. It was a tough environment in 2009 – but once they saw that our proposition was different to the existing models, they quickly bought into its potential. We have been oversubscribed in both rounds of financing.
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What was the biggest challenge you faced in setting up? Aside from raising the investment which is always a challenge, convincing key suppliers to take us on was hard work – we had no track record and that makes life difficult. Particularly in financial services, your brand and credibility is key for all your relationships. We got there in the end but it requires a lot of determination.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?Work harder than anyone else. What your gut tells you is usually right, so don’t spend long making decisions – you haven’t got that time. And focus on building a team around you – the most important thing is the team.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?For RateSetter to be a significant force in personal finance and a strong consumer brand. We are not thinking about exits – we are totally focussed on just growing the business and making the experience better for customers. We’re looking to build a strong credible brand and business – if we get that right, then everything else will take care of itself.