haysmacintyres hot seat: 30 minutes with Christoph Rieche of iwoca
An occasional series featuring haysmacintyre’s clients who are leading developments within the creative, media and technology sectors.
First up is Christoph Rieche, co-founder of iwoca, a disruptive force for good in fintech and an audit, tax and outsourcing client of haysmacintyre.
iwoca offers flexible credit to small businesses across Europe, delivering instant decisions, but requiring no long term commitment. In this interview, we learn that the catalyst for launching iwoca was the unfair nature of business lending and how Christoph’s mission is to help accelerate the growth of one million businesses.
What led to iwoca being founded?
I saw an opportunity to fill the void between businesses’ financial requirements and current business lending. I also wanted to make the lending process fairer and more simple.
Applying for a business loan can take a huge investment of time and effort and you may not get anywhere, not because your business isn’t worthy, but because the clarity of the product or other business case isn’t evaluated appropriately.
Look at the macroeconomics; businesses need cash to grow, but the cash isn’t getting through, halting growth. Overcome the subjectivity, apply relevant measures, surround the process with clarity and you can simplify and quicken the application process and increase the funds in circulation, generating growth. Those are the founding principles of iwoca.
The business was founded in 2012; have you achieved your five year goals?
I am constantly setting goals and objectives; at iwoca we work to monthly and quarterly measures, but in five years we’ve loaned to 10,000 businesses and now employ over 150 people.
How did you envisage the iwoca culture when you first started out and as you’ve become an employer to more people, has your vision altered?
The realisation of a culture is a developing process. First, in meeting James (James Dear, CTO and iwoca co-founder) very early on I found the one person who could make my zero substance, sparsely worked out vision, a business that could work. I looked for someone who would complement my skills, but who would also be a cultural fit. The culture wasn’t mapped out, but I could see we had shared values and those were the first influences on iwoca’s culture.
As you grow you can’t make every personnel selection, you don’t get to meet everyone, so you rely on others – and your leadership - to influence the culture and you cement those values. To grow the business and maintain the culture we look for smart, motivated people with a growth mind-set. That means we all try to overachieve, we set stretch targets and we push ourselves within boundaries. We are humble; we use the tools available to us, we ‘push and test’ and then ‘push and test’ again.
Have you experienced any setbacks?
Yes, of course. If you push yourself, if you have a growth mind-set, you’re bound to have setbacks… and that’s why it’s hard work. If business was easy, then it would be only a matter of luck.
What are your predictions for fintech?
Fintech is a huge industry made up of millions of smaller parts. The momentum is driven by start-ups. In this context, the banks reacting to that innovation have been unable to select the best opportunities. Now, banks are upgrading their systems and technology and time-framing trends. Increasingly, we’ll see innovations reaching the consumer through the banks via cooperation with fintechs.
Banking services are not confined to the banks. Technology has enabled Amazon and PayPal to take payments and now they offer credit to consumers and it’s integrated and seamless. iwoca can power non-financial players too in offering financial services.
What advice do you have for those seeking to build a business?
Always have a plan and goal in mind, and be prepared to adjust that plan.
And work with people who share your values.
Do you have a mentor?
There is no one individual I take advice from, rather I try to seek advice in every conversation that I have. Whether it be with someone in my team, or discussion at a conference or other event, I find people who ‘can’.
Do you have a business person you admire, your own business hero?
I am impressed by Amazon, launching so many different businesses and all of enormous scale. Another is Elon Musk, who has been so influential and successfully founded companies in industries with such high capital barriers to entry.
What are your future goals for iwoca?
To finance one million small businesses and that requires us to expand further internationally.
Small businesses have been chronically underfunded; all but one quarter out of the last 22 lending has been negative; consider the implications of flooding businesses with funding. This would have the potential to set free potential growth, increasing jobs and offering wealth and prosperity to so many more.
Why did you start working with haysmacintyre?
I first came across haysmacintyre when they carried financial due diligence for a company seeking to invest in iwoca. It was a good start - we got the investment!
They are auditors to so many other technology companies and it was clear they understood iwoca straight away. They’re generous with their knowledge and their service - I’ve learnt a lot from them - and Natasha (Natasha Frangos, head of creative, media and technology for haysmacintyre) and Tom (Tom Stock, audit director for haysmacintyre) have taken good care of us. It’s telling that I don’t feel they input more into our relationship now than when we were first introduced - their investment in iwoca’s success has always been so high.