Convictions and integrity
The seventh episode of “Fund your way” looks back at the story of Ali Hamriti (CEO and Co-Founder of Rollee) and his experience of raising €4m as a seed round. Rollee is the API for employment data in Europe that provides lenders, insurers and many other businesses with quick and reliable access to their customers’ employment data.
Ali is a data scientist and a first-time founder who always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. Right before founding Rollee he worked in a startup that had to shut down during 😷 COVID-19 pandemic. Ali was working on creating and adapting credit scoring rules when he realized his inner enthusiasm and dedication to help people access better financial services. This devotion fueled Ali and his co-founders later to start building the product with a clear mission statement.
Ali, who is a ⚽️ football fan, believes that
“Being passionate about something outside work makes you feel excited and happy, fills your life with emotions.”
He was always interested in other cultures and experiencing new things. His life so far has been a fascinating journey from being born in Casablanca, Morocco and studying in a French school to moving to Paris, working in Dubai and now building his company all across Europe.
Ali loves listening to podcasts because:
“As an early-stage company you always have something to improve and to add to your product road map. The best way to do it is to learn from past experiences of people.”
By having 20VC as one of the investors Ali automatically answers the question about his favorite podcast show. However, podcasts are not the only source of knowledge that guides him.
“The team dynamics between Benzema and Mbappe, how they complement each other, is what you search for in your cofounder.”
When Ali saw firsthand how the acceptance or refusal of credit by banks impacts the life of individuals, he truly realized the power of data. He saw the potential in a better, more efficient and precise use of data which was in line with his dedication to widening access to financial services. Moreover, a large number of banks and fintechs name financial inclusion as one of their main focus areas. Consequently, Rollee originated in the intersection of Ali’s clear vision and desire to build an analytical tool (supply) and an actual need for such solution from institutions (demand).
“There are hundreds of employment data sources and for banks or fintechs it is easier to partner with somebody, who can analyze and provide them with data, than build the interfaces and systems themselves. This way they can focus on their core business” highlights Ali.
In addition, Ali sets his heart on providing employees, who share their data, with the most seamless user experience possible.
“It will allow more and more people to actually leverage on their data and get better financial products.”
Ali and the team have come to the seed funding, which is the second round for the company, fully prepared.
“We signed our first customers, had tons of feedback and proved that our API suits different cases” concludes Ali.
There were two common aspects Rollee wanted to put more effort and resources into after fundraising: further development of the technical side of the core product and marketing.
Speaking with investors, Ali always clearly articulated his strong convictions regarding his company.
“We were clear about our vision and future we see for Rollee.”
Ali has a firm set of principles that guide him in choosing potential partners and customers for the product he is building.
“I do not want to partner with banks or fintechs who do not really care about financial inclusiveness.”
The same rules apply to investors as well, as Ali was looking for business angels and VCs who previously invested in companies that changed the way people access financial products. This openness and firmness of beliefs helped Ali to secure a great team of investors, including 20VC, Speedinvest, Seedcamp and highly valuable angels. Speaking about interaction with investors, Ali points out that:
“My job is to leverage my network of investors. They are great executives and operators, a lot to learn from them and it helps me to do a better job.”
Ali receives a lot of valuable information about the markets and advice on the product from communications with investors.
“We have a What’sApp chat where we speak almost every single day, share ideas and thoughts.”
The main lesson Ali learned during his first pre-seed funding round for Rollee was to do deep due diligence on investors before contacting them.
“There are funds, whose job is to do pre-seed and seed rounds. They know what to look at and how to invest at such stages. While I spent a lot of time talking with funds that usually do late-stage investments. In the end, the probability they will invest is very low.”
For the seed investment, Ali focused only on investors fit for the company’s stage, who can quickly give feedback. Ali strongly warns against complaining if investors say no:
“You have to move forward. You did your due diligence, so you know that you have X possibilities to access the funds you need.”
Ali tried to match his product road map and geographical expansion plans with the previous experience of investors.
“We were looking for venture funds who can advise us on specific markets we are going to enter next and product tools we are going to develop.”
Apart from hard skills, Ali always put an emphasis on soft skills of VC partners.
“You need to trust your partner and have really good human relationships.”
Time plays an important part in the fundraising process as well. Ali stresses that:
“When you create the list of investors you want to talk with, speak with them in the short time. The actual process has to be brief.”
While the fundraising process can and shall be limited in time, the journey that you go on with your investors is a long one. Therefore, Ali states:
“It is very important to keep good relationships with each other, show integrity. After I said “yes” to a term sheet from an investor, I declined any later proposals even if they were slightly better. I never want to try to leverage one investor over another for a short-term gain.”
🗣 It was a pleasure speaking with Ali, sharing his story and moral beliefs. I wish Ali and the whole team at Rollee the very best in their product development and their mission to widen the access of people to better financial services. I hope that all the efforts will result in changing the mentality and patterns of how employees (pretty much all of us) can use their own data.