Become the leader and keep on pushing
The fourth episode of “Fund Your Way” explores the story of Benoit Menardo (Co-founder of Payflow) and his experience of raising $9.1m right after graduating from Y Combinator. Payflow is the earned wage access fintech startup operating in Southern Europe and LatAm.
Before founding Payflow, Benoit had two entrepreneurial experiences of entirely different sorts. The first company that he could not secure outside funding for, was the self-funded social venture in Brazil aimed at providing accessible electricity to people via building micro hydroelectrical plants. The second company was the venture that he built for Rocket Internet as CEO after years of working in consulting.
“It was the perfect safe environment, where I could learn everything about scaling and did not have any funding issues. However, I did not feel the real startup atmosphere as I had a low stake in the company and did not make all the decisions.”
Benoit believes that the best way to learn new things is to talk to people and that’s the one thing, apart from gaming, he really enjoyed doing as a child and still does.
Benoit concludes that “talking with people is much more scalable than reading as you can get access to the real knowledge, gain present-day insights from people. The trick is to talk with people from different backgrounds so you get a full overview.”
He wishes he could spend less time on the road, which would definitely help because
“when you scale you realize that you have more things to do while feeling that you have less time for that.”
The idea for Payflow came from Benoit’s experience of giving private lessons on math when he was young combined with his student time at MIT University in the USA, where he met his co-founder Avi. When Benoit taught lessons, he got his money right after the sessions. Such type of payment is becoming more common nowadays due to a change in mentality influenced by a lot of services, like Uber or Deliveroo, where there is an almost instant collection of payment for services by the provider. Moreover, while working in the US, employees typically get paid bi-weekly or even weekly, which contradicted with Europe’s “once a month salary” that Benoit experienced when he moved back.
The team at Payflow tries to provide all employees of companies in southern Europe and LatAm with the similar experience of receiving paycheques faster and when an employee actually needs it as opposed to the first Thursday of each month.
The current investment round for Payflow of $9.1m USD came together within two and a half weeks since the first chat with potential investors. The team just finished the Y Combinator program and saw an exponential growth of all the metrics, therefore they wanted to open all the valves and expand even faster with the use of capital. Payflow is the leader 🥇 within their operating region with over 140 worldwide competitors. “In order to sustain this position we need to frequently raise.”
Having strong traction, Benoit and the team tested hard potential investors and did comprehensive due diligence on them.
“You need to talk with portfolio companies of investors, choose the companies by yourself, and see what they say about the fund.”
Benoit put emphasis on the hard skills of potential partners, as he was looking for particular knowledge and experiences, e.g. as one of the investors Benoit secured an investment from a fund that scaled all the unicorns in Spain and helped them expand to LatAm, which is exactly what Payflow is doing at the moment.
Benoit believes that it is not the best decision to approach investors directly given today’s market dynamics.
“There is a real scarcity of high-value projects now and investors are constantly looking for them and rarely wait to be contacted.”
There is a real power of the network that results in introductions you can get from people you know, which brings us back to Benoit’s love of talking 💬 with people and learning through dialogues.
Benoit approached the current investment round with lessons learned from the first round. He strictly put the timeline for the round and did not talk with potential investors before or after because
“it really takes a lot of time and drives you away from real business. I do not want to repeat the mistake I made last time when I started talking with new investors right before the closure of the round.”
Speaking of lessons, Benoit concluded that it would have been better if he syndicated all the small investors in the first round as it would ease the legal and governance process and definitely save time during signing documents.
Every company ultimately wants to build long-term relationships with investors, so they don’t just give you one check and leave you all alone, but keep investing along the journey. This is typically possible for large and well-established funds.
Benoit believes that “you should not disregard niche and not so well-known funds, which can give you a lot of added value apart from capital, as they focus only on the field you operate it. The key is a balance between big names and niche expertise.”
🗣 I want to wish Benoit, who I happened to meet during his consulting years, and the whole team at Payflow the best of luck in their journey towards changing the paradigm of how employees receive salaries. There is high competition out there and being a market leader means everyone else wants to take your spot. Keep pushing and never let up!