INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Pressure Turns Carbon into Diamonds
We talked to Konstantin Djelebov of phyre on how they make payments and money transfers faster and easy to track. The following is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Konstantin Djelebov: Thanks for asking. I have managed to stay safe, but a week ago, my mother tested positive. She is in the high-risk group, and I was very worried about it. She is now recovering, and I hope that very soon she will get over it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded phyre.
Konstantin Djelebov: I’m from those lucky ones who have discovered their passion at a very young age. My computer, a gift from a person I will never forget, let my imagination flow. I could put my ideas into action, and the output could reach billions (at that time, millions). Focusing on computer science was natural.
Just a year after starting my bachelor’s degree, I joined the IT division of a bank as a trainee. I met great people who allowed me to go through all departments to found out that internet banking is what really gets me really excited. I spent three years there, and my final project was revolutionary for its time – end-to-end self-service remote registration for the internet banking system. Now it sounds funny!
I was invited by a friend to discuss an idea of a multi-retailer loyalty program focused on consumer behavior analysis. Several months after that, we founded getti, which attracted more than 150,000. There I met my partners with whom we co-founded phyre. They practically acquired us.
How does phyre innovate?
Konstantin Djelebov: We know very well what we are good at it. I have vast experience in product and IT, my co-founders in finance and business development. We understand why we teamed up together – because payments and financial products are too complex, and they need to be simple. Stepping on this solid base, we identified problems we could solve and pains that we could relieve, which could be scaled.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Konstantin Djelebov: phyre acts as the engine propelling the fintech strategy of traditional banking and financial institutions and companies that are just entering this sector. The pandemic has massively accelerated digitization, so from this point, it has played well for us by far.
User cases that we have not even imagined are popping us, and we are very happy to be well-positioned to serve them. From insurance to credit, fx, employees benefit even care homes, which would have taken a decade to mature.
On the other side, we need to cope with our clients’ thinner budgets, restructure our operation, and select the right opportunities.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Konstantin Djelebov: Who doesn’t? I have learned that there is an underlying fear behind most of the difficult choices that one needs to make. When you identify what’s provoking the fear, you can overcome emotion and let the logic and your gut feeling guide you.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and phyre in the future?
Konstantin Djelebov: Sports is the simplest and, I would say, the most efficient way to maintain both your physical and mental health. I try to work out as frequently and as hard as my body and mind needs. After each exhausting session, you feel like a winner. Your thoughts are clear, and your spirit is high!
As a geek, I was quite an anti-sports guy at a young age. A condition I needed to tackle forced me to start doing sports. In the beginning, it is always very, very hard. Now it’s a lifestyle. I urge everyone who doesn’t activate their bodies to break the barrier they have built themselves and work hard to make sports a habit. It’s life-changing.
I imagine phyre being positioned as the top-of-mind toolkit when people launch their finance service and I serving as its leader.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Konstantin Djelebov: Our competitors are all companies who offer digital banking platforms and banking as a service. We don’t plan to stay in the game but to win it. If not, change the game. The strategy we consider as a win is to reduce the complexity of onboarding and to enable companies to offer banking and payment services at a higher scale.
Your final thoughts?
Konstantin Djelebov: This is a tough period for all of us. But we need always to remember that pressure turns carbon into diamonds. I believe that this crisis will help us leapfrog at least a decade in our development as a society and across industries.
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