Konstantin Stiskin, founder of Finom tells us about online financial services.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Konstantin Stiskin: When the pandemic started, I was living with my wife and two kids in Moscow, and things were pretty hysterical. People were deeply scarred by the virus. But then – at some point – the Russian government decided to basically ignore the problem, and life and business are now running as usual there. In the meantime, I moved with my family to Cyprus, and adjusting to a new country in the middle of a pandemic has been difficult. Most things are closed down in Cyprus, and you cannot go around to discover the island. Your relatives cannot visit from Russia. On top of that, I was infected by covid-19, but fortunately, I went through it without major health problems or long-term consequences.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Finom.
Konstantin Stiskin: I am 31 years old and was born and raised in Moscow. I am also a father of two amazing kids and the co-founder of FINOM, where I supervise licensed operation, fundraising, and business development.
I started my career in 2011, and the best offer I got was a VC fund called Runa Capital. Since then, VC became my passion, job, and hobby. Since then, I have been working across many different sectors. The most successful investment and entrepreneurial activities of mine were fintech, genetics, and marketplaces. I am actually directly involved in multiple tech companies as a board member, for example – Genotek, a leading Russian genetic testing company.
How does Finom innovate?
Konstantin Stiskin: FINOM is a financial platform designed by a team of entrepreneurs and freelancers who know first-hand what it takes to run a successful business of any size and in any industry. FINOM is providing services in France, Germany, and Italy. I believe that we don’t innovate but renovate in order to become the next generation of B2B financial services. We blend together back-office processes that entrepreneurs run every day, starting from banking, accounting, and invoicing. Our clients can use our tools when they really need them, without wasting any time waiting in lines and having access to features that are usually available only to large businesses and corporations.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Konstantin Stiskin: I think we will assess the real impact of the pandemic on our business in 2-3 years from now. For sure, our target clients – SMEs, startups, and freelancers – are deeply affected by the economic crisis. Many fought for survival as usually, governments prefer to support larger employers more than small businesses. Our mission is to create fintech solutions for small businesses and professionals as they are the backbone of the economy in Europe. I believe our solutions helped our clients to stay in the game, using online, easy-to-use business tools, which are offered at a reasonable price (even for free in some cases!). We also invested significant resources in increasing our cashback program in order to improve the cash flow of our clients. Depending on the plans they are on, and how much they use their cards, our clients can get more money from the cashback every month than the cost of their monthly subscription to FINOM. I think, overall, we helped many European entrepreneurs and professionals to keep running their businesses safely and effectively.
While, if we move within FINOM, the main problem brought by covid-19 is about effective internal communication. Having all our 100 people working from remote locations is not easy to manage. It slows down decision-making, especially on difficult decisions. We tackled this issue in many different ways in the last months. For example, we host regular all-team calls to update the teams on the main decisions and business priorities. But there is also space for other – more informal – calls like an “aperitivo” format in which people can chat and drink with colleagues in a relaxed mood or the “coffee with founders” call, where staffers can ask the founders any questions, without being mindful of respective roles.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Konstantin Stiskin: FINOM is a startup, so we make difficult decisions on human resources every day. A startup is burning money, so it needs to have the right people and the right organizational structure to grow in a healthy way. Last year there was an internal discussion on whether or not FINOM could benefit from a reorganization, but then the final decision was not to cut but to strengthen what we already got. I strongly believe that people are our most valuable asset and that a good product is built only by happy people.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Konstantin Stiskin: From the very beginning, our approach to customer service was to create a culture of not only meeting our customer’s expectations but aiming to exceed them. I believe the best way to achieve this is for our entire team to be as efficient as possible whilst also making their day-to-day role easy and straightforward.
Like any startup, we began servicing our customers using various different platforms, such as a standard ticketing system, email inbox, and shared databases. However, our team spent a lot of time and effort managing what often felt like unnecessary tasks.
Instead, we introduced an internal CRM system that can integrate with all of these bespoke platforms, providing all teams in the company with a single view of our customer. This allows us to reduce time spent on less meaningful tasks and more time spent focusing on what our customers want, such as responding to queries in just a few minutes!
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Konstantin Stiskin: No, we did not benefit from any government grants. But I would like to say that European States should start thinking about partnering with tech and financial players like FINOM to ensure that their government grants are distributed to the right target, decreasing the chance of wasting public money.
Your final thoughts?
Konstantin Stiskin: Regardless of the current pandemic, I think there is no better place than Europe to build the future of innovation. Europe has got talents and investors, but it is still lagging behind the USA and China. I see there is a strong opportunity to close the gap in the next few years. If we compare Europe to the USA, for example, Europe is a bigger market, with a larger cumulated GDP.