We talked to Maksim Hardziyenak of goscore about how they make financial services that help people and banks to negotiate the best possible offer and get the best product fit. Here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Maksim Hardziyenak: This might sound like a blessing while our personal lives, families, and employees were not affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. However, some of our friends had to be sitting in the quarantine and stay home fighting against it. Some of us have families in Belarus, where the former president totally ignored the fact the virus exists and called to treat it by visiting saunas, riding a tractor, and don’t freak out. And we have had a personal advantage of our successful previous remote work experience.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded goscore.
Maksim Hardziyenak: I’ve always been dreaming of getting a call from Steve Jobs with an offer to step in and be an Apple frontrunner. And I knew that technology would change the world and will solve numerous problems. So I’ve decided to study math, software development, and data analysis to better understand the future of technology and how to make it work. During my studies, I’ve already started working as a software developer and in just 9 months was acknowledged as Senior Software developer and moved to another company to lead product development. Within less than 2 years, I was appointed to lead all technology development and became a partner/CTO to lead all 300 online stores, process 20k orders/day with just 80 managers, and ship to the customers.
Afterward, I’ve been working on a healthcare startup in Switzerland for almost 3 years of solving various architectural and ML problems. I was ready to move on, and I found a new challenge I want to overcome when it became technically possible – a broken credit scoring. And it was great timing as well: I was invited into the first batch of startups at NCE Finance Innovation in Bergen. I personally faced the unfair and inaccurate information delivered by CRAs and know how to make it fair and human, maybe the first time in history.
How does goscore innovate?
Maksim Hardziyenak: The vision, routines, and organizational structure are nothing when the team isn’t ready to solve challenges. And our team is built around solving problems, a team with experience of solving real-life problems to change the lives of real people. This is how we innovate naturally. One of another important thing is that in goscore, it’s ok to make mistakes and learn from them to improve. We always facilitate research and a “try & error” approach in the everyday worklife. We’re not afraid of making mistakes to learn and innovate.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Maksim Hardziyenak: It was challenging times for our customers and our banks. Right before the complete lockdown in Norway, we won a local challenge for startups organized and supported by Sparebank1 SR-Bank, held a workshop with 14 banks, talking about the joining forced to make credit scoring and risk assessment fairer, we got bank leads from the STHLM Fintech Week. We had great demos for 3 banks of TOP 5 Finish banks in Helsinki. All these opportunities and potential PoCs have been postponed to an undefined date.
To overcome these challenges, we’ve worked more on helping Europe to tackle the consequences and minimize the harm of the virus outbreak, so we participated in several hackathons to fight the result of the outbreak. E.g., we won the one organized by the European Commission in the financial category, participated in the marathon to meet and network with innovators across the EU. There we presented a solution to help tenants who have been temporarily laid off to get fair reasons to ask for a discount from the landlord. Hundreds of Norwegians and Europeans were able to save money while they are looking for a new job. Our users were able to get up to a 40% discount and save up to €400 every month for at least 6 months. That’s what it means to apply the technology to solve real-life issues the goscore way.
Likely that was a short period for us, and starting from June, we’re able to get back on track with a joined research project with debt collection companies and later got a PoC with a Norwegian commercial bank. We’ve also time to prepare documents to apply for a CRA license and awaiting the authorities to issue a license this year.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Maksim Hardziyenak: It’s always tricky to cope with unpredictable challenges such as a pandemic outbreak, but it’s even more difficult to say “no” to the opportunities. There are so many great new opportunities we get every day. It’s more complicated than we can solve these challenges. Imagine that your best friend is coming to you with a problem you can solve, but you have to say “no” to him/her. This is how we feel every time a new opportunity arises.
But we’ve learned that hard way: we’ve tried to go multiple ways and failed to succeed with any of these options.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Maksim Hardziyenak: Our team is extremely comfortable working remotely/from home due to the previous successful experience, so we can recommend using Slack for internal communication and working on projects and discuss questions, JIRA/Trello for software project management, and set up regular routines to catch up with news such as daily/weekly status calls with 1-month retrospectives. It also helps determine if the team can also work in self-organized units if one unit’s work is not required and doesn’t affect the other unit’s work.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Maksim Hardziyenak: Our main competition comes from the traditional CRAs who still analyses the creditworthiness and calculate credit scoring of private individuals relying on outdated tax report as a financial indicator. They also use technology invented 70 years ago. On the other side, goscore utilizes real-time data and insights calculated from up-to-date transactions (bank statements) and cutting-edge technology, such as neural networks, to give more personal and fair human credit scoring.
Your final thoughts?
Maksim Hardziyenak: Even while this pandemic is truly horrible and took too many lives away. But it’s also an opportunity for some companies and startups to boom by offering the right services and finding a new niche. So, be persistent and don’t give up, and you’ll see a full world of opportunities around. Be brave to grab them. Be honest and open to ask around and talk to your customers; they have problems now, too. And these issues you might be able to solve.
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