First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Sameer Gulati: Thank you for asking! My family and I are doing as well as anyone can be during these uncertain times. We are fortunate to all be healthy and safe at this time.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you joined Plastiq
Sameer Gulati: I’m currently the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Plastiq and joined the company in April 2019. In my role, I oversee Plastiq’s revenue-generating functions as the company continues its rapid scale and growth. I have more than 20 years of experience driving growth for companies in the financial technology and payments industries. Previously, I served as COO for LendingClub, where I oversaw strategy, product, mergers and acquisitions, and business operations. During my tenure, the company grew annual loan originations to more than $10 billion. Before joining LendingClub, I was a Partner at McKinsey & Co., where I served a wide variety of clients globally in digital payments and consumer and small business banking. Prior to that, I was at a startup, so I guess in that sense, my career has come full circle.
How does Plastiq Innovate?
Sameer Gulati: Plastiq’s innovation starts with our groundbreaking products that, for the first time, enable businesses to use their credit cards for virtually any expense — even where credit cards aren’t accepted — so they can maximize the working capital they’ve already earned while also conserving cash. As a champion of small businesses, we are doing everything we can to ensure their success by arming them with ways to make better business decisions. Using data-driven insights, we provide innovative new products that empower businesses to pay or get paid any way they want for ultimate flexibility, freeing them of costly and tedious legacy options.
We’re constantly revisiting our solutions and determining what we can do to make them even stronger, better and more effective. This is even more important during the current economic downturn. During the early months of the COVID-19 downturn, we received crucial feedback from our customers that their cash reserves were running dry. As a result, we accelerated the release of our biller product, Plastiq Accept. This product helps businesses get paid faster and simplify their billing so they could continue operating during this difficult time. In addition, we are launching a variety of new features and product updates in the coming months that will further our innovation cycle. Our clients really appreciate how our frequently updated products and features are meeting their needs, and as a result, we’ve been fortunate to experience significant growth despite the slowdown. To date, we’ve signed up more than one million clients and processed billions in payments.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business and how are you coping?
Sameer Gulati: COVID-19 has had a significant impact on everyone, including businesses of all sizes across the world. We feel thankful that we’ve been able to help even more companies as more and more businesses have needed to find ways to protect their cash reserves during these trying economic times. We’ve pivoted quickly to meet the fast-evolving needs of the businesses we serve, leading us to accelerate our product roadmap and release a number of vital features earlier than initially planned.
The pandemic has also led to us transitioning to a 100% remote workforce, requiring us to quickly change the way we collaborate as we’ve learned to work together even while apart. Among other things, this has included holding weekly company-wide meetings to discuss the activities taking place across all departments. This helps keep everyone informed and foster a sense of togetherness despite the distance.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what are the Lessons Learned?
Sameer Gulati: It was incredibly hard not to overreact to the COVID-19 outbreak when it began earlier this year. During tough times like these, it is even more important to trust your team — they are the ones who will help you weather the storm — and provide even better service to your customers to ensure they are happy.
We have always run a tight ship at Plastiq and operate with a long-term viewpoint that takes changes in the economy into account to ensure that our company can overcome these hurdles. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were very fortunate to have increased customer demand, so we did not have to make any personnel cuts.
We learned a difficult lesson when we made the call to have all of our employees work from home earlier than most companies. We didn’t fully realize how steep the learning curve would be as we transitioned to 100% remote working, but we’ve learned a lot and are now running smoothly and continuing to maintain a strong company culture.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you Project yourself and Plastiq in the Future?
Sameer Gulati: Admittedly, startup life can be stressful for anyone. The hours can be long, and it can be daunting to build a company from the ground up. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly hasn’t helped with stress either, from the economic uncertainty to the transition to remote working.
However, it helps to know that we are all in this situation together and that we will all make it through this together. Personally, I deal with stress and anxiety by trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The time I have with my family is priceless, and I protect that time to keep me grounded and in a healthy mindset. I have also made an extra effort to stay close to my colleagues, knowing that it is more important than ever to maintain those connections when we can’t physically be together.
Looking ahead, we will all need to continue to navigate this new normal of working and managing the boundaries between our personal and professional lives, which are blurred more than ever now that we are working from home. There will continue to be a learning curve as we adjust, but again, we’re all in this together.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Sameer Gulati: Payments, specifically B2B payments, is very hot right now, and we see a lot of activity in this space. We believe that it’s good for our customers and for us, too, as the category leader. At Plastiq, we don’t ask ourselves “how do we stay in the game,” but more “are we doing everything we can to win?” That starts with staying close to our customers and solving their needs better than anyone else; if you lose sight of that, you can’t win.
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