First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Cedric Bru: First, health-wise, we are doing very well. I’m very grateful that my immediate family and all of my relatives in the USA and France are healthy and safe. I believe that in each challenge, there are opportunities for personal growth and new discovery. As we can’t travel overseas right now, my family and I recently went on vacation around the national parks in the USA and drove an R/V, which is something that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. This experience allowed me to do something new and also spend quality with my family. Overall, we are doing well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Taulia
Cedric Bru: Both my education and the early part of my career were in France. I then did an internship in the US and fell in love with the Bay Area for its ecosystem, its innovators, the venture capitalists, and the universities.
I worked in France for a few more years, then I came back to the US, and then, ultimately, it was a former client of mine, who introduced me to Taulia. At the time, I was not necessarily looking for a job, and they were not looking for a new leader, but at some point, the stars aligned, and I decided to join Taulia. It has been a pleasure since 2013.
How does Taulia innovate?
Cedric Bru: We are a fintech company, headquartered in San Francisco, so innovation is key to our business model, especially during COVID-19. There are three vectors of innovation that have been very important to us.
Disrupting the working capital management industry by making sure every business can benefit from what Taulia does. Most legacy platforms or solutions are geared towards large suppliers. Our innovation, through our platform, has enabled us to offer our capabilities to suppliers of all sizes. It’s very fulfilling to see that in this period of COVID-19, where everyone needs access to cash that we can provide them with the liquidity they need.
The second area is the digitalization of enterprises. Annually, approximately 550 billion invoices are exchanged globally, and only 10% of these are paperless. With AI and machine learning, we can digitize invoices so that they can be managed and processed by people working in the office and people working from home.
Lastly, during COVID-19, demand for our products and networks has increased. People want to join as quickly as possible, and suppliers can join in just 90 seconds, which is important for them to make decisions quickly. We are also offering a fast-track program for large enterprises to join our network and collaborate with their suppliers. That is something that we started at the beginning of COVID-19, and we have made this available to our customers.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Cedric Bru: I’ll start with our customers. Not all businesses are created equal, but the common denominator is everyone is trying to understand better their cash needs and the most efficient way to access cash. Providing access to liquidity is essential to Taulia’s proposition, which means we have seen a tremendous increase in demand for what we do. We have been working hard to help our existing customers and new customers, as well as their suppliers, to have access to the liquidity they require.
Our partners have had a lot of demand from their customers, so we have been broadening our partner network. We announced, for example, an alliance with JP Morgan. That was not necessarily in response to COVID-19, but it was announced at the beginning of COVID-19.
Like everyone else, we had to adapt to working from home, which brought a lot of uncertainty to our team. I’m pleased to say that our transition to working from home has been smooth and overall a positive experience for many.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Cedric Bru: We had to make some difficult choices because while we could make contingency plans, we ultimately didn’t know what would happen in the economy and our customers. We spent a tremendous amount of time talking to our clients to understand what they needed, and we worked on business and finance simulations to understand what the possibilities were. The good news was that the demand for what we do has been strong and higher than our standard, so there has been an upside. We had to think about how to handle the multitude of potential scenarios that were in front of us.
The main lesson learned was a validation in the importance of the culture of a company. I believe in periods of stress and uncertainty; it is the culture that can act as the glue between people to work together towards a common goal or vision. At Taulia, we have a strong culture defined around collaboration, integrity, and respecting our values, such as ‘customer success is our success.’ This culture has helped us adapt to working from home, seeing each other less, and coping with all the uncertainty.
Another critical attribute of our culture is to be resilient. This involves acknowledging what we have already overcome and the upcoming challenges we face. I believe our company is stronger than before COVID-19 because of the challenges we’ve overcome together. Taulian’s have seen with their own eyes how we can help small businesses, and a personal highlight for me has been small businesses telling us they are still in business because of Taulia.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Taulia in the future?
Cedric Bru: I will go back to the concept of resilience. This is something that I have been practicing for quite a long time to help deal with different situations. The more prepared you are for disruption, the better you can handle it. This is applied across our business, where we celebrate our wins, but also acknowledge that there will be unexpected obstacles to overcome.
Personally, I feel lucky that I haven’t been exposed to high levels of stress associated with sickness, grief, or unemployment like so many have. However, I do have a daily routine to help me get ready for a great day; this includes going for a gratitude walk first thing in the morning to set myself up for the day. This helps me choose the type of mindset I have and decide what I want to focus on, rather than being controlled by external factors such as the news or my phone.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Cedric Bru: Ultimately, our main competition is legacy tools and legacy processes. As I mentioned before, about half of B2B invoices are paper documents, and that’s our main competition, which we want to eliminate by digitizing as many invoices as possible. Regarding financing, a very small amount of invoices get financed, but 80% of global trade is performed or conducted on an open account basis. Only a small percentage is financed directly, making our competition the more traditional financing methods, like factoring, that tend to be cumbersome and expensive.
Taulia is the opposite of these legacy processes, as it is fully digital. We can onboard a business in 90 seconds, the financing is affordable, and the user experience is excellent. The customer is empowered to make the best choices for their business on what financing they want.
Looking forward, we will continue to invest in enhancing our working capital management and liquidity solutions, which are critical for CFO’s, Treasurers, and CPO’s. We will also invest in scaling our network, today we have 2 million businesses connected across 168 countries, and we want to expand this further.
Your final thoughts
Cedric Bru: We need to acknowledge the difficult situation that many are facing right now. One of your first questions was to ask how I’m doing and how my family is doing, which I really appreciated, and I hope that the people who read this article are doing well and take a moment for themselves. It’s important to acknowledge our current situation, and it is the responsibility of technologists and innovators to come up with solutions. Without a compelling event, change doesn’t happen because it can be seen as challenging, but the pandemic brings about change for everyone. Our duty is to bring innovation, which can improve the lives of people across the world.
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