The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly accelerated the digitalisation of society with people increasingly working and living within the virtual sphere. Whilst this creates new challenges for start-ups to overcome, it also provides a vast array of opportunities for early stage businesses to use their technology to help people adapt and live in a post-pandemic world.
For Rohit Bhatnagar, founder of CardAlpha, 2020 is an important year with the team expanding and its product coming to market. Rohit explains when lockdown started in March, CardAlpha was in the middle of its development lifecycle.
“We have not been hugely impacted throughout lockdown as our focus has been solely on building the product. We were at the stage where we have been able to adapt our product to meet the needs of merchants and consumers as they face a new reality. We’ve created an electronic point of sale (ePOS) solution which comes pre-integrated with a card reader. The ePOS allows the merchant to set-up their product catalogue digitally and track payments, discounts, refunds and generally become more organised with their day to day sales operations. The ePOS has interesting features such as a merchant using our app will be able to allow a customer to scan a QR code to get their receipt straight onto their phone. At the moment, it’s a really valuable tool as it prevents people needing to print physical receipts”.
Coronavirus means smaller merchants will need to exploit more sales channels as a high street presence will no longer be enough to drive business. In order to succeed, they’ll need to make a transition to digital sales, and we’ll be able to help provide the technology to allow them to do this successfully.
Despite focusing on the positives, the pandemic has still created new hurdles for Rohit and the team.
CardAlpha’s CTO, Serkan Gunes mentions “When you’re building a FinTech product it is useful to meet face to face with your team. When you have complex details to sort out, it always takes longer to flesh out ideas via Zoom. It’s good that the founding team have known each other for the last two years. It means we know each other’s communication style and as a result of this, it’s been easier to adjust to our new reality”.
Rohit adds, “The pandemic has also impacted the way we recruit new team members. We have a unique employment strategy and are building an equity partnership model with staff working in exchange for equity in our business. So, when it comes to taking on new partners, it’s more challenging to make sure someone is the right fit when meeting them over zoom. It’s always easier to understand an individual’s values and to get to know them when meeting face to face, especially if they’ll become part of the family.”
The pandemic has highlighted to Rohit the importance of having robust plans in place to ensure the business has a clear vision and journey. “It’s good to plan – whether it’s product features or investment meetings. Yet, it’s important an entrepreneur remains flexible, especially whenever a challenge comes along, remembering to look at the original vision and work backwards to reach a solution.”
The last few months have reinforced the value of the Level39 community and how important it is to brainstorm and share ideas with fellow entrepreneurs for Rohit.
“It’s nice bumping into each other at Level39 and asking other members ‘hey do you know a great accountant, I need one,’ or ‘I need to hire an intern, where do you recommend I look?’. It’s also a great space to share feedback on the different products we are all working on – with advice from fellow start-ups particularly valuable. We can review each other’s product plans and act as a sounding board as through positively critiquing each other’s work we help improve our own”.
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