For fast growing start-ups, maintaining momentum is a critical part of success and for the flourishing London fintech scene, 2020 promised to be a landmark year.
So when the pandemic hit in March, and the vital activities for growth – networking, investment rounds, presenting – were all suddenly in question, it was a major test for start-ups to prove they were agile, innovative and tenacious enough to weather the storm.
For Igor Tesinsky, CPO and founder of Intellibonds, 2020 was a year of particular importance for the company, and the global lockdown initially threw him a serious curveball.
“We started a fundraising round towards the end of February, and everything was looking pretty rosy. We pitched to London Business School Enterprise 100 (private angel investment club) which is heavily focused on investing in early stage start-ups. We participated in the Google and Insurance event organized by Instech and pitched our product to the Insurtech investors and we were even preparing for a trip to New York where we had been chosen to pitch our product at the VIP event at New York FinTech week in April.
Needless to say, when everything was suddenly off the table in mid-March it came as a bit of a shock, and we found ourselves thinking, ‘right, so what now?’
We needed to be realistic and whilst our usual networking, pitching strategy, and travel were put on hold, we decided to stick to what we could control and focus on our product, ensuring it was the best it could be for when we could get moving again.”
That opportunity came quicker than expected, as Igor soon found there were still opportunities around for those who were willing to pivot their strategies and open themselves up to new ideas.
“It was during the height of the lockdown when we started to engage with Seedrs about a new funding route. As an automated assistant solution for fixed income investors, we are not a usual crowdfunding product, but it just made sense to step outside our comfort zone and explore new options.
Once we put our heads together and thought, ‘how can we make this a more consumer focused funding campaign?’ and started to think a little differently, then things started to come together again which was really exciting. Our round with Seedrs is almost 90% funded and we hope to close it soon.”
Igor stresses his biggest take-away from all of this is to prepare for the unexpected. “Perhaps I was overly optimist before – I thought nothing was going to affect us this way. Clearly, it was wrong. As a company, we were well organised, financially sensible and adaptable which of course helped us stay on course – but I will definitely be more vigilant going forward. I’ve learnt careful contingency planning is what will carry a business through a tough spot and from now on, I’ll know to always have a back-up plan, regardless of how smoothly things are going at the time.”
Whilst the pandemic has put pressure on all sectors and business leaders across the board have been forced to make tough decisions, Igor notes that you need to put it all in to perspective.
“At a time of crisis like this, you really have to look at the bigger picture. Everyone’s first priority in March and April was their family and friends – and rightly so. Yes, there was widespread concern about business plans and economic uncertainty, but for most people, it was just a secondary concern compared to maybe what they were going through in their personal and family lives – and you need to be understanding of that. This has all really just made people appreciate what is important– and that is the other people around us.
It’s definitely gave me a deeper appreciation for our team and working personal relationships. Home working is fine, and you can get the job done, but it isn’t really the same. I miss the chance encounters in the office, grabbing coffee with my colleagues, and having our creative chats and catch-ups with each other – community is important to us. So I am definitely looking forward to heading back to Level39 when the time is right.”