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THE KEY TO UNLOCKING GROWTH IN YOUR BUSINESS LIES IN ‘GO TO MARKET FIT’

Tae Hea Nahm is the cofounding MD of Storm Ventures, which invests in tech and SaaS start-ups all over the world. He’s the author of the book series Survival to Thrival: Building the Enterprise Startup, which provides B2B entrepreneurs with all they need to know to grow and then thrive. His latest title in the series, Change or Be Changed is out in April. Here he tells us the secrets to growth and the lesser addressed topic of how to manage it.

 

What business problem for entrepreneurs do your books address?

The first book was all about unlocking growth – the thing that every start-up wants to address. We came up with a concept which we believe is the missing link to unlock enterprise growth. It’s called ‘Go-To-Market Fit’. Many start-ups will know about finding ‘Product-Market-Fit’ (PMF). But even when they find PMF, they still often find it hard to transcend from survival mode to thrival mode. The bridge between these two modes is finding your unique ‘Go-to-Market-Fit’.

 

Tae Hea Nahm

The first book also helps founders anticipate their start-up journey from founding to $1 billion company.

Book two is about what happens after you’ve unlocked growth. Why is change so hard on the team, including the CEO? Our book looks at how the whole company from the team up to the board needs to change their roles as the company grows.

 

So why exactly is growth so hard on the team once it’s underway?

Finding the growth formula is hard to start with. Then once you have the growth formula (i.e. GTM Fit), the company must change its strategy, execution, organization and even its people to scale and succeed.

 

Here’s why: As the company grows, roles change. Yet there is little institutional knowledge passed down to help start-up leaders understand how their jobs change, and therefore how they must change themselves to succeed. Some of what makes people successful in the early stage ironically must be unlearned for the next stage. This theme ofunlearning’ is what I focus on in my second book. Unlearning is an invigorating and transformational experience, yet painful and turbulent for the team, the CEO and the board. Common company culture becomes more important during this stage and the thing which holds the team together.

 

Can you give an example of how growth can be hard on the team?

A classic example would be when the CEO hires the first “Grade-A” role such as a VP of Sales. Adding this is critical to company growth, but it can make a CEO and others uncomfortable. The VP will push everyone in the company—the CEO, the product team, the marketing team—to the next level. They may point out that early customer-acquisition processes that were the pride of the company were actually a one-off, unrepeatable sale, and will demand that the company develop a repeatable sales model (a playbook). Everyone realises that the old ways of making decisions and doing business will have to change. But the good news is discomfort is normal. Embrace it.

 

What sort of companies do you invest in and why the interest outside of Silicon Valley?

We invest in early stage B2B companies all over the world. Many VCs stick to the Bay area but we want to invest outside Silicon Valley, because i) you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to access the best technology (Cloud, open source etc are available everywhere), and ii) Silicon Valley has a fundamental cost and retention disadvantage. Most importantly, we have seen huge success for our investments outside Silicon Valley.

 

What are the trends you are seeing in the tech SaaS arena?

Rewriting SaaS architecture to leverage AI. Traditional SaaS (like CRM) was architected for automating workflow and built on transactional data models (like Oracle). Companies have been trying to bolt on AI to SaaS. We believe that the application should first be built for AI and then add SaaS. AI is architected to predict behavior and is built on behavioral data models (like Google and Facebook).

 

 

Considering you invest in tech services for enterprises, does your company use super slick apps on a day to day basis – if so, which are the must-haves?

As a small tech office, we find that we must communicate with everyone everywhere. So we use WhatsApp for Europe, and Kakao for Korea, FaceTime for apple users, Google Hangouts for some video, zoom for basic video conferencing. We are constantly adding new communications apps

For our base deal workflow, we use copper as our CRM and Google Drive for document sharing.

 

Tae Hea Nahm’s first book The Company Journey can be found at the following link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Thrival-Building-Enterprise-Startup/dp/1684014905

 

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Interviews

‘GLOBAL TRADE IN 2008 VS 2021: GLOBAL IMPACT, DIFFERENT CHALLENGES’

A Q&A with Nawaz Ali Head of Insights at Western Union Business Solutions who draws comparisons between the financial crisis of 2008 and the coronavirus pandemic and provides some insight into how businesses can better plan for the year ahead.

 

2020 has been a tumultuous year for global trade with many drawing comparisons to the financial crash of 2008, how do you think the two crises compare?

Though both crises were global in nature and had far reaching impacts worldwide, it is important to note that the dynamics of today’s global trade have shifted in the past 12 years. Today, faster digital transformation can help enable the global services trade to counterbalance some of the impact of the protectionist policies, which we typically witness in times of crisis, on the global goods trade.

Even so, the recovery of global trade could still be very gradual as these more protectionist behaviours could also keep trade activity near to its lowest level over the past 10 years.

Unlike in 2008, this time both global supply and demand factors are at play, so the effects could last longer. Furthermore, this time around the crisis is broad and impacting all sectors whereas in 2008, the crisis was more concentrated in the banking sector.

The recent vaccine developments have been an important turning point, and we’ve seen an immediate positive impact if, for example, you look towards the recent spike in commodity prices. However,  global demand could still remain distressed  in 2021 due to  corporate insolvency risks and weaker purchasing power of consumers.

Similar to 2008, global interest rates have been cut to new historic lows by central banks which should underpin investment and support the recovery. However, the key factor for any recovery actually lies more in the mass development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, and it is that uncertainty which spurred governments into also launching record amounts of fiscal stimulus.

Nevertheless, by putting the right plans in place for 2021 businesses will be able to better equip themselves to recover from the pandemic.

 

When a crisis hits, typically investors rush to safe-haven currencies to minimise their losses. Could this have a different impact today when compared to 2008?

Yes, the geopolitical differences between now and 2008 are stark. Today, the first signs of a capital rotation into risk-prone assets are emerging. With the US-Sino trade war, domestic mismanagement of COVID-19 in the US, and rising global geopolitical tensions, now could be the beginning of a major multi‑year global FX regime change as investors start to look for alternatives for the greenback.

Despite the fact investors have failed to find a credible substitute for the dollar since 2010, in this volatile environment it is critical that businesses ensure they understand their FX exposure and have plans in place for every potential scenario.

There is a disconnect between stock markets and the economy. Investors remain optimistic about the economic turnaround on the horizon, but the reality is far from certain. If the risk of long‑term economic damage rises, this optimism will likely fade and weigh on risk‑friendly currencies, including Sterling, and boost safe-havens like the Japanese Yen and Swiss Franc.

In short, with global interest rates converging, proper crisis management and economic growth differentials could overhaul the balance of power on the world stage after the recession.

 

Aside from the coronavirus pandemic, what other marquee events should businesses be planning around in 2021?

Of course, there are many other seismic geopolitical issues that should be taken into account when planning for 2021, which will have significant impacts on currency markets, such as Brexit, US-UK trade negotiations and regime change following the US election result – a Joe Biden presidency could have a material impact on the global trade environment.

Analysing the Brexit example alone, in a world gripped by virus-related supply chain disruption and growth concerns, a no-trade deal Brexit could exacerbate the economic shock. There are currently no tariffs on trade between the UK and EU and if a  trade deal or an extension of talks is not in place by Dec. 31, 2020, resulting barriers to trade could significantly harm export and import business and further damage any economic recovery.

Herein, the importance of a business evaluating the risks and opportunities related to the ongoing disruption in global trade on a more regular basis cannot be understated.

 

How can companies be better prepared for these challenges going into 2021?

The rise of geopolitical themes such as trade wars, and the growing influence of political figures on financial markets, has significantly increased the complexity around judging future market trends and their implications for international business. We discuss how businesses can better prepare for some of the most topical challenges  in our Are you Ready for 2021? guide.

 In summary, regardless of a businesses’ goals, understanding their FX risk and exposure should be part of every businesses strategy so that they can better pivot at speed and at scale in times of crises and minimise potential damage to their business.

 

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Interviews

WHY MANAGING RISK PERFORMANCE WILL BE LENDERS’ BIGGEST CHALLENGE THIS YEAR

Michal Smida, Founder & CEO, Twisto

 

  1. What are the key trends you’re seeing in lending?

Q2 was characterised by a conservative approach and a very proactive reaction to managing credit risk. There was substantial tightening in approval rates for onboarding new clients – this in part is due to the uncertainty of the potential impact of unemployment, as well as the increased challenge of gaining access to capital markets. We saw as much as 50% reductions in approval rates across the industry.

There was also a bigger focus on collections and managing risk in the existing portfolio, this includes more proactive and frequent communication with clients. Q3 has seen an easing of the above measures as prime client portfolios in the EU have recorded positive non-performing loan (NPL) performance. In some cases, customer payment behaviour has improved vs. pre-COVID, with some lenders recording their best performance to date.

 

  1. The 2008 financial crisis was the catalyst for alternative lenders. Do you think the current pandemic will be a similar agent for innovation and change, and if so, what might it look like?

The shift to digital has been an ongoing theme since 2008, which gave rise to many great fintechs, but also pushed banks to digitalise rapidly. What the current crisis has brought is increased customer adoption of what has already been in the market for some time. So we don’t see the change in the product offerings of financial institutions, but rather a change in customer behaviour and their willingness to use digital channels, which are not only much more convenient, but also safer and quicker to use in comparison to traditional offline processes.

 

  1. What are the biggest challenges for lenders in the next 12 months?

Maintaining and further managing risk performance. Q4 will be critical in proving the resilience of the customer base. As governments have stepped in to support businesses and the wider economy, the possible impact on unemployment has been delayed.

This in turn can lead to credit deterioration once the support stops. Venture capital and debt markets effectively shut down in Q2, with reopening noted in Q3. As many lenders require additional capital to sustain growth momentum, the key challenge will be attracting capital from investors who became even more selective and cautious.

 

  1. What do lenders need to prioritise to deliver a better customer experience?

It’s mostly about finding a sweet spot between a smooth customer journey and all the requirements coming from different stakeholders around areas such as risk factors.

Many financial institutions are not so brave in terms of challenging the status quo of the current financial conditions. We are doing our best to make bold decisions that might make a difference at the end of the day.

 

  1. You have already started to make the transition to lending 3.0. Why did you want to build a card programme?

Creating a payment card was the logical next step in fulfilling our vision of simplifying daily payments for customers. We started with simple deferred payments “Buy now. Pay later” for e-commerce, but in an age when the overwhelming majority of payments still occur offline, it was necessary to also enter that market and provide an omni-channel solution. The key was to have a better app and overall experience than traditional card issuers.

This was demonstrated in our recent launch of the Twisto app and card offering in Poland, which has been well received by customers, with over 70,000 sign ups and over 20,000 cards ordered in the first 30 days from launch. We are very pleased with the speed of execution through this launch, and strategic partners like Mastercard and Marqeta have been fundamental to enabling the success of the technology. We look forward to exploring expansion opportunities across the EU on the back of this solution.

 

  1. What’s your vision for your card programme and how it will help you solve your challenges and deliver a better customer experience?

At Twisto we believe that having a plastic card in your wallet is already outdated. Because of this, we’ve committed to our goal to stop issuing plastic cards by 2025. We believe that the future is paying with mobile phones. Thanks to Marqeta and our Digital First certification from Mastercard, we’re one of the first companies in Europe, or even the world, who doesn’t have to issue physical cards.

 

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