05.06.2020

Successful Startups are Painkillers, not Vitamins

F10 mentor and growth strategist Jakub Zakrzewski, Managing Director at Kraken, had played an essential role in launching and growing two unicorns: Revolut in FinTech and Lazada in e-commerce. He shares his learnings on growing and scaling a Startup with the entrepreneurs in the F10 ecosystem.

“Resilience is key: When I was kicked out the door of many places when first pitching Revolut to potential partners, they were hesitant, seeing it as competition rather than a solution or a potential client. Both in Partnerships and Growth, we worked on delivering the right message to the right audience”, Jakub Zakrzewski, F10 mentor and growth strategist, recalls during an online session on scaling and Startup growth for the entrepreneurs in the F10 ecosystem. Jakub had been working for Revolut, one of the fastest growing FinTech Startups in the world, from 2017 until early 2020. In his positions as a Launcher, General Manager and Head of Growth for the Asia-Pacific region, he played an important part in the expansion of the British neobank in the region. Prior to Revolut, Jakub was Head of Business Intelligence and Head of Digital Marketing at the e-commerce company Lazada that he describes as “the Amazon of Southeast Asia”. Alibaba Group acquired Lazada for a billion dollars in 2016. Jakub now works as Managing Director Singapore at Kraken Digital Asset Exchange and is one of the mentors at F10 Singapore.

“There is no magic formula for growth or blitz-scaling”, Jakub reminds the F10 Startups. As F10 mentor, he supports the high-potential FinTech Startups in the first batch of our P2 “Prototype to Product” program in Singapore on their journey to successful companies. “Growth does not exist without an innovative product that solves an existing problem.” To explain this concept further, Jakub uses the analogy of vitamins and painkillers: “Like painkillers, your solution should ease an existing pain instead of serving as vitamins that are enhancers and nice to haves, but don’t solve a problem. The first version of the product must already tackle challenges that your target audience is facing.” Revolut, for example, lets travellers and expats send free international money transfers in 25 currencies using the real exchange rate. It also caters to individuals and international businesses that regularly do multi-currency transactions or transfers by cutting transaction costs significantly. This business idea addresses the pain point of exorbitant fees and losses due to changing currency rates when spending/withdrawing cash abroad or transferring money to foreign accounts.

Growing means a constant cycle of building, launching, measuring, learning, and adjusting

Before reaching out to potential customers or partners, entrepreneurs should gain clarity on the value their Startup will bring into that collaboration. How does your product or service offer the finance industry new options to adapt to changing customer needs, reduce costs or make their offers available to bigger parts of the world population? Another aspect that must be considered when growing or scaling a Startup is market size. “Ask yourselves if the market is worth attacking”, Jakub says. To ensure product-market fit, he advocates for continuous testing and modifying. “Get as much feedback as possible and adjust the product accordingly. Reach out to family and friends for the first product tests and improve your solution based on their feedback.” Growing a Startup should be a constant cycle of making adjustments. Be open for honest feedback and other perspectives. According to an article by the platform “Entrepreneur”, most successful entrepreneurs “are often eager for the opinions and reviews of others and include the best ideas of others into their own thinking. While it may be possible to unearth a brilliant idea by yourself, getting from inspiration to implementation as a team of one is a very unlikely path.” As Jakub states, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to scaling your business. Start paving the way for growth now but be open to adapt your strategy in the future. Flexibility and the ability to adjust are key in scaling.

Even while maintaining social distancing, F10 as THE HOME OF FINTECH brings the financial technology ecosystem together for fruitful discussions that contribute to furthering innovation in the global finance industry. Startups in the F10 community benefit from weekly online sessions on topics such as Startup growth, remote selling, and communication during crises. Dedicated F10 mentors and industry experts in our ecosystems in Europe and Asia provide valuable insights to help the F10 Startups tackle challenges that teams face on their journey to successful companies. The online sessions are accessible to the entrepreneurs in our programs in Zurich and Singapore and the F10 alumni. We ensure regular knowledge transfer between F10 Zurich and F10 Singapore to create more synergies between the FinTech hubs.

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