7 Questions with Harald Axelius of Billender

Harald Axelius

Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.

Billender is the first buy now-pay later solution for paying bills. You simply snap a pic, you can pay any bill in seconds with a variety of flexible payment options. Billender simplifies payment of bills while giving the user a better overview of their personal finance. With services like Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay etc, consumers today are used to having access to all types of payment options, including flexible credits any time they want to purchase something. Billender applies the same model for paying bills. Before I started Billender, I was involved as an angel investor, chairman of the board and many other different roles at Savelend, Sweden’s largest peer-to-peer platform. I have a Master of Laws (LLM) but always worked in tech. I currently reside in Stockholm, Sweden and Marbella, Spain with my girlfriend Jenny. When I’m not working I enjoy taking 20 minute meditation naps with noise cancellation earphones or watching Youtube videos about the construction of different “mega projects” around the world.

Give us the backstory – how did you get the founding idea, and how did the first sale come about?
I had been involved in fintech for a long time and worked with different types of payment and credit solutions. When Savelend went public, I felt it was time for me to get back to startup mode. I got the idea during a brunch, and when the dot-com address for Billender was available I had no excuse not to go ahead. I needed a CTO and I met my co-founder Sini through a mutual friend. She quickly developed an MVP and we pretty much got traction from day one.

Which was the most challenging phase, and what would you have done differently?
We are under the supervision of the Financial Supervisory Authority. To get the license is always challenging for a small startup since many of the regulations such as anti-money laundry are written with big banks in mind. With that said, I think our biggest challenges lies ahead of us. Our first 1 000 paying users have been pretty smooth sailing.

When did you decide to expand to the international/US market, and how?
We have not yet decided to do this, right now I’m not even allowed to go to the US (because of the pandemic, nothing else). Instead, we are now deciding on what European country to expand to next. I can’t tell you which one we are investigating, danke schön.

When did you first decide to raise venture capital, and what has been your approach to financing growth over the years?
We raised VC money already in our pre-seed. There have never been so many VC firms and so much money out there as it is today.

How is building an Enterprise FinTech firm different from a “regular” SaaS / Enterprise Tech company, and what three things should founders get right?
If you’re handling transactions for thousands of consumers like we are, always keep in mind that it is a major responsibility. You can’t make it up as you go along, you need to have clear ideas and well-laid out policies from the start.

What’s on the priority list for you and your team for the next year?
We have reached the first step of product market fit where you feel you have something that really works. Our challenge now is how to develop this into a product that can be relevant for more people. How do you build a “people’s app”? Plus I want us to grow our 100% distributed team and still maintaining a company culture.

Where is the financial services sector headed in the next 12-18 months, and what should we be watching out for?
There are people better suited than startup CEO’s to give predictions about financial trends (and even those tend to be wrong), but I’m still pretty excited about Open Banking and think there are even more opportunities for us fintechies to explore there.

Your favorite place(s) for a meal, coffee or drink (pre-/ post-COVID19)?
Espacio Eslava in Seville, Spain. When Christobal waves you in for some free seats in the crowded bar, and you decide to order every tapa on the menu, you know you’re in for a great night.

Filed under: Q&A