1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
My name is Nitesh Srivastava and I’m the Co-Founder of Datawok.
Datawok is my first venture but I’ve worked in FinTech for most of my career. Before then, I was a management consultant at KPMG in Banking and Finance and I’ve worked in early-stage venture capital. I’m based in London but have lived and worked in Tanzania and Berlin and am fluent in French and German.
My professional background is mostly in tech and commercial product management. As I’m sure everyone has seem, product management operates at the interaction of UX, Tech and Business. I actually fell into this.
After I finished my degree at UCL in London, I moved to Tanzania to work for a charity. I then moved to Berlin with desire to work in a bar and take some time out but I ended up working for a VC. Since then, I worked for KPMG as a Banking Management Consultant and as an AI Product Manger. Corporate life wasn’t really for me, so I then moved in the London FinTech scene working as a COO or Head of Product for a few ventures. At the end of 2019, I decided to take the plunge and start my own venture.
I’m based in London but have lived all over. When not working, I like to lift heavy things and put them down again via my pursuit of CrossFit. The CrossFit allows me to experiment with my cooking and to enjoy the odd glass of red wine or a a negroni.
2. Which product or service do you offer, and who are your competitors?
Datawok is an AI Business Analyst for SMEs without the business suit.
Datawok analyses the data that SMEs already have to increase sales, revenue and profit. Unlike other data tools, Datawok fully automates data cleaning – engineering – insight with no human interpretation or abstraction needed. In other words, the app replaces the need for a person to clean data and then to decide what it means.
We service SMEs with some form of inventory-led business – think retail, e-Commerce, manufacturing, construction.
There are a lot of people in the data analysis space but very few offer an application that an SME business owner / team can use. Often, they’re data analysis tools that need to be modified and configured. So our competition is the data analysis platforms and their armies of consultants who make sense of the analysis. Obviously, this is not something SMEs can afford.
As we grow, we also have a plan to introduce SME lending into the app, especially since the app will measure business performance and not just cashflow. And, basing lending on just cashflow numbers can be problematic
3. How did you get the business idea and take it from launch to the first customers?
My Co-Founder is the heartbeat of the company in many ways. He’s a Data Engineer and Scientist who, via many twists of fate, actually worked for a group of SMEs as an Operations Manager. He built a range of tools via Excel and other technologies to help those SMEs measure and track business performance. These tools have, in effect, become the Datawok app. Instead of needing to mess with Excel or analysis platforms or speak to my co-founder or myself as consultants, SMEs can just the app.
We launched in April 2020, right in the middle of Coronavirus, so it’s been a bit of a journey. But we got our first customers from our prior attendance at trade shows and via our channel partners. We’re obviously focussing our sales efforts to online given the situation.
4. How have you financed your startup? Any lessons would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?
We’ve bootstrapped the company to-date. My co-founder and I have put our own cash into the business’ operating costs whilst I built up savings to be able to forgo a salary for an extended period of time.
Our fundraising efforts were impacted by Coronavirus but we still did have some offers which, at the time, we rejected as we didn’t feel the fit was right. And I guess that my lesson to share would be just that: try to build up enough personal funds to float a business for an extended period of time so that you don’t feel obliged to take a funding deal you consider bad for whatever reason. And, we have a business model which considers self-sustainability first and foremost – again, something I think other companies sometimes forget about.
5. Which are the key trends and opportunities in (European) financial services?
I think Coronavirus has sped up the digitisation of some industries and businesses so I can imagine more businesses are going to be even more open to digital payments solutions. So anyone involved in the payment stack of services or auxiliary payments KYC and AML services will have an opportunity to further develop propositions.
That said, I would imagine that the impeding crisis as a result of Coronavirus will impact small players. So we may see more collaborative solutions or partnerships with incumbents. And, with any potential state involvement in areas of FS that may be severely affected by the virus, I would imagine innovation here will suffer. For example, in the UK, the governments enterprise loans and the like have been fed into the economy via incumbent bank; neobanks haven’t really been used in these efforts.
So, we may see a more agile approach to innovative projects with fewer big ideas getting backing because of the climate. That said, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, either.
6. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?
I’m currently half way through Dans le jardin de l’ogre by Leila Slimani and haven’t decided what’s after that.
The work related books I’m reading are:
Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman and The Secret of Successful Sales by Alison Edgar. I just recently re-read The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick and I’d always recommend that one
And, the non-fiction books I’m reading are:
Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner by Katrine Marcal, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino and The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett
7. Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?
In Berlin, it has to be Wohnzimmer in Prenzlauer Berg. I used to live round there and it just reminds of home, unsurprisingly. Otherwise, closer to my current home in London it would be Old Street Brewery, Renegade Wine Bar or The Curtain.
But, as we all know, it’s the company that makes the drink so as long as I’m with friends, it doesn’t matter where I am.