This interview is part of Scaling Enterprise FinTech | The Handbook, launched in partnership with SixThirty Ventures.
1. A year since the first lockdown – is this is a good time to be building or scaling an Enterprise FinTech firm in Europe?
Good but with challenges!
Digitization has had the shot in the arm and an acceleration with the move to remote and hybrid work environments. The need for enterprise solutions is high on managements’ agendas. However this isn’t uniform and interest is selective – ensuring your product is solving a priority problem within the enterprise is must. If it isn’t, unlikely you will reach the top of your potential buyer’s to do list nor will there be a (big) budget to buy it.
Scaling has changed somewhat with remote working changing hiring (not even getting to meet in person first!) and onboarding practices (that need to be structured better than ever before).
Maintaining a firm’s culture is also very challenging right now – leadership capabilities are on show – both good and bad!
2. What’s working and what’s not in B2B / Enterprise sales in the current environment? Sales has changed significantly in multiple ways.
B2B sales and marketing has become much more data reliant and content driven in the last few years but has been heightened by this backdrop.
Relational sales with a reliance on trade shows for filling your pipeline isn’t going to work as well as it did with the move to virtual.
Right now buying cycles are often prolonged and prospects don’t want to be sold too which makes for a tough starting point as well.
The current environment is separating those that are set up for success and those that aren’t. The need for a great sales team working within a comprehensive sales model that aligns with the firm’s strategy has never been greater. Check out Frank Cespedes work in this field.
3. In terms of investment focus: what’s in and what’s out for you?
In – Firms that can adjust to the future of the work environment; Impact and ESG investing solutions that address real challenges for investors today; Crypto and digital asset infrastructure; The ongoing change to GRC (governance, risk and compliance) in the new work environment
4. What does it take to get to Series A today?
A founding team that has shown the ability to hire high quality people that align with their vision and mission. Some demonstration of product market fit and a pattern of revenue conversion with an interesting customer base. A significant opportunity ahead of them and the tenacity to go after it!
5. What should startups expect or plan for in the coming months?
If you have come out of this current environment still fighting well done to you and your team. That is impressive! No idea what is around the corner, but if you stay controlled in your decision making whilst keep an eye out for opportunity you will be stronger and mentally tougher to capitalise on it.
Mark Whitcroft is one of the Founding Partners at Illuminate Financial, a specialist venture capital investor focused on enterprise software companies whose products serve the needs of the financial services industry.