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“The most dangerous thing when you’re launching a startup is to think small”

Victor Trokoudes, Founding CEO of smart money app Plum explains the importance of thinking big and why putting the customer at the centre of product thinking is key.

What were the key factors that contributed to your startup’s success, and how did you identify and capitalise on them?

We recognised that financial inertia stops people from managing their money. People have the right intent to save and make their money grow but they don’t necessarily have the knowledge or the time to do so. The problem is becoming more urgent with levels of inflation not seen in decades. Alongside this, social safety nets across Europe are getting smaller and smaller and there is a greater onus on younger people to manage and invest their own money to try to secure inflation-beating returns over the long term and build their wealth. Plum was created to solve that issue. The intelligence of our app means we can automate parts of personal finance through smart algorithms, helping people save, invest, budget and manage their spending far more easily. Resolving an issue by creating a product that truly solves an important issue for the customer is one of the key factors of Plum’s success. But having the right strategy and product-market fit isn’t enough unless you get the culture of the organisation right. That’s the other key factor in our success – finding the right people with the right mindset, ability and behaviour to deliver.

How did you build and develop your team, and what key skills and expertise did you prioritise when hiring?

Hiring is one of the most important aspects when developing a business. We believe that having clarity on the skills that are valuable for the company is key every step of the way. In the beginning, we created a core team of passionate, highly skilled individuals thinking about the product and developing it from the ground up. As we grew and scaled, we developed Plum’s organisational chart by building support teams and adding more experience. Today, we have 150 employees of over 30 different nationalities working together, united by our values of persistence, customer focus and collaboration.

Looking back, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a startup founder – especially those around funding – and how did you overcome them?

When it comes to funding, startups are naturally subject to the fluctuations of the economic environment. Due to cost-of-living challenges, people’s ability to invest has reduced, while rising interest rates mean that professional investors have more options to earn a return on their money. Despite this challenging environment, Plum succeeded in raising £1.7 million last year with around 4,500 investors, following £5 million in venture debt financing. Plum is in a very strong position, having continuously demonstrated the diversity and strength of its proposition as well as its sustainable growth. It is now available in 10 European countries – the UK, France, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Italy – and we are confident that, with our excellent record of delivery, enterprising culture and diversified offering, Plum will continue to thrive not only in the UK but across Europe as well.

What advice would you give to founders just starting out, and what qualities do you believe they need to succeed?

My advice to founders would be to focus on creating value and having a positive impact on people’s behaviours through their products. Putting the customer at the centre of product thinking is key to developing a solution that is valuable and sustainable. Also, the most dangerous thing when you’re launching a startup is to think small. If you think small, you’ll always be thinking primarily about the cost side of the business rather than the growth side. Thinking big gives you the advantage to build a bigger, stronger team and motivate people who are themselves motivated by big things.

What change would you like to see to the Cyprus startup ecosystem that could increase the number of success stories?

There is a strong entrepreneurial mindset in Cyprus. The startup ecosystem is also rapidly growing and is very active. In this context, we would all benefit from having a strong ecosystem where entrepreneurs can easily find the space to meet regularly and share their stories and knowledge. This will also benefit new entrepreneurs at the beginning of their startup journey.

What is it? The ultimate smart money app, helping over 1.6 million people invest, save and manage their spending with automation.

Founded: 2016 | Headquarters: London, UK

Number of employees: 150 employees

Funding secured: US$45 million

This interview first appeared in the April issue of GOLD magazine. Click here to view it.

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