As a fintech entrepreneur, I co-founded OurCrowd, one of the largest equity crowdfunding platforms in the world. Our back office was always hard to get our hands around. Money in and money out and the timing of that money in motion took a lot of effort to manage effectively. Payment flows and tools to integrate have come a long way since we started that business in 2012.
Dimiti Dadiomov is co-founder and CEO of Modern Treasury. His firm is a payment operations platform and works with firms to build and manage their money movement without taking hold of the payments. It’s the tech in fintech. Dimitri joins us on the podcast to talk about his firm’s genesis story and the market for payment operations technology. His firm’s APIs provide workable connections to banks to help with tracking money movement and reconciliation.
Modern Treasury is a payment operations platform. We really help companies manage their business across payments, accounting, approvals, things like that. And if you think about in the world of fintech, we’re very much in the tech side. We’re selling software that companies use to manage their businesses.
The idea to support payment operations
My two co-founders and I worked together at LendingHome, which is an online mortgage company. And in the course of building that company up to the number one fix and flip lender in the US, we had a lot of problems with bank integrations, with accounting, with managing all that in a way that is easy. And that interface between companies and banks around ACH, wire, and paper check was something that seemed pretty generic and pretty painful for us to build up to.
Around 2017 – 2018, we started spending a lot of time trying to figure out how other companies have done that and realize there really hasn’t been an independent software product to help companies manage that. A lot of companies build things internally, but there wasn’t kind of a default, easy solution to pick up and run with. And that was really the genesis of the idea.
Competing against homegrown solutions
There are very techie companies, which tend to invest a lot of engineering resources against this problem, and we’re competing against the payments team or a money team having to build some of these things internally. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are companies that are much more ops heavy, and they decidedly have not invested in engineering around it. And then it becomes really quite a complicated process where people are managing Google Sheets from last Tuesday and looking things up. And that sort of chaos is very much what we hope to help alleviate, streamline, and make a lot easier.
The crowdfunding use case
Crowdfunding is a classic payment ops problem that we love to help solve. It’s a perfect example of that. Let me just walk you through the lifetime of a payment. So let’s say you’re doing a distribution and you’re sending money to investors, we kind of break it down into four steps. Somebody has to initiate a payment that can be done manually — it can be done through an API from your dashboard, or from your product. But once the engineering team has built to that API, there is a finance or controller thing that’s trying to really manage what is happening. So there’s an approval step. And we really helped build that magic view for controllers to create a flow, to have key payments that need to be approved.
Once something has been initiated, approved and sent to the bank, and it shows up in a statement, you really need to reconcile that and update your dashboard and tell your investors that the money has been sent or communicate to the company that the distribution has been done. And then finally, there’s kind of a month close accounting challenge, which is when somebody — oftentimes a separate person who has really not been a part of any of these operational flows — looks at this a month later and tries to make sense of it and categorize things.
That flow of initiate, approve, reconcile and account is what we are really focused on connecting. And, in an ideal scenario, you can really do it all at once or you can do it all in a way that’s much, much more automated. We see that in companies that are doing equity crowdfunding. But this is true in payroll and lending and B2B payments of all sorts. It’s a very common problem.
More use cases
We think of our customers as being both on the CTO and on the CFO side of the house. So depending on the size of the company, and the stage of the product, and who’s actually focused on it, the real buyer might be the CTO, or it might be the CFO. We very much believe that good fences make good neighbors. And so, in a way, the ideal setup of the world is one where the CFO can trust the CTO to build freely, because they have the controls, and they have the ability to manage what is actually happening in the bank accounts. And vice versa, the CTO can trust the CFO to be able to account for things cleanly, and so on.
It’s kind of a generalization, but I think it’s generally true that the earlier stage companies — Series A — probably do not have a CFO. It’s much more of a technical buyer that lands in our API docs and contacts us. Maybe they don’t even have a bank account. That’s all set up and ready to go.
And on the later stage companies, certainly the finance team is much more built out and oftentimes, they are the driver. They have their own various strategic reasons for what banks don’t want to work with, etc. It’s a generalization, but I would say that the tech team is certainly the buyer in early stage companies. And the finance team is more in the driver’s seat in the bigger companies. And as you see more nuanced fintech companies, there is demand for this type of payment support technology.
Managing data, not money
We’re not in the flow of funds. We’re very much a software product and we have no ambition for it. I think there are a lot of startups that are really focused on becoming a neobank, or becoming a third party platform. Our belief is that ultimately the best way and the fastest way to do things directly is through your bank. And we want to enable every company to connect most easily with a bank that they choose to work with. And for larger companies, maybe multiple banks.
Plans for 2021
2020 was quite the year. We gave up our office in April. I just wish that we will have more 3D hangouts and things like that in 2021. I think where my mind goes to, first of all, is our team being able to grow as a company. We’ve doubled since March in headcount. And doing that over Zoom presents challenges, both in terms of hiring, onboarding, and being productive and happy as a team. We’ve created a cultural tradition called Coffee Breaks, where we find an interesting customer and spend an hour with them. So the number one thing that I’m thinking about is really how do we double again next year and maintain a strong culture and maintain a good and happy place to work.
In terms of product, we’ll be adding support for more banks and potentially exploring some international steps. But a lot of it is really going to be about taking the client base that we have and learning more and understanding more about the things that they’re doing that are generalizable to a lot more of them and among new customers.