'Don’t be skimpy in rewarding top talent'
Published on: 23 Dec 2014 12:14 CET
'Software-as-a-service' company Taulia lets large companies send early payments to small business suppliers in exchange for a discount.
Corporations use it to strengthen their supply chains and earn higher returns on capital than they would in bank investments, while suppliers have immediate access to cash to invest in their business.
If corporations do not want to use their own capital, Taulia’s 'reverse factoring' platform offers customers the flexibility to tap Taulia’s network of institutional investors to fund the early payments.
How did you come up with this business idea?
My three Germans co-founders and I started Taulia in 2009, after realizing that there’s a tremendous inefficiency in the global supply chain. Large corporations have an unprecedented amount of excess cash, which often earns less than 1% interest, while their small business suppliers often don't get paid until 60 days or more after delivery.
So, while large corporations earn paltry returns on excess cash, their suppliers are cash-starved and often forced to take out predatory short-term loans.
We had a simple idea: if the world’s largest corporations paid their suppliers faster in exchange for a small discount, the result would be a win-win for buyers and suppliers, while also stimulating the global economy.
What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?
The greatest challenge early on was convincing some of the largest corporations in the world that that they could trust us with their payables process.
Once we started getting customers, they served as great references for us and it became easier for prospective customers to trust our platform.
Fundraising is a challenge for any start-up in the early stages, but just like when you earn customers, it’s easier to gain investors when you have the validation of others.
How has the journey been so far?
It has been a fantastic ride. It’s been great to get to know and serve a diverse set of customers, who all bring their own unique set of challenges and opportunities to the table.
Right now, we are focused on accelerating our growth in Germany and other European countries and it’s been exciting to bring the Taulia product back home and provide a set of solutions for German corporations.
We feel that we can really help with European supply chains, especially those in Italy and Spain where small and medium business are stretched for cash due to limited availability of bank lending.
It is a great thrill to see the Taulia team grow to more than 200 people. We now have offices in California, Texas and Utah in the US; London; Düsseldorf; and Sofia (Bulgaria).
Our employees never cease to amaze me with their intelligence and dedication. Because all of our employees own stock or have options, we are creating a culture of co-ownership and I believe that sense of ownership shines through to our customers and partners who are part of the wider Taulia family.
How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you personally?
It’s been a tremendous journey of personal growth and development. Running Taulia has taught me so much.
As an entrepreneur, you create the culture and structure of a business. I have tried to cultivate an environment that fosters trust, allows feedback in a way that is helpful as well as motivating and creates a healthy work-life balance.
I have also learnt how important it is to be resourceful as also calm in times of adversity but that can be hard when so much of your time (and wealth) are tied up to your venture. However, it is vital as leading executives set the tone for rest of the company’s response in times of trouble.
Any other personal reflections or message to budding entrepreneurs?
Apart from having the right initial idea and direction - where a business idea has a large enough market and differentiation from competitors - the single biggest success factor is the people you bring on your team. Your workplace values and culture are very important and your employees are the ones who uphold those ideals.
Hiring, career development, and employee retention are crucial: the long-term value creation difference between a motivated top-contributor and an employee that either lacks motivation or doesn’t fit for a given position is so significant that it makes or breaks your success as a company.
For a fast-growing company like Taulia, many of the new hires need to quickly become pillars of the business and lead teams. My advice would be to invest in hiring the best and brightest - don’t be skimpy in rewarding and promoting top talent.