For any startup that harbours long-term ambitions, surviving the first year of operations and coming out unscathed is key. The first year brings with it self-doubts, human resource challenges, issues with co-founders if there are multiple partners, financial crunches, and market challenges. Tiding over these difficulties and surviving to tell the story by making it to the second year takes guts and perseverance, and only a few are blessed with it. YourStory is happy to present a new series of articles as part of the series Survival Instinct, that track how leading startups battled the demons and survived the first year of their operations. Today we bring to you the story behind P2P lending startup Finzy.
It was 8:45 AM on November 28, 2015, that Amit got into his formal banker-like attire. Instead of walking to the parking lot, he walked to his new desk in the kids’ room. He was clueless and lost by 10:30 AM – what’s the next big idea, and why was it not coming to him? Hours turned into days and then into weeks. His bosses had warned him: “It’s suicidal,” one said, and “Create, curate, and test your idea before you take the plunge,” said another. He, somehow, felt otherwise – sailing two boats together was not him. Finally, he decided to go against all ‘good’ advice, quit the rut, and follow his guts to create something of his own.
In June 2016, Abhinandan was in the middle of a high-traction project at ThoughtWorks, with something as big as heading the global vertical on the table. With a secure job at which he was excelling, the decision to rock a smooth sailing boat was a tough one. Amit and Abhinandan took this on with the realization that they had the same vision to solve a real-world problem and to start something on their own that would create a positive impact in society, enabling people to lead an easier life. They say, “Having crossed an ocean of naysayers and set aside fears, we followed our instinct. Two friends came together with a single-minded vision and began the journey to create Finzy.” The challenges and fears while embarking on the startup journey are almost too big for words.
So it was for Amit More and Abhinandan Sangam. Soon followed the inclusion of the third co-founder Vishwas Dixit, who also brought immense domain expertise, quitting his corporate well-placed job to follow his dreams. The dream of solving a real-world problem with a strong core team concluded with Apoorv Gawde coming on-board and strengthening the process of bringing the vision of Finzy to life.
Thus, here we are today – Finzy is real, with an unbeatable core team, a product that customers love, multiple rounds of funding, and the NBFC-P2P registration with RBI. Whether it is for leisure or emergency, finance plays an important role in everyone’s life.
Finzy has helped people fulfil their wishes of travelling abroad, buying a vehicle, redesigning their home, higher education, wedding expenses, or even during emergencies such as medical issues. Finzy has also successfully created a new asset class for investors, with optimized risks and higher returns.
As Abhinandan’s professor once said, “If anyone tells you the journey is easy, they are lying, and if you believe them, you are fooling yourself!” Here, we will make an attempt to bunch into six broad categories all that you need to survive this uncertain and turbulent phase of one’s life. This is our experience from building Finzy:
When you decide to walk an unconventional path, you will need your family backing you. It can be your dad, your spouse, your friend – anyone. You need that pillar of unconditional support.
Startups are demanding. Even with realistic runways, rightly set expectations, and focused efforts, it is always going to take longer. The most important belief is our belief in each other as partners. We came from different professional backgrounds, and the thought processes were different too. The strong ethical values and the common dream we shared have helped us develop an unwavering belief in each other. Most startups begin their downward spiral when partners have irreconcilable differences. The biggest asset we have is our trust in each other.
Business opportunities are all around us. We need an attentive mind to find a problem to solve and then stitch a business plan around it. We will definitely need serious attention to detail – process orientation and customer centricity. Maintain a balance between micro and macro. Have a big vision and be convinced with it. Our stakeholders will not join us just for the sake of incremental benefit – it must be large and scalable. We must carry an incessant desire to create value and a long legacy. Not build and sell, make a fast buck, and get rich and famous quick. Have a detailed plan, and many alternates to that. Things will never go as per Plan A.
We zeroed in on the Peer-to-Peer lending marketplace idea and took the plunge. We didn’t shy away from frequent travelling, putting in 16-18 hours a day, and practically all weekends. Once our idea had been thoroughly scrutinized, the next step was to build a solid foundation – our core team. With small budgets and a data-sensitive product, and with regulation still not in place at the launch of our product, it was a challenge to find people that see our vision. Yet we believe this is our greatest achievement so far – our team! Build a strong core team and you have the power to take on absolutely any challenge.
There were testing times at multiple stages, whether it was our identified team taking their time to decide on joining us, to some developing cold feet, to depleting bootstrapped funds, to delay in regulations, and more. The key is to persevere, and that’s what kept us going through each of the challenges! The stringent compliances that we set for our product and to identify that MVP with which we can go live within a very short span of time ensured we got to test the product-market-fit just-in-time. That perseverance has paid off well for us, as we see how we at Finzy continue to disrupt the alternate financial space positively in India.
We have always believed in sharing the burden of success and not trying to carry it all alone. The most important aspect of it is to build a core team whom you can trust, blindly. Compromise on skills but not on trust. The next aspect is to convince the smartest and brightest to join in and believe your vision. Over-communicate, if need be. Lead from the front and as an example. Create a culture of independence and openness – take care of them and make them important partners. Create a shared goal, show them the path, empower them, and get out of their way. Lastly, share what you are building with all the stakeholders.
Raise funds well before you need it. Do not fall in love with your equity, and do not try to time dilutions to get the best value. Leave enough on the table for everyone. Money in the account makes a lot of things easier. Spend judiciously – only as much is needed. Remember, you are a startup, and there is a long way to go. Nothing could deter us. We aim at continuing to do what we do so well. Good luck to you all, and we hope our story at Finzy inspires you!
As told by Amit More, Founder and CEO, Abhinandan Sangam, Co-Founder and CTO, Vishwas Dixit, Co-Founder and CMO, and Apoorv Gawde, CIO and Head of Product, Finzy.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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