Small business failure rates are alarming – or so we are told. Along every avenue of research an enthusiastic entrepreneur will take, their spark, at some point, will be doused by bold assertions:
“8 Out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months” (www.forbes.com).
For anyone in the throes of a new business plan – it can be a bit of a ‘party pooper.’ However, while these statements indeed catch our eye, there’s enough rationale to suggest that your chances of success are not as slim as some might have you believe:
“It is frequently claimed that a very large share of all start-ups fail within the first few years. These claims are usually exaggerated” (www.treasury.gov.au).
‘Sometimes things do go better than expected’
We revisited one small business that has not only cleared the start-up phase, but also claims to have “exceeded expectations,” after only two years’ operation. While there are risks aplenty going into business, it’s rarely said that sometimes, things can go better than expected.
In 2014, the financial tech start-up, Timelio (then called InvoiceBid), launched to assist SME’s with one of their biggest challenges: cash flow. Using Timelio’s platform, businesses are able to bridge the cash flow gap between supply spending and receipt of payments by auctioning off outstanding invoices to investors. In February 2015, co-founder, Charlotte Petris, told Dynamic Business: “we are passionate about supporting SMEs because these are the businesses that lead innovation and growth in the economy.
“The working capital we provide helps the business to accelerate its growth, by hiring new staff or buying new equipment to increase distribution and production, for example.”
‘It has been an impressive 12 months for the business’
Since then, it has been an impressive 12 months for the business. Timelio has funded $10m of invoices to businesses across Australia by investors around the world, closed a $500k capital raise to support growth, and has welcomed Glenn Smith, Director of StartupAUS and CEO of Spotjobs, to the board as Chairman.
All eyes are on this emerging industry high-flier. Timelio has recently been commended by the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade for the creation of jobs and has collected two awards: “Game Changer of the Year” sponsored by Visa and “Overall Award for Outstanding Excellence,” sponsored by Optus.
Commenting on Timelio’s achievements, Charlotte said “we’ve exceeded expectations, not only in terms of the volume of funding and the number of businesses we have helped, but also the overwhelming positive feedback that we have received.”
‘A true focus on customer experience’
At a time when traditional finance providers and banks are leaving the door wide open for disruption, Charlotte believes that a true focus on customer experience has been a key driver of their accelerated growth.
Charlotte said “Timelio was established because financial services firms aren’t serving customers very well.”
“Our focus on the customer experience means that we have been able to create a solution that is better and more efficient than one offered by banks and traditional finance providers. Our customer focused approach has allowed us to disrupt the market and create a platform that is more agile and supports rapid innovation.”
“Our customers are calling us just to say thank you for such a pleasant experience. This is unheard of in the financial services sector and so this feedback has been better than we could have imagined.”
And their customers have even been prepared to put their money where their mouth is. While they have found investors who share their vision and passion for fintech and disruption, part of their raised capital has been crowdfunded from their own customer base.
“We feel this is a huge endorsement for our business,” said Charlotte.
‘We plan to be the first Australian fintech to fund $1bn to Australian SMEs’
Timelio has surpassed expectations, but while Charlotte and her co-founder husband, Andrew Petris, might have had to ‘up the ante’ to match, she asserts that nothing has changed in terms of their vision and goals. What has changed however, is merely reflective of the stage of growth they are at.
“Our product and processes have adapted as we have moved from the startup phase to enabling growth and scale,” said Charlotte.
With a breadth of experience guiding businesses through the ‘explosive growth’ stage, Glenn Smith’s position on the board is anticipated to help them along their current trajectory.
‘An enormous amount of Australian SMEs who are currently underserved by traditional finance providers’
There is an enormous amount of Australian SMEs who are currently underserved by traditional finance providers according to Charlotte. Timelio’s long term objective will be to achieve a size and scale which enables the platform to be used by thousands of businesses across the country.
Justifiably confident, Charlotte stated “we plan to be the first Australian fintech to fund $1bn to Australian SMEs.”
And what would life be if it was all work and no play with no extra-curricular activities to boot. Selected as a participant in the US founded Springboard Enterprises Program, Charlotte became a member of a community driven accelerator program for high-growth technology companies led by women.
“The Springboard network has helped in many different ways – recruitment of key people, introduction of customers and equity investors and also invaluable training on pitching and presentation skills,” said Charlotte.
We’ve heard it many times before, but perhaps this simple message of advice carries more weight coming from Charlotte’s experience with Timelio: Put your customer first.
“Focus on your customer. Differentiate with a superior customer experience and product and put your customer at the core of your decision making,” she said.
“The true measure of success lies with the only people who really determine your company’s future: your customers,” (John Joseph, www.entrepreneur.com).