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How Swedish start up Billhop has ensured its future – CEO interview

12 May 2020 by Brad Harris
Billhop Juni 2016 10

Episode 2: Billhop AB

In the 1st episode of “The Interview Hub” – we spoke to a company who are right in the middle of the MedTech industry offering a digital platform for medical professionals and patients alike; and we were able to appreciate what changes they have witnessed in their market.

Now it is time to delve deeper into the Swedish Tech Scene to find out how start-ups within the FinTech space have been affected by and managed the obvious changes brought on by COVID-19.

In the 2nd episode of “The Interview Hub”, it was a pleasure to speak to Sebastian Andreescu - CEO of Billhop AB about the effects of COVID-19 on the FinTech industry specifically from the point-of-view of the founder of a Start-up business in this space.

Who is Sebastian Andreescu

He’s the CEO and Co-Founder of Billhop, and has helped grow Billhop from the start in 2013, his background is primarily within finance and supply chain working within the oil and manufacturing industry.

Who is Billhop?

Billhop is a Swedish payment service enabling businesses to pay all their suppliers by card regardless if the supplier is card enabled. We operate through a buyer funded model without onboarding the end recipient meaning that businesses can pay any supplier around the world as long as the supplier has a bank account.

The vantage point when starting Billhop was to address the low card acceptance around the world within the B2B space. As a consumer you are used to being able to use your card to basically any purchase, but within the B2B value chain the card acceptance is still lower than 20% worldwide. Billhop allows the cardholder to pay the remaining 80% of suppliers worldwide that currently do not accept card payments.

What markets are you currently operating in?

We offer the service to SMEs in Sweden, UK, Italy, Netherlands and Ireland. For the corporate segment we service the whole of EEA as well as Switzerland.

So how do Billhop grow into new markets?

We primarily acquire SME customers ourselves through online marketing and sales. We complement that strategy by collaborating with card networks such as VISA and commercial card issuers who are promoting Billhop to their customers, so our customer acquisition strategy relies partially on ourselves but also on the partnerships that we have. Also, our geographical expansion follows our corporate customers that we see using Billhop’s services that typically have several entities spread across Europe.

The fact that Billhop is a start-up with experience in both the Swedish & UK market – what is your general feeling about how those markets have been affected by COVID-19?

For us in particular we are seeing similar activity on the corporate segment as we did before the covid-19 situation emerged. This is partly due to some of these companies having the financial resilience and ability to continue to plan long-term and partly due to them operating in industries that are currently less affected in terms of demand for their services and products offered.

We have noted more of a standstill within the SME segment, especially in the UK, as many of our SME customers are operating within industries that are currently affected by the current situation and therefore lack the possibility to start or plan for production as they do not know when restrictions will be lifted and when demand will pick up.

How has the change in demand actually impacted Billhop when it comes to adapting to the current climate?

All in all, it has given us an opportunity to look even further over our costings, we’ve made some significant cost reductions which means that we have looked at scaling down non-essential investments and reducing expenditures where applicable and possible. Of course, being a start-up every one of us have made concessions in regard to remuneration to ensure that we have the financial resilience required to pass the test of time.

We still invest in long-term growth initiatives and will not change our mid- or long-term strategy at this point. Having said that we have scaled down some of our long-term initiatives in order to focus more on the core business in the short term.

What sort of measures did you take to protect your staff?

We were early when it comes to implementing a “work from home”-policy, we closed down our offices and made sure that everybody could work remotely.

We are quite used to being able to work remotely and utilise tools such as Slack or similar which we are complementing with video conferences to maintain the social and collaborative aspects of the business.

I think most companies here have taken similar measures, even though the Swedish government have chosen a different strategy in regard to restrictions as compares to other markets. I think the difference has been that the Swedish government has been keen to find a more long-term approach i.e. implementing restrictions and providing recommendations that they believe are easier to uphold and follow for a longer period of time, coupled with trusting people to make their own assessments and decisions in regard to the threat that covid-19 poses. Time will tell if this was a sensible strategy or not.

What does the future hold for Billhop?

Our value proposition will be even more relevant in the market to come, from our perspective it’s a matter of continuing our expansion; putting a lot of emphasis on the corporate segment. We have corporate customers spread across 20 different markets in Europe using Billhop, so that’s also a way for us to grow into these markets together with our clients.
Over the next few years, it will still be a European focus for Billhop, so continuing to work on existing markets but still entering new ones where and when the opportunities arise.
We will also continue with our partnership strategy i.e. working with our partners in the industry to develop and promote new products and features both for SME’s and Corporate business’.

Do you have any advice for others who are at a similar stage of in starting their business’?

“One important aspect is understanding that the ability to attract external capital might be impaired in the short- and mid-term. Ensuring financial resilience should therefore be top of everyone´s agenda.”

Thank you to Sebastian for taking the time to be a part of “The Interview Hub” and to shed light on what managing a Start-up company during that current crisis is like.

If you would like to participate in this series of interviews or would like to discuss recruitment solutions, please don’t hesitate to contact me on bharris@skillfindergroup.com

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Photo by Felicia Linden