They say necessity is the mother of invention, so when Jeppe Rindom worked as the CFO at Tradeshift and had a hard time managing expenditure, he decided to do something about it. He combined efforts with his colleague Niccolo Perra in 2015 to establish Pleo, a fintech startup that provides expense management tools and smart cards. In April 2021, Rindom disclosed they were planning to fundraise around $100 in a Series C round, a recently-met aspiration because the company recently raised $150 million in July 2021. With that amount, Pleo became the eighth Danish unicorn at a $1.7 billion valuation. The milestone has been achieved by great determination and hard work, as detailed by the facts about the CEO.
1. He Earned His Pocket Money Working for His Father
On LinkedIn, Rindom revealed that his father was an accountant and auditor who kept his customers' receipts in a shoebox. Therefore, he would ask Rindom to help him sort out the receipts and match them with bank statements to make his work easier. Rindom would spend hours on the task, and for his troubles, he would earn some pocket money. The young boy was so dedicated that he would talk to the business owners to try and understand where missing receipts were.
2. The Inspiration to Start His Company
When Rindom joined Tradeshift, a fintech startup, and became the Chief Finance Officer, he got frustrated by the numerous expense reports and receipts. He worked with Perra, and together, they decided it was time to give employees company cards to promote independence. Unfortunately, it resulted in chaos as employees got empowered, and tracking expenditure was challenging. The two colleagues resolved to rewrite the expense system such that employees did not only feel empowered, but they also were successful without compromising on transparency, financial safety, and control. The resulting platform was Pleo.
3. The Secret to the Growth of Pleo
In an interview with Small Business Café, Rindom said his experience working at McKinsey opened him up to the benefits of working with like-minded people. Consequently, when it was time to create Pleo, he only hired those whose vision resonated with his. Therefore, in the recruitment process, he sought potential candidates looking to be part of something big. Those he thought were interested in Pleo as much as he was also got invited to investor meetings so they could be part of the journey.
4. He Believes Pleo Helps Businesses to Empower Employees
As a person with experience being a CFO, Rindom believes that most companies make the mistake of assuming conversations revolving around money are meant for the CFO's ears only or the finance department. As a result, he opines that employees feel they are not trusted enough to make financial decisions. With Pleo, he has noticed that commitment and transparency have increased as employees take on more financial responsibility.
5. He Recommends Startups to Hire CFOs Earliest Possible
When he talked to Creandum, the CEO could not emphasize enough the importance of bringing a CFO on board as early as possible. He explained that most startups undermine a CFO's role, but he recommends hiring one is necessary, even if it is part-time. A CFO determines how fast a startup meets its goal by acting as the link between financial and strategic objectives. An experienced CFO is well-equipped with knowledge in risk management and provides the much-needed financial clarity to facilitate the founders in making informed decisions.
6. He Learned One Should Not Build What Customers Demand
Rindom firmly believes that for you to satisfy customers, you should never build what they are demanding. He said that if you give customers precisely what they are asking for, you will have limited the chances of product innovation. The CEO added that customers have varying needs of a financial product, and you cannot satisfy all, so the key is to understand what problem they want to be solved. He said that once your understanding resonates with customer's demands, you can be creative enough to invent something that even surpasses their expectations.
7. Why He Avoided Opening an Office outside Copenhagen
Pleo's headquarters are in Denmark, a country with a small population; thus, Rindom wondered if operating abroad was the best way to grow faster or hire foreigners to work domestically. Fortunately, his experience working with companies that had gone international was instrumental in helping him conclude that global offices would be a headache. He had seen how the firms struggled with the different time zones, so he preferred delaying expanding the operations to offices outside Copenhagen. Eventually, from the Copenhagen headquarters, Rindom and his team still managed to create a UK, Sweden, and Germany sales team.
8. He Prefers Moving at a Slow but Steady Pace
Rindom adopted a "Safety First" internalization strategy when he finally decided to operate outside of Denmark. Since you can never be too careful, the CEO was smart enough to test the market first and then send a few employees from Denmark to various foreign offices, each location at a time. The company now boasts of offices in London, Madrid, Stockholm, and Berlin through their strategy. On Pleo's website, expanding to the new markets helped Pleo attract over 15,000 businesses to use the smart cards, and it says that they plan on growing even further.
9. He Had to Let Go of 12 Employees Due to the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has been brutal on everyone, businesses included. While some had to shut down, others had to downsize by closing down some branches and firing employees. Rindom is among those who had to let go of employees. Initially, since everyone thought it was a passing phase, the CEO focused on maintaining operations while working remotely in the foreign offices. As the impact of the lockdown continued to be felt, firing 12 employees became necessary for the business to survive.
10. He Loves Writing
Rindom has written many articles and shared them on his LinkedIn account. He shares his thoughts on improving the corporate world through the blog posts; according to Medium, one of the articles he wrote was to encourage Denmark to hire internationally. The CEO terms the article as being naively written because, despite his encouragement for companies to stop stealing talent locally, his own company has not achieved that. However, he blames Denmark for being non-competitive.
Written by Allen Lee
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