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The Scale-up Series: Curve's founder on what it took to achieve rapid growth

 

Posted: Wed 15th Jan 2020

Shachar Bialick, CEO and founder of Curve, started four other businesses before launching the payment fintech. The business is growing rapidly and now has 800,000 users.

Shachar shares his story with O2's head of business marketing Zoe Hominick in this episode of The Scale-up Series, which is supported by O2 Business.

Disrupting new markets

Curve is the first "over-the-top banking platform". That means it lets you spend money from different accounts using one bank card alongside other features.

"We believe that with all the fragmentation that's happening with banking and money and all the beautiful fintechs, they're all eventually going to come together and merge into a singular platform," Shachar explained.

Asked what other entrepreneurs considering trying to disrupt a market should do, Shachar urged founders to be cautious and told Zoe it's important to think carefully about your startup journey.

"The first reaction is to think again. A, it's not for everyone and B, it's not the only way to build a business and be independent," he said.

Securing funding for rapid growth

For Shachar, scaling a business rapidly means growing faster than you can afford to and that naturally led him to look for investment.

"It means you have to accelerate really fast and constantly increase your speed," he said. "In a scale-up, it's not organic growth that you can fund yourself. It means you're scaling up faster than your financial ability to do so, so you have to go and find a way to fund that."

Curve has raised $74.2m (about £57.1m), according to Crunchbase.

Shachar didn't have a network when he arrived in the UK five years ago and he was entering a B2C market, something he hadn't done in any of his previous businesses. That meant finding partners that understood the payments sector, fintechs and the European market.

"We've said 'no' to partners that we don't believe are the right match and many partners have said 'no' to us. You need to make sure you focus on your business and the economics," he said.

Evolving as a founder

The rate that Curve is growing at has meant that Shachar's role as a founder has evolved rapidly.

"You are attacking and trying to solve challenges that no longer exist because the company constantly morphs. The way to do it is to give as much autonomy and purpose as why you do it to everyone in the company," he said.

Marketing a new proposition

After developing a relationship with Mastercard early on, Curve operated "under the radar" for two years. It gave them the chance to capture data and understand the market.

"The marketing strategy is super challenging," said Shachar. "If you ask me 'what are my biggest hurdles or challenges?' it would be marketing. Marketing as we know it does not exist in a start-up. Building marketing and awareness in a small start-up have nothing to do with traditional marketing."

Shachar added that start-ups in this situation shouldn't look to hire a traditional marketing person. Instead, he recommends finding someone that can constantly try and fail. If they can move fast enough, they will find the right mix of audience, channel and messaging that will allow you to grow rapidly.

 
 
Chris has over a decade of experience writing about small businesses and startups. He runs Inkwell, a content agency that helps companies that sell to small business owners grow their audiences through content marketing. You can find him on Twitter at @CPGoodfellow.
 

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