S02E04: Arik Shtilman

In this episode of Without Borders, Tyto co-founder and managing partner Brendon Craigie, along with Russell Goldsmith of the csuite podcast are joined by Arik Shtilman, CEO of fintech company Rapyd. Find out how Shtilman built and led this ‘fintech-as-a-service’ platform to recently reach the billion-dollar mark, cementing its unicorn status, and why the long-term vision is to go even bigger. Coinciding with Rapyd’s UK launch, Shtilman shares his wisdom around why mistakes are super valuable and why a good company is a company that knows how to fix mistakes quickly, why it’s good to have investors, and why you always need to hire people who are smarter than you. Don’t miss this latest episode in the series, where we interview unicorn CEOs and founders.

Transcript:


Russ: [00:00:00] Thanks for downloading show 106 of the csuite podcast, the fourth in our special series of episodes that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto and their own Without Borders podcast, where we are interviewing leaders of unicorn companies to find out about the key issues, pain points and challenges that startups face and how they can address them with a strategic approach to marketing and communications. My name is Russell Goldsmith, and as we continue to record the podcast during the coronavirus pandemic, we are also using this opportunity to look at how the companies we are featuring are adapting to working through the current climate and their plans for when we are totally out of lockdown. My co-host for these unicorn interviews is Tyto’s founder, Brendan Craigie and joining us both online for this episode from Tel Aviv. I’m thrilled to welcome Arik Shtilman, CEO of Rapyd, a company that has built the world’s largest local payments network to power, as they describe, frictionless global commerce. So welcome to the show, Arik. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to us. We should probably start by getting you to give us a quick overview of Rapyd.

Arik: [00:01:06] Sure. First of all, thank you very much for having me on the show. And, you know, Rapyd is what we call a ‘fintech-as-a-service platform.’ So we’re not a typical payments company. We’re actually a company that provides infrastructure for fintechs to build on top of us a variety of related applications, that might include payment collection. We have basically four product lines that include APIs from our cloud platform, Rapyd Collect, which is the ability to collect payments, more than 1,000 different payment methods, Rapyd Disburse, which is the ability to disburse money in any way that somebody might want to get paid, not only bank transfers, but also cash pushed local wallets and etc. Rapyd Wallet, which is actually our secret sauce. It’s a type of white-label version of Paypal that we allow basically other companies to issue wallets to consumers and businesses. And the latest addition to our product suite is Rapyd Issuing, which is card issuing for Visa and MasterCard on top of our wallet. This entire platform took an approach that is similar to Amazon’s AWS services, which is just basically a lot of different services that are exposed as an API completely global, across more than 100 countries. And we allow other companies to come on top of us and build applications and basically provide better financial services to their consumers.

Russ: [00:02:26] Excellent. Well, we’ll go into a bit more detail on how that’s all come about and the growth of the business in a sec. But I just want to go back a little bit, because you previously founded and successfully grown and sold a business in IT Navigator, which was a couple of years before launching Rapyd. So what were your expectations for your current company back in 2016 when you founded it?

Arik: [00:02:49] So it’s an excellent question. The company that I founded and sold in 2013 was, IT Navigator, which was a cloud computing company, and it was actually a bootstraped startup that started in 2003. So in 2003, I actually started this company together with three other co-founders, and we built this company, you know, completely from scratch with no external money, no other backers or investors, and sold it after 10 very long years to a buy-out from Santa Clara. And, you know, after selling this company, we were sure that we want to do another company because we wanted to take all the mistakes that we made in the previous company and actually fix them and do something differently. What we call the ‘right way.’ Because when you have a first time and do something new, you learn so many things in the process that you make so many mistakes, which is obvious. But these are such valuable mistakes that you cannot wait to do it again because you know what you can do differently. So, when we started this company, we knew one thing, that if we were going to follow it best of not making the same mistakes, we we’re going to build a very big and significant company. And we actually, you know, our goal was to become a multi-billion-dollar company. And I think that we are on the right track to achieve it. We actually achieved it now we know with the last financing round that we did that we crossed the billion-dollar mark. But the long-term vision is a much bigger company.

Russ: [00:04:12] Do you think — that’s a huge strength, obviously, in recognizing mistakes that you’ve made. Do you see other founders trying to hide over those and therefore not getting the successes?

Arik: [00:04:26] Yeah, first of all, yes. And I can tell you that the first thing that they asked people in job interviews is what mistakes that are done in the past that they’re not going to do again in the future. It’s very easy to hire people that were always successful. They’ve been amazing here and amazing there. But come on. That’s your reality, right? I want people that already made mistakes. So when they come and do something with me, it’s not going to be the first time they’re going to do it because they know exactly what type of turn they need to take, when they get to the cross road. And I think that, you know, people tend to hide their mistakes, but mistakes are super valuable and actually a good company is a company that knows how to fix quickly mistakes, not to make mistakes because everybody makes them. But quick fix, fix it very quickly.

Brendon: [00:05:09] I think also just kind of building on that. I think just having that self-awareness is also a real quality, isn’t it, in terms of that, probably lots of people that say to you they’ve never made any mistakes, but actually it’s because they are not aware of them. I think the other thing that’s kind of interesting about the point you made is that it seems to be saying that you think one of the big mistakes you made previously was not being ambitious enough and that actually maybe a lot of companies need to be more ambitious when they set out. Is that is that kind of what you’re saying?

Arik: [00:05:38] Yeah. So we had two mistakes that were very big that we made. One mistake is that we didn’t want to take any external funding. We built the bootstrap startup company. We owned 100 percent of it. But the reality is that even a kid knows that one hundred percent for one hundred million and 50 percent of the billion is not the same. And if you don’t take external money, and VC money, it’s very complicated to scale a company to a very large size. And we were not mature enough to understand that sometimes investors might be a good thing. Again, the right match of investor and the right money. We also didn’t understand the fact that you always need to hire people that are smarter than you. That is another typical mistake that you do because you’re trying to hire people that just do what you say. And later on, you understand that sometimes you make mistakes. And there was nobody confronting telling you, you’re wrong here you’re wrong there, let’s do it differently. And that was another thing that was clear for us to do differently.

Russ: [00:06:38] Well, I want to bring this back to Rapyd, obviously. But before we do that, I just thought actually I should probably ask you how things are currently in Israel in terms of getting through lockdown and this whole situation. How are you doing over there?

Arik: [00:06:52] I would smile because you guys have been UK, and I’m in Israel. The beaches open, the restaurants are open, the coffee shops are open, kids are back to school. That is why I have a big smile on my face. And so the situation here is extremely good. It has been, you know, dramatically better than most of the world. But at the current stage, we are almost 100% back to normal life.

Brendon: [00:07:15] That’s great. In kind of preparing for this chat with you, we kind of like we’re just, um, looking at some of the things you’ve been you’ve been saying and writing. And there’s a great blog post that you published at the start of the year reflecting on some of the changes and the developments over the past year of the business. And I guess one of the things that really stood out is the fact that you’ve pivoted from being a B2C wallet provider into this much all-encompassing B2B fintech as a service platform. Could you kind of maybe talk a little bit about when you made that decision and what prompted it?

Arik: [00:07:49] Sure. So, first of all, you know, the original thing that we wanted to do after we sold, IT Navigator and got into the mindset of we want to do a different company, is we wanted like everybody in 2015. Everybody wanted to be Uber right. It was the thing and going into a consumer-facing thing was something that was very appealing, especially, by the way, for an ego perspective, because we said, OK, we’ve already done B2B. You know, we’ve been successful. Let’s go do consumer. Let’s be Uber which was, by the way, a huge mistake because we don’t understand anything consumer-facing applications, but we understand extremely well businesses. And we decided to go and build the consumer facing wallet, even though we had no background in financial services and no background consumer. Very bad combination of things to try and build a company with. You know, we started this consumer facing wallet. And, you know, because we didn’t know anything about the space we started, to research to build the tech to make the business relationship with it relevant and suddenly, you know, after seven months into this process and investing several millions of dollars of our own pocket, we understood that in payments there are no platforms. Every single company that wants to start something that is fintech related has to build everything from scratch. You build your own wallet ledger, you build the KYC integration, different providers you need to get regulated that and you need to get a license in every country that you operate in. You need to have a card acquirer, a bank account, bank accounts of capabilities, sanctions screening, AML compliance. And, you know, we had an idea it was very cool. But we find ourselves 90 percent of our time spending our time, effort and money doing things that are not related to the core idea, just building infrastructure and only 10 percent of the time and money was left actually to the core of the idea. We looked around and we know we said it can’t be there are no platforms because we’re a bunch of guys came from cloud computing. And we looked at AWS [and others] and we said, OK, there has to be a platform. No platforms at all. And, you know, when we looked at each other, we said, OK, it’s time to pivot, right? Because if there are no platforms, we need to build the platform. We pivoted because we understood that, you know, we can build infrastructure. We give other companies the ability to build in one month what it could have taken us two or three years to build. And that’s how we ended up with Rapyd.

Brendon: [00:10:20] And then one, I guess the other thing that kind of just jumps out is that you obviously see a world in which people are going to want more and more different ways to pay. You know, what’s kind of driving that? You know, like do you think there’s a ceiling on the amount of, you know, different types of ways that are going to be to pay?

Arik: [00:10:40] So first of all, it’s important to understand the world of payments outside of a UK, the US and Israel it’s not really card-orientated right. If you look at the ways that people pay, even in Europe. Right. In the Netherlands, you have people paying with bank transfers. In Germany, you have SOFORT, in Latin America it’s a lot of cash, Asia-Pacific it’s a lot of wallets, in India it’s UPI, which is a real time payment network that was invented by the government. So, the world is evolving and what is happening, is that basically the brands are trying to become the payment methods. So, pay with Apple Pay, with Google pay, with Amazon pay, with whatever it is and what the brands they want to become the payment methods, the card schemes and the banks become irrelevant. They become infrastructure players. And at the end of the day, almost every single big brand that we know have a payment inspiration to be a payment method. And that leads into a world of very large variety of payment methods. I can tell you that today in the world there are almost two thousand different ways to pay and Rapyd supports today, more than 1,086 different ways to pay. And the reality is that people are actually using all these different payment methods. And we think that over time it’s only going to continue and evolve because of the fact that almost everybody wants to become a payment method or a wallet one way or another. And it’s not going to stop. Now, there is a better now. OK. Visa and MasterCard, we understand that people are not going to have plastic. So it means that they need to switch to infrastructure. Maybe something that is an SDK that can run on a mobile phone and they will only provide, you know, the infrastructure behind the scenes. But clearly, the world is going into mobile payments, which is brand-controlled payment methods.

Russ: [00:12:29] Arik, we’re releasing this this episode. It happens to coincide with your UK, launches a full stack company. Can you tell us a little bit more about what this means for Rapyd?

Arik: [00:12:39] So, you know, Raypd has, like I said, four product lines; the collect, which is payment collection, variety of payment methods. There’s Disburse, which is the ability to pay out money. The wallet and the issuing of cards. And we define basically a set of 20 countries that we call strategic countries that we want all these 20 countries to have full stake capabilities of all that full Rapyd products, which means that in UK, for example, we want to be able to support card acquiring, cash collection at cash points, bank transfers would, BACS with fast payments as bank transfers and being able to push money to cards etc. and to issue cards or Visa and MasterCard, you know, in the UK. So this is a full stack of capabilities. So when somebody in the U.K. actually wants to build something, they have everything at Rapyd like there is no reason why they need to go to a different provider in order to build something in the UK. And, you know, we achieved it and it’s now part of this new press release that we’re doing these days. But, you know, we have 19 other countries that we’re already doing it. And it’s super exciting because we are becoming actually. You know, the single API and the single provider for other fintechs to build on top of.

Russ: [00:13:57] Well, this series of interviews that I’m doing with Brendan is very much focusing around the journey to becoming a unicorn. So you kind of touched on this just a little bit earlier. But obviously in the research 2019, you had a number of funding rounds. There was, in fact, was it was on that blog post, that Brendon mentioned there was 40 million dollar Series B, a 100 million dollar series C, and then I read in TechCrunch from December last year a further 20 million and they quoted your valuation with funding at the time at one point two billion. So we talked about, you know, your expectation when you founded the business. How has that will change the perception of the company now?

Arik: [00:14:35] So we always, from day one when we started this company, we didn’t treat it as a startup company or this is a company that is small that might become big. We always knew that it’s going to be a big company because we knew that we know what we’re doing because of our past experience. I think one of the reasons why at the beginning, when we were fund raising our serious our seed round, a lot of investors were afraid of investing in Rapyd because they thought that we are not focused because we’re trying to build something that is way too big and we need to start small, et cetera. You know, when we didn’t agree with this approach, which was a very good decision from our end, because at the end of the day, what allowed us to scale, I think that valuations, you know, at the stage of this company are more important to the press and to recruitment of employees. But they are less affecting the day to day operation because if you’re a 500 million company or two-billion-dollar company, from my perspective, you know, it’s very nice, but it’s paper money, right. It’s not real money, it’s not liquidated and it’s not a publicly traded company. You can actually stick to the valuation. There is a some element of pressure because the investors that are putting money, you know, into a unicorn or into a multi-billion dollar company, they are expecting you to continue and go in the same pace that you grew up until now, which cause a certain element of pressure. But the reality is that they, before we did this round, we actually looked at the valuation and we thought if it’s maybe it’s too high. Right. Or maybe it’s too low, especially because we knew that in the future we might need another round. And when you have, you have experience you understand that the next round that would come off the list is very important to understand the implications of the existing valuation. So we did an analysis to understand if the round that we’re doing now might have negative impacts on us raising money in the future if we would need. You know, the analysis, it was clear for us that one point two billion or whatever it was published is legit because we have the ability to continue growing in the same pace over the next two, three years. That will lead us to another 2.5, three billion valuation, which is at the end of the day the type expectation that the market will have for a company like ourselves.

Brendon: [00:16:52] I’m just curious to know what your approach as a leader and, as your leadership team has been to building awareness and differentiating yourself in the market with so many other companies out there trying to get their names out there. What’s been your what’s your philosophy and approach?

Arik: [00:17:11] So the philosophy at the end of the day comes from two things. First of all, the global play that we have, a lot of companies are very strong in a specific country or specific region, and we’re not trying to sell our capabilities as APAC specialist or LATAM specialist or UK specialist. Always coming and say this is the global capabilities that we have. We are a global company. We have offices today. You know, in Singapore, in the UK, in the US, in Israel, in Sao Paulo, in Brazil, in Mexico City, in Taipei, Taiwan. We give you global coverage. It’s not that we are connected with somebody that is connected to somebody you know, and you have this chain of companies that somehow lead you all the way to the consumer. We are there, we were local. We understand the local markets and we provide you the local experience. This is one very big differentiator, the fact that we are not only a card acquirer, is also a very big difference because being a card acquirer is very nice. But in today’s world, you know, companies are looking much more than collecting a payments from a card. And I think the fact that we provide such a broad range of services of collection and disbursement and effects and issuing is really becoming appealing to a lot of businesses because most of the businesses today already don’t need only payment collection. Either they have a marketplace structure, where they need to collect funds and disburse funds they need always to KYC or KYB somebody because they have already compliance application on them if its GDPR or something else. So the fact that they can actually come to one place that we can handle everything for them is like going to Amazon and AWS and not thinking about the data set, the electricity, the air conditioner, right, that these that exist behind the scenes of servers you don’t think about. That’s exactly the same experience that people get when they come to Rapyd. They don’t care about the regulator in Indonesia versus Mexico or the compliance in Malaysia. We pack everything. We take the responsibility. You do your application connect to our API and we do the heavy lifting for you.

Brendon: [00:19:12] It comes across as very your kind of ambition and your global setup comes across very clearly. Does that also come with challenges in the sense that, you know, like if you are an American focused on purely on the American market, you could, you know, focus on you could be communicating in one language. But the fact that you’re kind of addressing so many different regions of the world, does that does that kind of add additional layers of challenge in terms of how you, you know, building your name and building awareness of your company?

Arik: [00:19:42] Yes, it leads to a lot of challenges, both internally and externally. Internal challenges, of course, are in the communication between the different teams that we have in the company. Right. It’s a completely different culture between Israelis to Europeans to Americans, to Asians. And a lot of times things get lost in translation. A lot of times I find myself as a united nation of the company’s in the middle trying to solve a disputes that actually don’t exist because it’s only a word that was used in the wrong way in an email that somebody interpreted one way or another. So we internally there are lot of challenges. And, you know, we’re trying to educate people of how to communicate better with different people. You know, the email in Mexico is not like the email Singapore, it’s not the same thing. Externally, it also brings a lot of challenges that are marketing related because convincing and acquiring customers in APAC, versus Europe, versus the US, versus LATAM is a completely different story. The language is different. The requirements are different. So it really brings a lot of complexity. We’re trying to bring, you know, one strategy that is translated locally, in every single region that we operate in. But, you know, it’s part of a growing global business challenges.

Brendon: [00:21:00] It’s just building on that that kind of discussion there in terms of some of the challenges of like internally of managing global team. You’ve experienced, you know, incredibly rapid, to use a bit of a pun, growth over the past year or so, you know, going from 30 employees to 200. And I’m not quite sure where you are today —

Arik: [00:21:22] 250

Brendon: [00:21:24] Which is incredible. But you said that you thought when you get to 100 people, it’s a turning point. Well, sort of like what sort of ways, have you had adapt and what lessons could you maybe pass on to other people?

Arik: [00:21:35] It’s very simple. In the day that you go up the elevator and there is a guy or girl that goes with you in the elevator or it comes with him off, you don’t know who they are. That’s the turning point. Right? The difference is that you don’t know everybody by name. You don’t know their wife or husband, you don’t know they’re kids and you don’t know what they’re working on. And this is a day that they might be, you know, a panic day for a CEO or entrepreneur, because suddenly you have a feeling that you lost control because you don’t know what these people do and you don’t know if you really need them. But apparently they’re on your budget that you hired them. And I think that this is the day that maturity kicks in. If, you know, what does it mean to build a company? If you know, what does it mean to delegate responsibility? And if you know how to manage things a little bit bigger scale than ‘I walk the hallway and I know everybody’ then that that is super important. I think that the above 50 becomes a challenge above 100, it is really, dramatically different. You know, the difference between 50 and 100 is like 50 to 1000. That’s the difference, right? It’s significantly different layers from the management perspective. A lot of people, it is very hard to track different sets of KPI and OKR you going to manage on a companywide perspective to understand who is actually good and who is actually not as good as you think? You know, when statistics starts to play, right? You don’t know people you don’t know if she’s nice, if he’s nice. Or whatever it is, performance and the statistics starts to play. This is how you measure people.

Russ: [00:23:11] And that’s as the leader of the business. Then how much are you involved in terms of the internal comms, both individually but also to the whole team? And, you know, how are you? How are you addressing that?

Arik: [00:23:23] I may be different from a lot of other people, but I’m super involved. I still do code reviews to developers. I still go and check specs of product managers. And I still look at landing pages that the marketing team is doing. I basically, you know, spend some of my time in the week of picking one department over another and trying to understand exactly what is going on and talking to people directly without talking to the manager, just to make sure I really understand what is going on. It is similar to, you know, in Israel, we always compare everything to the military. So you have a big group of people that need to walk one direction if you want to turn to the other direction. If you would tell one person up until it will get to the last one, it will take a while. So it’s very important to talk to everybody and to understand what is going on. So if the ship is going in the wrong direction, you can turn it very quickly and it happens, you know, on a monthly basis. I might suddenly, you know, stumble into something that says, oh, my God, why are we doing it? We shouldn’t do that. And it needs to be stopped. So I am super involved and I am also involved on, you know, on the monthly or twice a month at least, on looking at performance of specific games. And if I see a team that is underperforming, I will drill down and look at the team members and talk to the manager and understand what is wrong. Maybe people are in the wrong position. Maybe we hired the wrong people. Maybe we were trying to build something that we shouldn’t built. That is why the teams are performing.

Russ: [00:24:56] And what about during the current pandemic? I mean, has coronavirus impacted in terms of how your internal comms. Or, how how you’ve had to work with with different teams know because lot like you said before, I mean, Israels in a very different situation to where we are in the UK, at the moment. So has it provided challenges that you’ve not had before as a CEO. And if so, how have you overcome them?

Arik: [00:25:20] It provide one big challenge. So when we got into 2020 from a strategy perspective, our strategy from the marketing and customer acquisition perspective was build 70 percent in the traditional B2B sales process and marketing, which means conferences, events, face to face meetings, you know, always knocking on the door type of relationships. And 30 percent was online. In March, we made the decision in the beginning of March, the first week of March. Immediately, when COVID became a big thing in Italy, it was already clear. You know, it’s only now to become global. We just changed completely the strategy and shifted to 90 percent or even 100 percent digital, which was a very big shift from everybody. The product had to change the marketing changed, the sales approach had to change. We added more capabilities that are self- service orientated and onboarding online without any human interaction. The marketing team had to build a completely different approach of acquiring customers, the sales team implemented new internal sales tools, to communicate better with online tools like LinkedIn and others. So it was it was really a massive change to the story from the customer acquisition perspective that we had to do in three weeks. We started in the beginning of March and we had to, you know, have a completely new strategy and actually start executing on it in the beginning of April. So it was a massive effort across the entire company. And everybody had to be synced. Right. Because, you know, it’s very complicated to sync so many departments. But yet that was successful. But I think that COVID, as COVID itself only did good to us as a company. It made us more mature, more focused about what we want to do. And also, it’s good for online payments, you know, from an online payments perspective, it’s clearly that COVID is going to become the goals, if you look at 9/11, 9/11 changed the way that people did these disaster recovery. The big thing after 9/11 was disaster recovery, data centres, replication of data, distributing employees and etc. I think that COVID did to online commerce what 9/11 did to disaster recovery. Basically, online commerce is the output of COVID.

Russ: [00:27:43] And have you regularly sort of given this message as in terms of like leadership to the rest of team, or is it just taken as read with them?

Arik: [00:27:51] I was very clear. You could talk to people. I had a town hall in the middle of March and I told everybody, listen, this thing is going to be big. It’s going to be, last at least until September or October. It’s going to be completely dusty, you’re not going to see what is actually next to you because of all the debris that is going, you know, around. We’re not going to use it as an excuse. And I was fairly clear to people that, you know, Rapyd, corona is the type of appeal. It’s not an excuse to anything. Right. You want to drink beer? You can drink a Corona beer but I don’t want to hear anybody saying that he missed these KPI because of corona because that, excuse me for the language, is bullshit. The reality is, it is an opportunity. And, you know, I think that my assumptions about how big it is and how long would it last up until now were accurate. I hope they wouldn’t be, but they are accurate. And, you know, we communicated every two weeks. We had a session with employees, a face-to-face on video. And we also had weekly updates that was running between the different offices. What is the status of Rapyd in every single office? Who’s in quarantine? Who is in the office? What is going on? And we actually ran an employee wide survey just a week ago and we scored four point eight out of five in communication. So that was a good thing, scoring four point eight out of five in two hundred and fifty people. That’s really good.

Russ: [00:29:18] Yeah, but do you have to strike a balance between obviously, like you said, it’s an opportunity for the business, but externally, how do you have to get that balance between shouting too much, that this is a growth opportunity for the business when obviously other companies and industries, whole sectors are struggling. And obviously that, you know, this worse situations with health as well in terms of individuals.

Arik: [00:29:41] You know, I would have to be brutally honest. I’m getting paid by my shareholders to run a commercial company and not a non-profit organization. I need to maximize this thing to the best of my company and my shareholders. This is why we did an acquisition also, we acquired a company, you know, just a couple of months, a month and a half ago, in the middle of the COVID crisis. We found an opportunity. We executed on it and we see it as fuel in opportunity. You know, we have all the respect to the fact that there are health issues, and stress issues and et cetera. But from a leadership perspective, we need to get the most out of it for the company itself and for the shareholders. And I think that this is exactly what we’ve done. You know, some people might say that we were a little bit too aggressive. But at the end of the day, if you look at history, the biggest companies emerge from things like that, from different types of crises, and from my perspective, it was a huge opportunity and we press the gas pedal all the way in to go as aggressive as we can and you know, where we tried not to insult or hurt anybody in the process. But, if somebody got hurt I apologise upfront it wasn’t intent. But we are a commercial company.

Brendon: [00:30:55] And just thinking about you mentioned that you kind of quickly got a grasp on what this was looking like and how long it would go on if you were to kind of take stock today and look, looking forward to what’s your view of how this is going to change the world and business? You know in the longer term, what do you think? We’ll just go back to normal.

Arik: [00:31:17] The normal doesn’t exist so quickly because putting fear in the heads of the head of people is something that you can do very quickly. Scaring them is easy. Getting it out of their head is the complicated thing. So, you know, from our perspective, what we see is that the growth of online commerce and the move to online commerce is going to speed up significantly. If people thought that the move from physical commerce to online commerce is going to bring an average of three percent, two percent per year, it’s going to be double the speed because people are going to adopt it. I think that every single business on planet earth, it doesn’t matter if it is a coffee shop, you know, a small mom and pop shop or a big store. Everybody would have to have an online strategy, they would have to have at least 25 to 50 percent of their business done online. Otherwise, they won’t exist. That’s reality. And I think it’s going to do very good for business and it’s going to grow dramatically this shift. I think for travel industry, it’s going to be something that will take at least three to five years to recover, mainly because of the fact that people would be scared to travel. And the fact that the number of airlines and hotels are going to shrink dramatically after this situation, you know, travel is going to be much more expensive. It’s going to be very complicated to find an eight pound ticket to fly somewhere. And also the number of hotels that will exist. Unfortunately, is going to shrink and it’s not going to be as popular so the travel industry themselves have said it will take them three to five years to recover. It’s not dramatically different world. But we skipped, I think, 10 years ahead in the way that people do online business.

Russ: [00:33:02] But just on the on that travel note, going back to the launch that, you know, that’s taking place, would you have normally been over here to do all your media interviews at that time. And what’s been the impact for that then?

Arik: [00:33:15] Of course, listen, we bought a company over a Zoom call, we did the acquisition without actually checking if there is a physical office, that people actually exist. OK, so it’s a completely different way of doing business. You know, 50 percent of my time was travel, I was travelling all the time. I think that from January to the 10th of March, I travelled 80 percent of my time, actually landed here from Brazil one day before the complete lock down. Right. So, yeah.

Russ: [00:33:44] So if you found have you have you become more efficient, you think, with your time?

Arik: [00:33:48] Let’s call it. I don’t know if it’s more efficient. I became more. I have more influence over what is going on the product because they sit next to me and I don’t travel. But I think with the safe side, there is a downside. Right. Seeing customers, seeing local markets. There are markets, by the way, like Asia, is very complicated to do business without a face to face meeting. It’s like super complicated. So you lose this human touch, which is challenging. So there is an upside and downside for everything.

Brendon: [00:34:16] What do you think this will go down as being like one of the biggest communications challenges you faced along your journey or have you faced bigger communications challenges?

Arik: [00:34:26] Well, that’s the biggest communication challenge by far. I think that, you know, even bigger than not being able to travel the fact that some of the employees that we have are quarantined in, you know, in a 100 square meter apartment with two kids, that are not going to school. It’s creating a situation that is impossible to work, you know, people talk about the fact they work from home, but a lot of people, you know, it’s bullshit, right? You cannot really work when you have two kids with you in the same house, they cannot go to school or to kindergarten, so the fact that you are trying to work, I respect it. But, you know, the communication styles there, when they are screaming and yelling and it’s very complicate, a conversation, that might take one minute the hallway takes two hours and you need to do three times a week just to get something across the finish line. I think it’s an unheard-of communication challenge. Right. The biggest one ever. And I don’t think also it’s, nobody would be able to resolve it. With all due respect to the fact that tech tries all the time to resolve something. There is one thing that they cannot resolve. And this is how much noise kids are doing at your house. Right? It’s like it is what it is. We to deal with it.

Brendon: [00:35:35] Yeah. And so kind of reflecting on where you’ve got to so far in your career, what would you say is probably your best piece of advice you’ve ever got or you’ve got to give to other people on communication,

Arik: [00:35:50] On communication itself? I think that the best advice I can give people on communication is, first of all; deal only with things that you actually understand in, right? If you’re trying to do something and you go into a meeting and you’re trying to, try to do business that you do not understand. Like when I say I understand, I mean, literally you understand it A to Z. Not that you think it’s a good idea. Trying to communicate about something that you don’t understand it, you know, have clear understanding of how it works. It’s super challenging, especially when you don’t have a whiteboard that you can sketch what you want. You know, the whiteboard saves so many challenges that people have. And, you know, without the whiteboard, the communication is super challenging. I think that also the cultural difference in the way that people communicate is super challenging. And I think that my advice is you need to understand the culture that you’re talking to before you communicate. I can give you an amazing exemption from yesterday. I had three fireside chats with America’s, A-Pac and EMEA yesterday, one after the other. I had to adopt a different personality before going on every single one of the calls. It’s completely different talking to these different cultures in the way that you show respect, humbleness and being focused is different from these four people, before you talk, you need to understand the difference, because I think the number one mistake that people do is that they think that if they know how to speak English well, they can communicate with anybody. The fact that somebody on the other side speaks English, doesn’t mean he understands you. There is a difference.

Russ: [00:37:24] Arik, we really appreciate how candid you’ve been on this chat. And it’s been absolutely brilliant. We’ve got one final question for you. We’re asking all our unicorn leaders, and it’s kind of a bit a bit similar to what Brendon’s just asked you. But if you were to go back in time and speak to your old self, what guidance would you give about communications and what steps would you encourage yourself to take in order for you and the business to excel in communications?

Arik: [00:37:49] So the number one thing that I would tell myself, it’s what always young people hear from older people and they don’t listen. You need to listen to older people for you. You know, you’re hear it when you’re young and you say, oh, when you will grow up, you will understand. But the reality is, when you will grow up, you will understand. First of all, when you’re young, you are a very fast thinker, but you don’t think all the way about the consequences. Right. So listening more and observing more what people tell you, even if you don’t agree, first of all, listen, think for one day, drink a very big glass of cold water and then make a decision. Right. Because when you’re young, you’re just. Oh, yeah, I know. I know. They are all slow, [They abuse the debt]. So I would tell myself I would, first of all, hit myself on the head and say listen to older people. Even if you don’t agree, that’s the number one thing. And the second thing is respect everybody. Right. My mother once told me, never talk about something in the elevator when you have, you know, people with you in the elevator because you never know who is standing next to you. So, before we talk, think who you are talking to.

Russ: [00:39:00] Tremendous. Arik, thank you so much for taking the time to join us on online today. And yeah, enjoy the rest your day. And good luck with the with the launch.

Arik: [00:39:09] Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

Russ: [00:39:12] Well, Brendon, that was that was excellent. Our fourth interview with a unicorn leader. Done. What are your thoughts from listening to what Arik had to say today?

Brendon: [00:39:21] I mean, there’s a lot of things in there to digest, but I think, you know, kicking off, the points he made about how they really learnt from their first venture and, you know, then took that into their new business and specifically how they were much, much more ambitious with what they’re looking to accomplish with Rapyd than they were in their first venture. I thought that was kind of really interesting. And then just kind of seeing how he’s managed the situation with COVID-19 and the speed and sort of decisiveness of his communications approach internally, that was also something that I think was quite striking and I can see it’s not surprising, really, that they ended up getting such high scores for their internal communications, because I think in times of crisis like this, that’s what you need. You need decisive, swift leadership and. Yeah. So really interesting both from a business perspective and also from like that internal communications perspective.

Russ: [00:40:26] Yeah. Perfect summary, Brendan. Well, that’s actually it for this fourth episode in this special series. If you want to find out more about Rapyd, then very simply visit their website, which is rapid dot net. R A P Y D dot net. If you are a unicorn leader listening to the series and feel we should be interviewing you, please do get in touch as we’d love to hear from you. We’d also welcome any comments on today’s chat, which you can do on our Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter feeds. And those are all linked from the top of our website at csuite podcast dot com, where you’ll also find all our previous shows and supporting show notes, plus links to what you can subscribe for automatic downloads of each episode via the likes of Spotify and Apple. And if you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please do give us a positive rating and review. We’re also on all your favourite podcast apps. Just search for the C Suite podcast and hit subscribe. And of course, you can also subscribe to the Without Borders podcast from our partners at Tyto and all the details for that are on their website. Just head to Tyto PR dot com and click on the podcast link in the top nav bar. Finally, if you’d like to get in touch with the show, you can do that via a contact form at csuite podcast dot com. Or you can reach me via Twitter using at Russ Goldsmith or find me on LinkedIn. But for now, thanks for listening and goodbye.

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