FinTech (or financial technology) is an industry that has seen significant growth over the past few years — so this October, we’re proud to be a partner of FinTech Australia and Startup Victoria for their FinTech Month initiative. Earlier this week Ben Pfisterer, Square’s APAC Lead, sat down for a fireside chat at YBF Ventures with Startup Victoria CEO Judy Anderson to explore the challenges facing FinTech companies in Australia.
Square now operates in five markets across four continents and is no stranger to taking on big challenges. With Australia’s competitive financial sector, launching the brand here was no exception. From hiring, to partnerships and regulation, the conversation left no stone unturned when it came to building a FinTech business.
If you didn’t manage to get to the event, we’ve pulled out five highlights below.
1. Be ready to adapt — or get left behind
With a background working in Australia’s banking sector and with some of our international card networks, Ben stressed the importance of moving with the market and always being one step ahead. He explains how to tackle that when both the technology and regulation around finance are rapidly evolving:
“When you move into a new market you need to spend time listening and asking questions before you fire off an opinion. Be careful not to get stuck following what other brands are doing, look for the ideas that interest you and pursue them. At the start you’ll have questions about who to hire, where to setup, where to get funding — and that can overwhelming. My advice? Just make that first step.”
2. Every market has its own unique challenges
Square now operates in the US, Canada, Japan, the UK and Australia. While these are all technologically advanced markets, each posed its own challenges — from card acceptance to licensing. According to Ben, being ready to tackle these challenges as you scale is key to building a global brand:
“Finance is a complicated industry, it’s one of the hardest to make headway in. You have to work on the pre-existing rails that have been set up by the legacy players, and that means you have to be sensitive and make sure you’re making the right connections.
Find your advocates in the industry and start to join the dots. You have to work hard to meet the right people who will help you — they need to come on the journey and champion you.”
3. Help is here for startups, you just need to ask the right questions
The opportunities out there for startups are growing. Whether it’s incubators, networking events or organisations like Startup Victoria, it’s a fascinating time to be building a business from the ground up. Judy shared her favourite technique for helping founders:
“My favourite question to ask is simple: ‘How can I help?’
We’re supporting founders across many industries every single day. Often conversations can be fast-paced and exciting as they have so much going on. Asking them that question cuts right to the core of how we can help them succeed.
Often founders will be cautious about asking for help, or feel like they need to pitch you first, but if you can understand what they really need straight away, you can save time and help them get moving faster.”
4. Adapt your message
Just because something has worked elsewhere, whether in another market or a different industry, it doesn’t mean it will work in the same way for your business. To get that traction you need to build something that really resonates with your audience, as Judy explains:
“It’s easy for founders to get ahead of themselves when they’re just starting out, but you need to put a layer of realism on what you’re looking to achieve. Make sure that your product is what your audience needs. When you create a product that truly makes a difference to your customers, they become your biggest advocates.”
5. Build the right team
Something championed by Square CEO Jack Dorsey is the importance of having the right people around you when you’re growing your business. Victoria is rapidly becoming a hub for some of the world’s brightest tech organisations and attracting top talent with it. Ben spoke to the importance of building culture:
“When you’re building a business you’re going to face a lot of adversity, particularly in an industry like FinTech.
Having the right people around you who will pull together in the face of that adversity is essential. Find people that are intelligent, humble — and make sure they have drive. That could be a chip on their shoulder or a real desire to achieve, but being driven makes all the difference.”
We’re proud to be sponsoring Startup Victoria’s FinTech Pitch Night on the 23rd of October in Melbounre — find out more get free tickets here.
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