Startup of the Year:
Disrupting Employee Expenses
Pleo – a leading Fintech business, tipped as a future unicorn, automates expense & invoice management. Sounds simple, and often the best ideas are. That is why they have seen huge growth since they were established in 2015 and closed the biggest Series A funding round in Denmark in the past 10 years. They are now prepping a $100m Series C raise.
A safe way to pay, where a company`s Finance Director is in control of spending. Pleo simply believes in better expense management with better visibility on company spend – and their 16,000+ clients believe in it too. Since their journey started, Pleo have been recognised around the world, claiming the crown as ‘Startup of the Year’ at the Global Startup Awards in 2020.
Pleo works with companies of all sizes, across every industry. What unites those businesses is that they’ve experienced the pain of traditional spend management: shared cards, chasing receipts, expense reports and reimbursements. They’re ready to move past the confusion and complexity that has defined spend management for so long.
How We Did It: Expanding
to the UK from the Nordics
Pleo launched in the UK in 2017, which was relatively early on their startup journey – but if your product has traction, you want to get to market fast. Having closed $5.5M seed funding from Creandum, investors in Europe’s most ambitious tech companies, knew expansion to the UK would become a significant part of their journey as a company because of the size, scale and scope of the market. The fintech scene here is competitive but it’s at the forefront of innovation.
Every startup’s expansion journey is different – but Pleo recognised early the importance of being seen in the market. During the initial phase, colleagues travelled back and forth with weekly Ryanair flights, meeting key influencers and decision-makers to get an understanding of the market. Pleo admits that this process can be “really hard and tiring”, but as a company, you need to encourage your employees, and keep reminding one another about the great, new potential opportunities as part of the vision. During this phase, Pleo was not building for scale, but building relationships, and a reputation for doing things differently. They would cycle to meet just one prospective client, hand-delivering cards to new users to ensure an amazing customer experience – the positive online reviews soon followed!
Six months in and Pleo joined a co-working space in Central London, where they started to scale and recruit local talent. They soon realised when hiring locally that they needed people that were okay with chaos and people who could get things done. One of our key hiring values for this is entrepreneurship. A lot of early hires in the UK displayed this and thrived on the organised chaos.
Scale Up: Top tips for
doing business in the UK
Eoin O’Liathain, Sales Director at Pleo shared his top three tips on doing business in the UK, and the important things scale-ups new to the UK market should be doing.
1. Leverage the Scandi brand.
A Scandi brand usually represents high quality. It is important to leverage this in your branding and communication to give yourself the best chances of early success. It can be a powerful differentiator which shows credibility and signifies quality.
2. Localise your Messaging.
Product market fit comes first and foremost when entering any market. But it’s important to localise your messaging to suit the cultural nuances of that new market too. Eoin explains certain outbound hooks, marketing narratives, ad messaging & value props, that worked super well in the Nordics, did not resonate in the UK. The same is true for Germany. Eoin advised that you need to understand this early and adjust.
3. Cross-pollinate the offices.
In Pleo, we have a strong emphasis on company culture. When starting up a new office therefore you need to ensure that company DNA flourishes in a new setting, away from HQ. Having some “originals” join the new market, the people who live and breathe the company culture helps enormously with this. At the same time, you need people who know the UK market. If a brand like Sainsbury’s comes into your inbound chat you want somebody on that team to recognise how important that lead is.
Today, Pleo have an office in Shoreditch with 35 people. According to Sales Director Eoin O`Liathain, the UK is one of their strongest markets and is growing fast having onboarded 7,000 customers in just a few years.