Next up in our Founders in FinTech series, I got to meet with Marc-Alexander Christ, Co-founder of Sumup. Let’s hear his thoughts on the importance of building a finance function and how the team can be a key driver to success…
In the early days at Sumup, how did you manage the financial needs of the business and when did you decide it was time to make your first hire in finance?
At the very start, SumUp’s financial needs were managed by whoever was available but we hired a finance specialist pretty early on, I would say it was probably around 3 months into starting the business. So we were relatively early in setting up a professional finance function because we knew that especially for payments, this is a topic you need to keep under control.
We might have over-hired for the first year in terms of qualification, but that proved to be very valuable in the long run. I speak to a lot of my startup friends and finance very often ends up to be the function that’s overlooked in the company development. By setting it up early, you create a structure which will pay off later on.
What were the key skills and characteristics you were looking for?
So the easiest characteristic is “experience”, you definitely want to have someone who has seen this before. At the beginning of your journey, you need someone to join, who has knowledge of how to set up the financial function for a new company.
I, personally, think that the soft skills and the mindset are even more important, because as a young, growing company, the business changes every three months. You need someone who is very flexible and very much growing with the business and understanding that change is a reality of life.
How has having a finance team benefited you directly and the wider business?
I think that the finance team makes sure that your business is really a business.
It feels very nice to think about tech, customers and grand vision but in the end, you need to make sure you recognise your revenue properly and that the business makes sense.
So, bottom line, without a finance function you will probably not be able to run the business.
Could you have grown the business at the same pace without your finance team?
In the short term, yes. However, as long as you want to build something that’s more lasting and stable, I would say no.
You can go 3-6 months without a finance team but it will cost you quite a clean-up in the third quarter.
What advice would you give to another Founder when building a finance division?
I think that especially when you start out on building a company, I see the finance function as being very much marginalised. Everyone talks about product and tech being the main sources of sales and marketing, but really having the finance function should be ingrained in the business and working together with the different functions brings a lot of value.