Jeppe Rindom speaks to SiliconRepublic.com about the inspirations for founding international fintech Pleo, as well as the current state of the fintech market.
Jeppe Rindom is the co-founder and CEO of international fintech unicorn Pleo. He is also a co-founder of &grow Ventures, which is actively investing in early-stage, high-potential technology companies. Prior to Pleo, Rindom played an executive role as CFO in another Danish fintech heavyweight called Tradeshift.
“As co-founder and CEO, my priority is ensuring all Pleo employees are happy and able to thrive at work. I ensure we are collectively heading towards our shared goals as a company and supporting one another along the way,” he said.
“At Pleo, one of our guiding values is entrepreneurship. We encourage every employee to think like a founder and carry out their mission like one. That drive and responsibility, as well as knowing it’s OK to take a responsible risk, translates into freedom that helps every single person leave their mark on the company and ensures Pleo is a workplace that empowers everyone to bring their whole self to work each day.”
‘For me, leadership is daring to point to others and inviting them to be the strongest in the room’
– JEPPE RINDOM
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
Fintech is currently at a real inflection point. The market is heating up with more and more competitors, yet very uncertain times as we head into 2023, which presents us with the challenge of needing to be aggressive and agile enough to keep up, while delivering on what our own clients need in this time.
Above all, we want to retain our focus on supporting businesses and helping all these forward-thinking teams by being the go-to spending solution. This means that we support them financially, through new initiatives such as our cashback programme, as well as practically through our multi-entity feature, which gives businesses the financial transparency they need across all their entities to start strong next year.
Setting the CFOs and wider teams up for success in our clients is also something we’re capitalising on internally, to ensure that we are lean and product-focused and keep our fingers on the market pulse.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
I’ve had a bit of a lifelong battle with receipts ever since I was young. They’re important but so time-consuming and tedious. My father used to run an accountancy business and he would pay me to spend hours matching up shoeboxes of faded receipts with company bank statements.
Later in my career, I worked as the CFO of a fintech start-up business alongside my then colleague, and now Pleo co-founder Niccolo Perra. It was here I faced the same frustration of being drowned in receipts and expense reports. We decided to hand out company cards to everyone in the office in the hope of creating an atmosphere of independence, but the results were (understandably) chaos. The employees felt empowered, but because of legacy processes we couldn’t track spending effectively and senior staff spent hours gathering and processing receipts.
While other expenses platforms have attempted to improve the existing system, we set out to rewrite it completely. After seeing how employees felt empowered when given responsibility for spending, we wanted to build a platform that would set employees up for success without sacrificing control, transparency or financial safety – the result was Pleo.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
This would have to be founding Pleo back in 2015 with my colleague Niccolo! It’s always a huge gamble to try and set up a business in a challenging financial market, but we knew we could make a huge impact here and really build something that wasn’t on offer in the market in the way we were visualising it.
We started off very small and ramshackle in the tiniest office space you can imagine, but soon brought on some brilliant people to help us craft the business as we saw it (we weren’t even called Pleo yet, so there was a long way to go). Now almost eight years on – I’m so pleased I did take that risk!
What one work skill do you wish you had?
I have always been an ‘insecure overachiever’. In essence, it means that you are unsure of your own eligibility and abilities and overcompensate by setting the bar for yourself really high and by working hard and having a very high level of quality. I have worked on it a lot and it takes up less headspace today than before, but I have chosen to be open about it because I think it is something that countless people struggle with, especially in their younger years.
How do you get the best out of your team?
It is a misconception to think that leadership is about having all the answers. You don’t have to be the one to shine in the room or be the one with the most confidence. For me, leadership is daring to point to others and inviting them to be the strongest in the room. I cannot and must not have answers to everything; I just have to set the direction based on the answers I get. It also creates a completely different level of community in the organisation, at least for today’s workforce.
Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?
Typically the financial industry has an issue with diversity and although there have been positive steps taken in recent years, there is still a long way to go to fix this issue.
At Pleo, D&I is incredibly important to us and, early this year, we surveyed our employees to understand their thoughts of diversity within fintech. 64pc of respondents agree that there are barriers to growth and success for women in fintech, which shows just how much more there can be done to not only empower women but all minority groups.
The best way to break down barriers is to educate and empower people from all backgrounds, gender, race and religion to view the fintech sector as a viable career. Those leading the sector must become mentors for the next generation and ensure we have a more diverse and better future.
What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Remember to stay true to what you care about and what you’re good at. If you can keep these central to everything you do, investors will recognise your passion and your potential and that’s what they’ll ultimately buy into.
If there’s one piece of advice I’d give, it’s to surround yourself with like-minded people. Earlier in my career, I worked as a consultant at McKinsey, and while the project-based work wasn’t really something that resonated with me, I really saw the power of bringing talented, hard-working people together with a common vision.
This fed into how I hired for and grew Pleo. If you want to grow your business, you need people who want to be part of building a business, not just a job. For example, in the early stages of Pleo’s inception, I’d invite various team members into investor meetings. It’s important to take everyone along the journey of building a business and this really helps to rally people behind your vision.
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
At Pleo we have a team of more than 850 spread out across more than 40 countries, so communication tools are key. Slack is one of our main channels and we use that business-wide to ensure teams are kept up to date and feedback is quick and efficient. It’s a great way to minimise the number of lengthy emails that can be a blocker to work.
I’m also a huge fan of video messages to add that personal touch so I use Wistia and Loom to send around end-of-week updates and recognise employees and teams that have gone above and beyond. Finally because we are spread out across the globe, we start most projects with a Miro board and find that a really effective tool for collaboration and planning.
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