‘The crisis has already massively pushed digital transformation’

1 Jun 2020

Carlo Gualandri, founder and CEO of Soldo. Image: Soldo

Soldo’s Carlo Gualandri discusses how companies have recently changed their attitudes to spending and why all businesses will need an online element after the coronavirus pandemic.

For the last two decades, Carlo Gualandri has worked in the world of tech start-ups, introducing digital transformation to new markets. He’s now the CEO of Soldo, a platform set up to help businesses solve challenges associated with company spending.

Gualandri spoke to Siliconrepublic.com about his work with Soldo, which has offices in London, Rome, Milan and Dublin. It helps businesses transition their spending protocols into the digital world by using prepaid company cards and apps for on-the-go financial management and real-time data tracking.

He also shared his thoughts on the future of business spending in a world where many are now working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and why Soldo is “cautiously optimistic” about the future despite the uncertainty most businesses now face.

‘This new-found appreciation for technology won’t be reversed, even as society reopens’

How has remote working affected business and employee expenses?

It’s as though we started lockdown in 2020 and we’ll exit in the technological equivalent of 2025. The crisis is forcing businesses to get into shape at a rate that they never anticipated.

Remote working, video conferencing, digital financial management and other services all existed before the pandemic, and some businesses chose to use them to be more efficient. Now all businesses are using them because they have no choice – they are being forced to adapt. For many companies, this is a quantum leap in how they operate.

Moving to remote working has meant that businesses have adopted technology across all areas of business, particularly finance teams who have been under immense pressure to keep a handle on all outgoing spending. This new-found appreciation for technology won’t be reversed, even as society reopens.

How have financial challenges for start-ups changed in light of the coronavirus pandemic?

The pandemic changed things as quickly as flipping a light switch. Before the coronavirus, tech start-ups were focused on growth at all costs. Their leadership and investors encouraged them to grow, insisting that money was not a problem. Many start-ups were largely unaccountable for where the money was being spent and had little concern over short and medium-term profitability.

Suddenly, the wind changed and investors unanimously dropped talk of exponential growth in favour of controlling costs and ensuring profitability in the longer term. I’ve been there myself – I saw what happened in the year 2000 with the dot-com crash and during the 2008 financial crisis. As markets picked back up, start-ups jumped from investor to investor to grow more and more.

This pandemic is similar to the crisis in 2008, as individuals and businesses are experiencing the real-world impact of the changes concurrent with financial markets. Every VC is taking a much more cautious approach to the money tap. The valuable qualities in a start-up are now cash, sustainable growth, financial growth and profitability.

Has Soldo had to change its approach to support business spending?

At Soldo, things haven’t really changed. We already had systems in place for remote working, video conferencing and managing finances digitally.

Understandably, businesses are suddenly very cautious, particularly around outgoings, and this has resulted in reduced spending. Soldo has always been focused on providing businesses with the tools for real-time reporting and financial visibility, and that’s something that businesses are now more interested in than ever as they look to control costs and extend their cashflow runways.

To what extent do you expect the future of Soldo to be impacted by the current crisis?

We are cautiously optimistic at Soldo and, for now, the outlook is positive. Every business now has to move online or, at the absolute least, needs an online element. This will be true for the foreseeable future too. Imagine setting up a business now, knowing that if your shopfront is forced to close you will lose everything.

The shift online means adopting online tools like video conferencing and cloud accounting, which offer an advantage over older systems. The crisis has already massively pushed digital transformation, automation and the adoption of cloud solutions, which bodes well for the future.

The pandemic has also made businesses more aware of their cashflow. Can any company still ignore the need for cost control, spend management and general financial efficiency? Now, businesses need to keep finances under control and eliminate waste, and Soldo is well placed to be part of this digital revolution.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic