Christer Holloman is the CEO and Co-founder of Divido. Divido lets consumers spread the cost of any purchase over a period while the merchant gets paid in full right away. Merchants that use Divido increase sales around 15-25% because it increases footfall, basket sizes and conversion rates – both in store and online. Consumers love it because it helps them manage their monthly outgoings. Divido is offered direct to merchants and on licence to financial services and payment companies. The company is backed by the people behind Skype, WorldPay and TransferWise, their vision is to build the future of payments and already have over 300 partners using the solution soon across 9 countries. As of Jan ’17, the company had 20 employees and had raised a £2.5m seed round. Christer holds an MBA from Said Business School and Jesus College.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Prior to starting Divido I had spent the past 10 years in the newspaper industry. My job was to take new products and services to market help my employers remain relevant despite their consumers changing media habits. In order words, I was being paid to be entrepreneurial within large traditional corporates. After a stint launching the $1bn startup called Glassdoor.com, as their first hire outside the US, I decided it was time to do my own thing.
The ability to take initiative – take the route the others are not taking – not talk about doing something, but doing it. This is not limited to new business ventures but applies to all areas of society; as an employee in any organisation, helping others, the arts, politics etc.
Startups don’t go under because of a lack of good ideas, but a lack of paying customers. Therefore, before you do a business plan, before you build an MVP, find out who will be paying for your service/product and get in front of them (e.g. not your dad, a friend, ex colleague but an actual customer/client or budget holding decision maker), pitch to them. I got four merchants to sign up to pay and use Divido before we were even done building the platform. That’s customer validation.
So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
There is only one, self-motivation. Motivation is the fuel that keeps you going when no one else sees the world in the same way you do, when things are not going your way. It’s the currency you trade in when you must make sacrifices to further your business prospects.
It’s a tremendous learning experience.
The late Swedish entrepreneur Jan Stenbeck. He wasn’t afraid to challenge convention and defy the odds; among other things he launched Sweden’s first commercial radio station, first commercial TV station and changed the global newspaper industry forever by being the first to give away the newspapers for free to ensure maximum reach for his advertisers. His brainchild, the Metro International franchise, is today the world’s most read daily newspaper outside China.
I would have asked him what business he would have started today and why?
Our first investor back in 2014 was Seedcamp when Divido was still just an idea on paper. They consider over 1,000 startups every year but only choose to back a handful. They were also the first investors in TransferWise, the first British tech startup within financial services to achieve a $1bn+ valuation, which is great for us to be affiliated with. High profile investors with a great track record open doors for us which is particularly critical at the start.
How have you funded your ideas? Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Apart from traditional angel and seed funding from VC’s we got a £200k grant from Innovate UK. The money from the grant was of course a big plus but more importantly it made us stand out vs the incumbents in our industry – which never have been recognized by the government for accomplishing anything good.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would dare them to start with signing up a customer/client. If you can’t sell your offering to those that will pay your bills in the future, you don’t have a business to develop in the first place. Don’t get stuck planning ‘the perfect business venture’, planning is not your friend – revenue is.
Just do it.