Lilia Stoyanov: London Is Like No Other City in Europe in Terms of Access To Funding and Resources

September 7, 2022

Lilia Stoyanov of Transformify ( TFY ).

Tell us about yourself?

A fintech expert and professor at Zigurat Business School that loves paragliding and jumping from the sky. The CEO of Transformify focused on product innovation and market expansion strategies.

An Oxford University alumna. The former GM&CFO of Skrill/ Paysafe and Director PTP of Coca-Cola Enterprises.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

Perseverance. It’s in human nature to expect everything to work out from the first attempt. The reality is different, and as an entrepreneur, one needs to stay focused on the goal and pivot quickly when needed.

Listening to your customers is a cliché entrepreneurs hear often but it is an important one. Being able to filter out valuable insights from client specific needs is critical. Lots of businesses failed because limited resources have been allocated to product features that can not be sold to more than one client.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Be very careful when hiring and bring on board the right people. My biggest mistake early on was that I hired for enthusiasm, not for skills and experience. We are often told that skills can be taught later but this is not a valid statement for early stage companies.

There is no time to teach missing skills, often there are no experts onboard who can teach others and the company’s runway is short.

Either you launch your MVP before you run out of cash or you are out of business. If I had to do it again, I would bring a handful of experts early on despite the seemingly high cost. This approach saves tons of cash and headaches down the road.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

Since the very beginning, back in 2015, we adopted the remote working concept. It allows everyone the flexibility to work and travel on their own schedule.

The same is applicable to the working hours – we don’t track how many hours every team member puts in, we track deadlines, deliverables and quality of work.

There is always sufficient time for my family and friends and I can work in the morning and spend the afternoon on the beach if I need to recharge. It is a matter of clear priorities, deadlines, communication and delegation of tasks. It is something most entrepreneurs can achieve.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Imagine that your business needs to transfer payouts to thousands of vendors, freelancers, affiliates and service providers across the globe. How do you make sure that they all know how to issue a tax compliant invoice?

How do you collect invoices from all these vendors? What about collecting their payment details and transferring cross-border payments to them?

Oh, you already managed all of the above somehow. Now, it’s time for the fun part – reconciling payments to the invoices… In the past, as a fintech expert and senior executive, I witnessed companies struggle with their vendor management, billing and payments processes all the time.

Naturally, it was the business model that came to my mind when I decided to invest and shift my corporate career to an entrepreneurial journey. Transformify ( TFY) offers vendor & workforce management, billing, payments and reconciliation automation all-in-one.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

It’s definitely our holistic approach. Our competitors usually cover part of the process – eg. only billing and payments, just workforce management but no applicant tracking ( ATS), etc.

When you have it all accessible from the same dashboard, you definitely have a competitive advantage. On top of that, Transformify (TFY) customers get charged based on their usage, there are no fixed fees, etc.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

It was a hard start as we were pioneers in both remote working and vendor management automation. Particularly, it was really hard to sell to enterprises telling them that we are all remote, have no offices and our global team consists of independent contractors and freelancers on-demand.

A few years down the road, our enterprise customers approach us with the question ” How can we optimize our operations to achieve the flexibility and cost reduction you enjoy all the time?” My advise to entrepreneurs who are just starting is to spend sufficient time nailing their buyer persona and value proposition.

If you can have them in less than 5 sentences, that’s perfect. Then, be extremely consistent with your marketing and communication. You need to be seen as experts in your niche. Use the correct hashtags and adjust them to the social media channels you are posting to as the audiences are diverse.

Also, don’t waste time on channels that are not performing well or not used by your target buyers. We keep Instagram and Facebook for historical reasons but they are definitely not the right channels for us.

A/B testing is a must not only when it comes to marketing but also for adoption of new UI/UX design and product features. Involving your customer in user acceptance testing boosts loyalty and decreases the churn rate.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

In 2017, I was participating in a government sponsored program in South Korea. The time difference played against us as I was not able to communicate regularly with the tech team that was 8 to 12 hours behind me.

This resulted in series of tech issues as the product requirements were not properly communicated and understood.

It took us about 1 year to get back on track. Since then, I make sure that we use all communication channels, record videos when a key team member is on the road, print screens, have clear guidance in writing for the team, etc.

What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?

London is like no other city in Europe in terms of access to funding and resources. We are deeply grateful to Innovate UK and Innovate UK Edge for all their support.

There are very few countries worldwide that offer similar support to fast growing tech companies. The myriad of conferences and industry events also help a lot to boost brand awareness and reach out to your target buyers. If a need to choose today, London would be my first choice again.

Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?

To the contrary, we always benefited from having our HQ in London. The issues are usually associated with admin costs, rent and headcount costs.

Being an all remote company allows Transformify ( TFY) to address all those issues and reap the benefits of being based in London.

How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?

Remote working and hybrid working models are the best response to the high cost of living. Our team members are allowed to work and travel and can visit London for events and meetings.

We work predominantly with independent contractors and digital nomads who are highly skilled and can work from anywhere to curb the living costs.

This strategy ensures diversity of thought as people come from various countries and walks of life, admin cost optimization and team satisfaction as people choose where to live and how to spend the money they make.

I sincerely hope that he cost of living will not stop top experts from visiting London or living in London. This vibrant city needs them and hopefully, the living cost will be soon back to normal.

If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?

Manchester has a vibrant tech ecosystem complimented by many conferences and events. If we had to move our headquarters, it is likely to be Manchester. despite the rising living costs and other issues, London remains my favorite city in the UK. It is hard to et the same opportunities anywhere else.

How has BREXIT impacted your business (if at all)?

Luckily, we were not impacted by Brexit at all. Transformify ( TFY) was already trading cross-borders when it happened and we were well prepared for any possible outcome. As a cloud-based software provider, we don’t deal with customs duties, etc.

What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?

Thanks to the grant and support we received from Innovate UK, we grew by more than 600% in terms of revenue and profit in 2021 vs 2020. Despite the adverse market conditions during 2022, we continue to grow our business at a fast pace.

Although we have planned to list the company on AIM in Q4 2022, given the market conditions, I foresee this happening in the next 5 years. Forecasting exist and valuation is really hard in the current situation facing record high inflation, bear market and insecurity in all aspects of life.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

Everyone is welcome to follow our Linkedin company page and my personal Linkedin profile. We love to interact with our audience on Linkedin and share insights, industry stats and interesting information all the time.

Follow Transformify ( TFY ) on Twitter or Linkedin.

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