Joel Ippoliti the Chief Product Officer at Seedrs entices in detail, equity crowdfunding, and significance of portfolio tools for entrepreneurs in the current ecosystem
Joel Ippoliti is a Chief Product Officer at Seers. He helps the company in achieving new growth by focusing its products on opportunities in the market and better addressing the needs of its users. He has experience bringing products to market from concept to launch – end to end – including gathering the evidence to provide the initial direction through to running multidisciplinary teams to deliver.
1. Can you tell us about your role at Seedrs?
I see product and therefore my role as an enabling one, getting involved in as many aspects as I can to seek out improvements and realise growth. I work hand in glove with the CTO in the minutiae of a design change all the way through to evolving the strategic direction of the proposition on the platform. I care about the smallest piece of feedback from our smallest investor through understanding what we can do to serve our largest business client better. I listen to our operational staff and empathise with their day to day trying to find ways to bring better service to more people with less effort. I keep a constant radar open for the emerging trend or industry change that could take us to the next level. I take an active interest in our sales efforts, keeping my ear to the ground to understand what’s winning us pitches, what’s costing us deals and how we can better position our service for success. And then, I squash these things together and share them with as many people as possible to create unity around our problems and opportunities to justify and unify our roadmap investment.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
My “market” is solving problems for users through interfaces and I have applied that specialism now a number of times in the financial services industry – the nexus of which is often called “fintech”. After being responsible for the FX retail trading at forex.com and cityindex.com and having worked in retail banking, ICT advisory and with experience working developing agile digital propositions for startups and corporates – I bring all the elements together to help Seedrs build services for its clients.
3. How do you think technology is improving the financial sector?
No question it is now more accessible. The barriers have dropped significantly and the effort required today to apply for a loan, open an account or make an investment has been vastly lowered, even from 5 yrs. ago. Seedrs has taken this even further, through automations and standardisations it has been able to shine a light on investment opportunities that were opaque to most of us before, open them up and presenting them in a format which is accessible and available to many.
Access shouldn’t be for the privileged few; it should be open to all who understand the risks and have the desire to get involved.
4. How has digitalisation eased methods of investment?
We’ve got the investment process itself to being as slick as buying a set of headphones on Amazon – the online equivalent of walking to your corner store to buy milk and bread. I’d call that pretty easy. It’s not the whole story though and to be fair, that is probably the easiest part. The thing that differentiates Europe from many other parts of the world, is our ability to authenticate and certify investors as understanding risk, digitally (or online). This enables us to scale ‘onboarding’ for “normal’ investors and offer our services more broadly.
5. How do you define your equity crowdfunding platform?
We prefer to think of ourselves as an Equity Platform offering a full suite of services to business from start-ups to scale ups and to investors, both institutional and retail and from first investment through to diversification and eventual divestment.
Crowdfunding was a trendy catch-all term for raising funds from a number of individuals, “the crowd” and might cover everything from donations and charity projects, to kickstarter ideas and events. Raising capital in return for equity adds complexities that have taken us well beyond a term that equity crowdfunding might first imply. Perhaps most impressively we provide a secondary market – a fully featured online peer to peer market that brings liquidity to a previously illiquid asset class (you traditionally had to wait for a company exit before cashing in – now you can sell someone else). But we also provide a portfolio tool for investors to track and manage a large number of investments, online tax certificates, business to investor private access to discussion forums, an automated investment facility (autoinvest) that invests according to criteria set by the user, institutional services that help businesses find lead investors, equity management services that allow businesses to list their shares on our market without having to crowdfund at all, campaign marketing services to help extend reach into the physical world including advertising on billboards, TV, transport, publications and etc, we provide custodial services to our own raises (we are authorised to hold client money) which basically means our users have accounts they can deposit into, topup, withdraw from etc. (like a proper bank!).
6. How does your platform help entrepreneurs?
In the simplest terms, we help them acquire capital to grow their business. Our platform (including our APIs behind the scenes sometimes) does this by connecting them with their users, future users, bonafide Angels and institutional investors in a standardised, structured and ‘trusted’ channel to elicit this investment. Growth businesses have a choice when searching for capital, they can get a loan (comes with interest repayments and you need to assets to secure it against), they can get investment from a VC or institutions (often with strings attached), appeal to families and friends (gets you so far) or attempt to tap into an Angel syndicate or network or appeal to their own loyal customers. Via our platform, you can do all of these things at the same time (we are currently support Future Fund applications!). The beauty is, we can bring them all together in the same place and raise the profile of the business at the same time – a true marketplace with network benefits.
7. What advice would you like to give to tech startups?
If they are looking to raise capital, shop around – traditional routes aren’t the only choice, there are pro’s and con’s with every option and what we’ve done is disruptive for a reason – but not only that, amongst the disruptors, go beyond the bright colours, peel back the skin, ask the hard questions – know who you are partnering with – raising capital isn’t a once off affair – it’s a relationship that needs to last – so it’s worth doing it properly first time.
. What do you think is the key digital innovation in financial technology in 2020?
I am not sure 2020 is going to go down as the most stellar year for fintech innovation, disruption for sure but thankfully nothing the fintech world can take credit for! If anything, the systems, processes and controls that have already been put in place that allow us to conduct business at 30,000 feet are paying their dividends now. In our last secondary market, we had a customer list an asset in a private business, another customer buy it, funds transferred between accounts and stamp-duty paid and sent to HMRC, then acknowledged by HMRC – all remotely and our side that process not only didn’t involve a human but for the parts we controlled – took less than 3mins. Perhaps the greatest innovation in fintech in 2020 – is that everyone else is improving their processes to operate remotely – HMRC very helpfully due to Covid-19 allowed us to submit stock transfer forms electronically – which means we could automate saving us hours. We can do this remotely now and whilst we already were has made it all the better for our customers when everyone else is playing along (whether they like it or not).
9. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
Hard to respond to this without acknowledging that many of the worlds biggest tech companies are currently undoing parts of their AI to remove inbuilt bias and discrimination. That’s important, we are a human business and AI isn’t an excuse to stop being one.
Perhaps the best preparation therefore is know who you are as a business, what you stand for, build it into your culture and even your bots!
10. What major developments are you planning on Seedrs?
We’ve just opened our market to any private business looking to bring liquidity to their investors and their employees – we’ll be looking to scale this up. Our Secondary Market is not only unique but it solves a problem for businesses, their employees and investors so we think we are in a really good position to capitalise. We’ll add bid based pricing, a more advanced business profile page, we’ll integrate more 3rd party data sources to help investors keep up with changes, more data to support rich analysis and transparency for the investor to keep it growing at the pace it is today.
11. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
I consider my team to be the executive team – we are a multidisciplinary diverse group bound by a common objective to connect more investors and more businesses into our equity marketplace to them to help them grow and achieve their own goals. The support I receive from this group to make this happen is as diverse as the problems that we face together every day. Some days it is an insight into how they are working or what’s not working, others it’s soft encouragement to keep going in the face of challenge and still others it’s inspiration as they win and succeed in their own endeavours.
12. What movie inspires you the most?
It’s not a movie, more a series and it’s not the whole series but one episode in particular. BBCs “Innovation in Finance: Seedrs” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWNpW4e2eMs
There is nothing more inspirational than seeing the business you work in being viewed through an external person’s perspective. Inspirational! Makes we want to stay longer, work harder (or start a windfarm!).
13. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?
Actually, you can see them on our Team Instagram page here:
14. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
I think in terms of solutions and I organise similarly:
All of my apps are clustered into the above folders. I keep them all on the same screen (the above all fit). I often download new apps into holding pen on page 2 – should I form habit around them I transfer them into one of my folders and I might ‘demote’ an app out should it no longer be used. My favourite app is “day of the tentacle”, I have it on my iphone and ipad – I’ve completed it a few times, it always brings back memories of sitting on my PC as a teenager being amazed that computers could transport me into another world so convincingly. I am still amazed by it all truthfully!
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