As the economic climate continues to intensify, the environment for startups looking to evolve their business and flourish is becoming increasingly challenging. 

As part of Payment Expert’s StartUp Sessions, we spoke to a host of companies that are looking to grow  during this challenging period. In this latest edition we caught up with ekko’s Oli Cook and  Manish Vara as they continue to ‘empower businesses and consumers to be sustainable’.

Firstly are you able to tell us more about your Startup and the role you play in the payments industry? 

“ekko offers embedded sustainability for the digital economy. Simply put, this means we can power any transaction around the world to have a meaningful and sustainable impact. 

“Our technology empowers individuals to make greener choices, form eco-friendly habits, and lead sustainable lifestyles. We’re here to partner with businesses to help them, and their customers, to reach their sustainability goals.”

Can you detail some of the challenges in gaining funding and building momentum during a tough economic climate? 

“At the moment, we’re seeing funding and momentum being very much linked. As a business, we’ve always been focused on optimising capital efficiency, and proving that our business model provides both sustainable profit and positive climate impacts.” 

“Ensuring the core fundamentals work, and you can prove it through hard numbers, is always very important and even more so in the current environment when looking for funding. Not only this, it’s important to choose investors and partners that align to your brand mission and purpose. We find that investors who are onboard with the goal are often the best partners and help deliver the momentum that continues our growth.”

In terms of your roadmap, what are your goals for the future and how do you plan on reaching them? 

“ekko is on a mission to empower millions of consumers and businesses globally to take on sustainability. We want to help these people make better choices in their everyday lives, converting to more sustainable lifestyles. 

“Over the next few months we’ll be announcing some partnerships with iconic brands to embed sustainability within their practices and products too, taking us closer to our goals. Impact at scale is what we want to do and that’s very exciting.” 

In a competitive market, what are some of the most challenging factors when it comes to gaining funding? 

“It’s more about what you need to show and focus on, which is different for every business. For ekko, it’s traction, scalability, impact, commercial growth, capital efficiency and importantly a proven team who have been there and done it before. Every business is different and will have their own USPs, but I feel the core fundamentals transfer across businesses.”

As you have grown your company, can you tell us some of the key challenges and how have you evolved your company? 

“We started to build ekko whilst in the pandemic which has had a really interesting impact on our culture, we’re a people business and culture is very important to us – we found our way to live our culture remotely but now the challenge is maintaining that in a hybrid working environment with teams around the world. I think we’re doing a good job on this, but we’re always figuring out better ways. I think hiring the right people is a big part of that, when a growing team you need the right personalities who bring different perspectives and skill sets but understand what it means to grow a business and what is needed.

“One of the bits of advice I was given early on was not viewing ekko as my baby. This is some of the best advice I’ve been given, we need to make pragmatic decisions that are right for the business and our growth plans – irrelevant of what’s previous hypothesis were or pet projects. It’s easier said than done, but evolving the business out from an idea and a presentation into a infinitely scalable technology business which achieves our goals requires pragmatic decisions and no egos.”

Can you tell us more about some of the challenges involved in hiring and acquisition as a startup? 

“Each hire has a significant impact on every part of your company – from bottom line, to culture. Hiring the right people is hard. It’s also a case of looking at where the business is now and where it needs to be within the next 18 months, and beyond. They have to be the right person for the challenge, and must be able to push the business to the goal faster than the business could have without them in it. What’s more, each hire must be able to adapt and thrive in an environment that is fast paced and constantly growing. 

“Hiring top talent is also not cheap, but is worth it when you know what the business needs and the right person for the job is there in front of you. I normally subscribe to the fail fast mentality, but we’ve taken our time to find the right people for the team, each of them adding new dynamics to push us.”