Three crucial lessons learnt while building a lending start-up during Covid-19

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Without a doubt, starting a business from scratch is a crazy leap of faith, and doing so during a global pandemic is sheer insanity.

To this day, Amir, my business partner and co-founder, and I have never even met. We took a chance and discarded the conventional “dating process” for founders in favour of a more modern approach. We had no choice but to construct our partnership in a manner that was unfamiliar to us, which tested both our methods of communication and our approaches to our job.

United by the same ambition, we decided to embark on the development of a totally remote-built, technology-driven, and hyper-personalised loan application platform with the intention of establishing a new benchmark for the manner in which borrowers satisfy their requirements for loans. We merged our expertise and knowledge in technology and finance and applied it to the realm of lending, which is often recognised for having stringent rules, extensive bureaucracy, and drawn-out application procedures.

However, market conditions urged us to rethink our initial product, which was, frankly, not a product-market fit. In a highly regulated and difficult-to-penetrate ecosystem, what we aimed to initially offer, a loan bidding platform was simply not possible.

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Here are the top three lessons we learnt while developing our smart lending platform start-up, ROSHI, in the midst of a pandemic.

1. Customer Experience is Key

Image via Unsplash
Image via Unsplash

Services that are dull, corporate, and generic bore today’s customers. In this context, the emergence of fintech demonstrates that people need financial services that are much more personalised and genuine.

Furthermore, customers like finding services (such as borrowing money) on the Internet and social media. They enjoy seeing the opinions of other customers, which seem more like a suggestion from a friend, and when there is a pattern of people really appreciating something new, it is a strong indication that this is a product worth trying.

I consider that COVID-19 further exacerbated this trend as customers moved their purchasing behaviour away from in-store visits and toward digital-only transactions. Therefore, we are tireless in our pursuit of user experience to guarantee that the products we introduce are not only successful and provide a fantastic consumer experience but are also genuine, values-driven, and in line with what customers desire.

There was certainly some risk involved with launching a business during Covid, but when the opportunity is substantial, you have to take it. Not only are risks manageable, but they may be used to your advantage to approach challenges in novel ways and discover the inner fortitude you never knew you had.

2. Where Everyone Sees a Challenge, There’s Often an Unprecedented Opportunity.

Three crucial lessons learnt while building a lending start-up during Covid-19 | News by Thaiger
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Mortgage brokers cautioned us against getting into lending because of the time and effort involved in getting a lending platform up and running, much alone profitable. This criticism was disheartening, but it helped us to see that if the slope were excessively steep, it would certainly discourage most people from ever trying to climb it.

If you are discouraged from doing anything because, for instance, it is highly regulated, requires too much time, or too much money, keep in mind that your competitors will have to overcome the same challenges. And, let us be honest, it only makes the payoff much more satisfying. When someone says, “Do not do that,” take it as a positive sign since it indicates that many people are reluctant to construct what you are.

Having the benefit of hindsight, I am glad we ignored them. We moved on to develop our lending platform and were ready to go live with our tech, underwriting partners, and licences in a little over a year.

3. Opposites Attract

Three crucial lessons learnt while building a lending start-up during Covid-19 | News by Thaiger
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Most co-founders have a background working for the same enterprise or in the same industry. Nevertheless, we are an odd bunch that defies classification. Most of my professional life has been dedicated to working in business-to-business technology. My co-founder Amir worked in the advertising and media industries for most of his career.

These distinctions do not constitute a fault. In other words, they are a solid asset. If everyone is thinking in the same way, then someone is not thinking (to paraphrase a famous saying). Our perspectives can complement each other, as there is always something new to learn. I can always count on Amir to inquire about any tech-related subject I have never considered before. On matters of branding as well, I take him to account. After all, true innovation requires a blending of perspectives like that.

Don’t Give Up – Pivot

If no one actually needs your product or if they can obtain the exact same experience from your competitors, you need to get over your ego, pivot swiftly, and focus your development efforts on fulfilling the immediate requirements of the audience you are trying to reach.

It is possible that the first version of your product will not be up to par in terms of quality. Perhaps you will even feel a little ashamed as a result of it. On the other hand, it satisfies an essential need, which is just what you want to do.

Writer: WenQi Ng is the Co-Founder of lending start-up, ROSHI

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