Welcome to our series, ‘Meet the Entrepreneur’, where we meet entrepreneurs and start-ups from the Channel Islands. We find out what they are doing, what ‘drives’ them and what advice they would give anyone starting out in business.
Today, we meet Stephane Gimenez, CEO and Founder of MYCDD.
Tell us about your business
MYCDD is a fintech business made of two parts. The first one is a free and safe repository for KYC documents to be stored and shared digitally. The second is a way for any type of regulated company to subscribe to clients’ documents and automate the process for managing KYC documents, to reduce manual CDD processes. There are many additional features such as an electronic verification process and faster onboarding too, all designed to make the KYC process simpler for everyone.
The initial development took place over 2020 and we went live in March 2021 with our first version of the product. We’ve made a number of enhancements since.
Tell us about your ‘journey’ and how you got to this point
The journey has varied dramatically through the stages of the business. The initial development in 2020 remained relatively unaffected by Covid, as I worked from home after leaving my previous employer, drawing on remote contractors. The next stage of opening our office in Jersey in March added different challenges. I onboarded my first permanent employee who really helped, including assisting with the recruitment of the growing team.
The final stage that we had to face was to bring the product to market. It’s fair to say that, as a start-up business, it’s been a learning curve – from setting up a new business and employing staff, to winning clients and delivering a product that is innovative in a regulated space.
Can you talk us through a typical working day?
My day usually starts early as I attend Crossfit at 6am, after which I have time to review any emails received overnight. I will then check the environment in Azure – our Microsoft cloud-based system – to make sure that all is as expected.
I also have an important call with the developers each morning, to catch up on progress in our current ‘sprint’ – we have weekly sprints designed to release product improvements on a weekly basis.
Once development, testing, and feature sets are reviewed and agreed, I catch up with the client team and prepare for client meetings or demos.
Given that we are a recently launched business, I tend to find that I’m demo-ing or meeting with clients daily, and around half of my time is allocated to preparing, having and following up on those meetings. The fact that we are adding frequent updates to the platform means that we also need to do frequent marketing efforts – preparing those also takes a little time.
Financials are checked daily too and I review my budget to make sure that we are on track – that’s an important necessity as a young business – whilst having investors also means that a lot of reports and information are requested on a regular basis.
Have you had support from Digital Jersey or Jersey Business?
Most of the support received to help create MYCDD was obtained from advisors and voluntary individuals from across my network. However, I visited Jersey Business in 2019, who provided some help in the early stages of setting up the company, and I have been a member of Digital Jersey for the past year.
I also met with the JFSC a few times in 2019 to discuss the concept of the business, and, with the support of Digital Jersey, we were fortunate to meet them again in the summer of 2021 for a review, which was really positive.
Can you share your experience with banks
No financing from banks has been required as we are funded privately. Opening a bank account was somewhat challenging and took a fair amount of time – especially compared to modern online banks such as Revolut Business, who we opened a multiple currency account with in less than a week.
Our biggest challenge in the monetary space was without doubt obtaining a payment platform for our online solution. Being in Jersey, and offering the product type that we offer, created huge challenges to find a bank allowing us take payments online. We approached over 50 vendors, and it took us nearly a year to be set up and approved.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
To be honest, there’s been very little impact as the development in 2020 happened from home using remote contractors. The product came to life when the restrictions started to lift in Jersey, allowing us to build the team and meet clients gradually. Being able to have that face to face contact again with clients has been really important as a new business.
What’s been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur/startup?
Moving from a financial services environment over the past 24 years, to becoming a director of your own business, overseeing everything, from company admin, financials, marketing, clients and development, to build the product I wanted, with the responsibilities of being an employer – and the father of two beautiful children – certainly put me under a lot of pressure.
But the support system around me is crucial, from a talented team to supportive advisors and investors, to a wife without whom I wouldn’t be able to manage the stress!
Can you share any pleasant surprises/experiences as an entrepreneur/startup?
What’s been really positive has been the trust, support and encouragement I’ve had from my investors and advisors around me – they have shown real faith in what I am doing and that has really kept me going.
A shortlisting in the IoD Jersey Director of the Year Awards in the Start-Up category has been the icing on the cake too! Recognition like that is very welcome in what can sometimes be quite a daunting environment.
What advice would you give to someone who has a start-up idea?
It depends on the size of the idea, the type of start-up, and where the individual is in the development stage. For me, having sounding boards and support was crucial – accept that you don’t know everything and seek advice when you do not know.
Creating a start-up, as someone once said to me, is a rollercoaster. It’s important to be prepared for the low days, because those are the days when you need all the support you can have.
Every day, wake up ready to face the challenges and win the day.
What would you like the States of Jersey to do to help entrepreneurs and start-ups?
Realistically, enabling a simple, straightforward central process for business set-up would be helpful. One process that feeds tax, social security, employment regulator, banking and so on, so that, as a local innovator spinning lots of plates at once, you only have to run through a process once very simply.
Which leaders do you admire and why?
I am inspired by DocuSign, in their innovative and brave approach to combat old methods when they first approached the world with electronic signatures. Their leadership team, led by CEO Dan Springer, is impressive.
Aside from ChannelEye.Media, which social media accounts do you follow?
Jersey Finance, IoD Jersey, and Potting Shed
What do you do in your downtime?
Family, Crossfit, and family! I spend all the time that I can with my girls and all my hard work is for them ultimately. Crossfit is my way of staying positive and strong mentally.
What book are you reading at the moment?
The Burden of the Desert, because my brother in law wrote it.
What is your favourite gadget and why?
My Apple TV, to listen to music or display our family photos that are very precious to us.
Are you a Channel Islands entrepreneur/startup who would like to be featured in Channel Eye? If so, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org