Podcast - Interview with Chen Amit, Co-Founder and CEO of Tipalti
Part of our special series of episodes that we're recording in partnership with the European PR Agency, Tyto, and their own Without Borders podcast, this interview is with Chen Amit, Co-Founder and CEO of Tipalti.
Chen Amit, Co-Founder and CEO of Tipalti, a fintech start-up, joined Russell Goldsmith and Tyto’s Founder, Brendon Craigie, on the csuite podcast’s special series on unicorn companies, in partnership with the European PR agency Tyto.
Chen explained that Tipalti solves the global accounts payable challenge for fast growing companies and the mid-market. He said the challenge is that, especially with mid-market companies, the CFOs are trying to become reputable to play the high game, they've gone through audits, they understand compliance but in a mid-market company, finance is not where CEOs want to devote resources.
Chen added that they cover the gamut of accounts payable, a very broad set of challenges and many discrete functions under one umbrella. He said they do it in a holistic, organically grown, integrated, easy to consume solution and are a financial institution called money transmitter, they are processing around $18bn annually, growing roughly 100% year on year.
One of the key metrics they are most proud of is 99% annual gross, dollar retention, when they sign up customers and they stay with them for the remainder of their life.
Tipalti’s customers include Amazon, Twitch, Twitter, GoDaddy, many of those fast growing tech leaders and they are the early adopters, those Forward-Looking CFOs who want to spend their time on strategic topics and expect things to be automated.
Chen said that Covid actually amplified the need for digitisation in the finance department. He explained that you now need better financial controls because businesses are under pressure and need to do more but with less people so, they need the automation.
Chen said that a part of their mission is to really integrate the financial operations with the business operations, to be coexistent, merged and move from one decision to an action and not be so separated. He added that this also allows them to bring enterprise great capabilities to the mid-market.
Chen said that becoming a unicorn definitely adds credibility, for example when they see serious investors of the leaders of growth and crossover and now when they speak with candidates and customers, they know Tipalti. Chen said they’ve not been very vocal for many years but, this round of funding elevated their recognition.
Chen explained that when the pandemic hit, they paused their hiring and then from a business perspective, they saw some accelerated traction and went back to hiring and have aggressive hiring plans. However, he said the skill that they need to build and strengthen is around hiring, interviewing, onboarding.
He explained that in terms of where people need to be located currently during the pandemic, when you are in a growth stage, there are a lot of unknowns, and you need to be in one room. He said that Zoom doesn't solve for that, it's very efficient but in some ways, especially around the creative part, it's not very effective.
They’re hiring so many developers and building so many new initiatives that still need that collaboration and brainstorming. At the same time, he said there are roles in Tipalti that are more structured and require less of that collaboration, but for the core roles that at the major functions in the company, the long-term vision for them is still an in-office company, but they’re flexible where they can be.
Chen explained that some of their customers actually caught significant tailwinds through Covid, many of their larger customers have grown incredibly. However, he said that many of their customers are in the physical domain, and they've been like most of the rest of the economy but in the grand scheme of things, Tipalti are actually benefiting just a little bit more from those who caught tailwinds.
Chen said for them, the category they operate in is really a blue ocean and they are serving 3% to 4%. He explained that it's not so much that it's crowded, it’s more about getting the word out and getting more people. He explained that really early in March or April they realigned their messaging to be very Covid aligned about efficiencies, working from home, automation, and better financial controls.
Chen explained that they interviewed the executive team and middle management and despite part of the team being in Israel, part being in the US, they share the same culture.
They understand the vision and strategy in the same way and the key for them is hiring the right people, correcting where you need to correct and making sure that and that they elevate and celebrate those who practice and are examples of those values that you want to strengthen.
Chen said that internal communications has been a challenge and before Covid he used to travel two weeks in Israel and two weeks in California. However, he said now he hasn’t met more than half of the company, but he said he looks forward to changing that soon. He said he increased the pace of communication significantly and people really appreciated it.
Chen explained that he’s transparent, they share a lot of data and allow employees to ask questions anonymously. He said they have a very clear cadence of celebrating those who are representative of the culture and if everyone hears from him it reduces the level of anxiety around.
With regards to being an external spokesperson it’s not natural to Chen, it's something he’s grown to do a little better year by year. He said to always be yourself, he’s not ashamed in his failures, just be honest and authentic and people will relate to that.
Chen said that Elon Musk inspires him because there are no limits to his imagination, he admires not only thinking big, but acting big. Chen also looks up to Bill Gates, what he’s doing post Microsoft and for being a smart, thoughtful leader.
Chen said the market is sparsely populated, so from a commercial revenue perspective, high growth is here to stay for many years to come.
He added that for the engineering and product part, in the next two years, they will invest in the product more than they did in the previous 10 years combined, those investments will take them to that next level of continuing to expand their solution footprint to help CFOs and finance more, automate more and really accomplish that vision of integrating the workflows with financial operations and making enterprise grade financial products accessible to mid-market companies.
He believes in a few years’ time they will completely revolutionise the office of the CFO for mid-market companies.