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Russell Goldsmith
Russell Goldsmith 27 March 2023

Podcast – Interview with Shane Happach, CEO, Mollie

Part of our special series of episodes of the c-suite podcast that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto and their own Without Borders podcast, this interview is with Shane Happach, CEO, Mollie.

Co-hosts Russell Goldsmith, Founder, Audere, and Tyto’s Senior Partner, Holly Justice were joined online by Shane Happach, CEO of one of Europe’s fastest-growing payment service provider Mollie. The company reached unicorn status in 2020 and is now valued at $6.5 billion, one of the most valued start-ups in Europe, following recent funding of $800 million.

Beginning his career in what some may say an un-entrepreneurial way, Shane followed the path of investment banking and went on to work in corporate finance before discovering he didn’t have an interest in that area.

The realisation Shane made was he wants to create high impact and as a result of this has been in payment for 17 years. After a journey of being an early employer, he witnessed growing companies which he found satisfying. So how did this impact where Mollie is at now? Shane focused in on the roots of the business where every day brings a new challenge and optimize what’s already out there.

The genesis of Mollie was focusing on making it easier for start-ups and very small businesses within the Dutch market to connect to payment systems, banks and other providers of payment services. On the podcast, Shane explains that the company has two halves.

The first half being the bootstrapped founder-led version where it was reinvesting its own capital, and the second half where the growth got turbocharged through taking an outside investment. Despite the online payment sector being mature and being highly competitive, Shane wants to disrupt it as his competition is smaller businesses than Mollie.

Every company has goals which they are driving towards but where can Shane take Mollie in the next 12 months? When thinking about this in relation to Mollie and its recent investment, Shane keeps a clear focus on the long run and especially creating value for shareholders.

For any business, expanding globally is a massive achievement, and at Mollie there is no reason why they can’t achieve this. Running a payments business at high scale in this environment also involves constantly upgrading cybersecurity, constantly refreshing and modernizing the technology estate, and then ultimately becoming a distribution arm as widely as possible through partners and marketing activities.

Being involved in a space which has become more attractive to investors and journalists he believes it has become more mainstream. Along the way he has picked up on leadership styles he’s witnessed and implemented them into his own team.

Being transparent is crucial when it comes to improving services and as Shane states ‘Everyone makes mistakes!’, especially in a space where there are several ways which clients consume the service.

It’s assumed that specific skill sets are required to be a successful leader but what are the strengths to Mollie's management team? Being in a fast-moving industry it's necessary to have a willingness to learn and Shane believes he has a 360 understanding of how a payment business should work which he has worked hard to accomplish.

Today, becoming a unicorn business isn’t as rare as it should be, but the external validation attached to a business doesn’t shadow the validation from customers. Therefore, having a differentiation strategy is essential for Mollie and this is seen by the experience provided to its customers. So, making it easy, making it intuitive, trying to use plain speak.

Business culture reflects not only those in positions of power but also drives employee engagement and satisfaction. At Mollie, Shane values the fact that companies who allow intellectual freedom will be the most successful.  

Company events and a bot which pairs employees together for a coffee is just some of the ways which Shane gets involved to improve company culture. Beating business stereotypes that the company CEO is some sort of mythical creature! Shane is visible, through being involved in the pursuit of talent and building his team.

Like many companies the pandemic either made or broke them for Mollie, its profile increased dramatically. So even though it’s been around for a while, people have only just started to acknowledge Mollie on a wide scale. Approaching situations whereby promoting the company is necessary, Shane takes a less salesy approach as he prefers a more discussion environment.

When understanding challenges surrounding communications it is one of those instances where a strategy can’t be deployed that fits the whole organisation. A keynote to take from that is the importance of having multiple different things to reach the same audience. It can be hard to predict how an audience will engage so trial and error is necessary.

Shane shared that he thinks most people, as they're growing in their career, struggle to understand that it takes different personality types to create a room full of different styles and this in essence gets the best out of a business. This can be seen through and should be avoided by:

  • Hiring a team of people that are too much like you.
  • Not creating an opportunity for passionate debate.
  • Not allowing for opposing points of view in general.
  • Forcing your style on people
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