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Interview with Alexandre Louisy

On the theme B2B Fintech, Alexandre Louisy, Co-founder & CEO at Upflow tells us about how B2B payments have evolved in the fast-changing area of Fintech.

alexandre louisy 1

B2B Fintech

About Alexandre

Alex Louisy is Co-founder and CEO at Upflow, the software revolutionizing how B2B businesses manage to get paid.  Prior to Upflow, Alex spent 3 years in the telecom industry as a business developer, and 4 years in investment banking.  Alex holds a Master of Engineering and a Master of Finance.

Jenji Talks

Interview script

I'm Alex Louisy and I'm the co-founder and CEO at Upflow. We started the company four years ago and we now help hundreds of businesses both in Europe and in the US to get paid faster and simpler.

FinTech & Innovation

I think there are a lot of reasons why the FinTech industry is changing so fast. The first reason is that the government and in general the lows are trying to push the FinTech industry and the finance industry to evolve to be more open. We've seen that with open banking, for example, there are some new online payment methods that have been developed. All of that is coming from governments and things that are trying to change at a global level. But I think the biggest reason why this finance environment is changing fast is that we've seen over the last 10 or 15 years now new startups that are coming and are doing what we call an unbundling. So they are targeting a very specific topic in the finance area and they're trying to push and revolutionize what was done in the past in a very targeted way. I think one of the biggest examples and one of the most famous examples for that is Stripe, which started now, I think ten years ago going after card payments and online payments and they made a drastic change in how established players are now behaving and they became themselves great players that now have a much wider offering. I think that's the biggest reason why the FinTech industry is changing so fast and I think it's a great thing.

Payment space & (no) revolution

So we've talked about finance in general, but when it comes to BTB payments, I think there's something quite fascinating in some ways about the fact that if you look at the payment space, most of the verticals that we know have been revolutionized in the last ten years. If you think about online payments with Tribe, if you think about retail with Square, if you think about subscription businesses with payment methods such as GoCardless or other players, it has really been like a game-changer for all of these industries. But when you really look at B2B payments, it hasn't really changed. It's still the vast majority of offline transactions. People spend a lot of time tracking their invoices, whether it's to get paid by customers or paying their vendors. In the US, still, 40% of transactions are done by checks, which is literally putting a piece of paper in an envelope to pay your vendors. And regardless of any technology, regardless of any company, I think it's very important to realize that it just can't stay like this and it's going to change in the next decade. And I'm really looking forward to seeing this happening because right now, a lot of professionals are losing a lot of time. Companies are losing a ton of money managing those inefficient B2B payments and this is going to change thanks to companies that are again tackling those issues one by one and usually starting with something very specific. So we've seen it in the accounts payable world where companies like Jenji, Spendesk, and Airbase in the US. A lot of them are going after this. Some of them are in the AR payment. Some of them are on the workflows. There are a lot of things happening. But overall, those changes are happening, and we can see those early adopters that are now seizing this opportunity to make the business work in a better way.

Technology & Adoption

So I think companies would welcome changes in those technological shifts in very different ways. You would see some of them that are totally against it and are trying to resist the change, trying to stay in the way they used to do things because we all have a tendency to kind of stick to what we know and what we've always done. And I think what's interesting is that there are also some totally different players, such as what we usually call early adopters that instead are trying to innovate, trying to look at what is available. And they don't look at it just because they want to try something new, they look at it because they realize that they run their business in a better way doing this. And one thing that I found really interesting, especially going to the US and evolving a lot in the startup environment in Europe, is the fact that usually, fast-growing companies have a need for those innovative services because there's so much pressure from growth that you don't have a choice. You need to be efficient, you need to discover those new tools, and you strive for efficiency. And I think it's really interesting, as we were kind of thinking about our go-to-market and whom we wanted as a company to kind of target first and serve first. We were really focused on those fast-growing companies because they are the ones that are the early adopters. And that doesn't mean that they are going to be the only ones using this product. It just means that they are the first ones and that I expect in ten years all companies will be using those new technologies so that everyone can benefit from them.

US & Europe

If I think about the differences between chasing the European market and the US market, the main thing that I would say in terms of difference is that I think the US professionals have been used to buying some software for the last 10-15 years now when it's more of a new thing in Europe. And I think the biggest difference that I see in terms of impact for the sales processes and how they use the product is that there is much more thinking around ROI, the return on investment, that they're going to get from the software, as opposed to only looking at what the product does and what are the features, etc. And I think it's really important to keep that in mind, because you want to think about your sale processes with this ROI in mind and it is also something that I find extremely healthy because it forces you to kind of uncover, what is the value that your product is bringing as opposed to, only thinking about the features that your product is bringing. And I think that's a common mistake that you can make as a young founder, not thinking about the value but more about the features and I think it helped us a lot in growing the company and selling better in the US.

Aspiration & People

So in terms of career aspirations and thinking about the long term of Upflow and what we do. I think the aspiration has changed a lot over the last couple of years since we started Upflow 3 or 4 years ago. Now at the beginning, you're very focused on the product, finding your first users. The team is extremely small and that's your main focus. You really fight to just get to something that people want and it's really hard. A lot of companies fail at that point in time because there's competition, there's a lot of product iteration to go fast and that was the main focus. If I think about what is now my focus and what is the carrier inspiration that I have now out of that, I would say that there's a big shift towards the organization and making sure that our team and our organization are performing well and it's also like an example for the outside world and other companies in our ecosystem. And I would say that when you get to a point where you have like 15, 30, 40 people in your team. Even though that doesn't seem like a large enterprise and of course some companies are much larger than this, I would say that the main focus that we have now as co-founders, is to make sure that the team is working well, that they're happy to go to work every day. This has been a big challenge with Covid and this remote world, it has been a big challenge, having two offices, one in New York and one in Paris, and keeping culture and people aligned towards the same vision. But I would definitely say that if I think about the next 10 years of Upflow, I know that 90% of my job Will be around this team, the culture, and making sure this organization is performing well so that our customers can be happy. But I would definitely say that that's the main priority right now.

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