Company Insights: Interview with Twisto.cz Founder - Michal Šmída

As part of our new 'Company Insights' series, we were delighted to have the chance to catch up with Michal Šmída, founder and CEO of Czech FinTech startup, Twisto.cz

Michal spoke to us about the motivation behind founding Twisto.cz, along with the challenges he faced in the company's early days and what the future might hold for online payment.

Hi Michal, thanks for joining us. To begin with, could you explain briefly what Twisto.cz is?

Twisto is a FinTech disruptor providing instant credit for everyday purchases. Today we are delivering one click financing to customers shopping online. This year we will be launching two new products which will revolutionise both invoice and bill payments as well as offline and card transactions.

At the heart of our company is proprietary risk engine Nikita which evaluates hundreds of factors and delivers a credit decision within milliseconds. Such speed allows our customers a seamless payment experience. In 2016, we are bringing Twisto into the mobile app market - our ambition is to deliver the power of banking into customers hands.

Today we are serving over 150 thousand customers in the Czech Republic and have raised 3 million euros across 4 amazing investors / VC funds: Enern, Miton, Partners and Tomáš Čupr.

What were your motivations behind founding Twisto?

Our mission is to improve the way people pay for everyday things.

Why? Because we think that banks and other financial institutions are not doing a great job across the field of online payments, payments for services and bills or general card payments. We see a big gap in the current market and payment methods which are lagging behind the mobile trend.

We are providing a solution which is simplifying payments and brings everyday transactions under your thumb through the Twisto App.

What were the challenges in explaining and selling your idea to the average consumer?

Our payment solutions is that simple, compared to the other methods, that some customers sometimes find it hard to believe.

The key challenge to overcome is the “stigma” of a startup and something that is “new or risky” for the customer. We had to carefully craft the way we explain how Twisto works and what the benefits are for the customer. This took a lot of time and many mistakes were made in that process.

And how about e-commerce sites? Were they receptive to the idea at first?

Our first merchant partners were “innovators” who were willing to test something new in the market. Similar to the PayPal - Ebay story, you need a large e-shop that supports you and through which you build a customer base. Once you build a large enough customer base that proves your product concept, discussions with other merchants become much easier.

The biggest issue with merchants is generally the lack of IT capacity. The time between “handshake” and actual integration takes time, especially for the large merchants.

What do you think are the main challenges when launching a startup in the Czech Republic and generally?

I think that Prague provides a great environment for starting a company - you have many top universities to source talent from, access to capital from funds and OK sized market to test your product. The Czech Republic is a great place to pivot and build your product and the take it across the region.

What’s your opinion on the current situation when it comes to hiring developers? Have Twisto had difficulties recruiting talented developers for your team?

Very tough. The market is very competitive and prices even for junior developers are inflated by international companies offering large pay checks in the local market. The key for us as a startup is to attract prospective talent to our strong vision, great working environment and technological stack that we offer.

Today, we have some of the best developers in the country working on our product and we are looking for more talent that will help us redefine the way we pay and finance our everyday purchases.

How do you predict online payment will evolve in the next 5 years?

Online payments are around 10% of GDP with a current size of 80 million CZK, growing 15-20% year on year. As more customers are becoming mobile, we are seeing an increasing shift into online purchases for convenience. In 5 years, online and especially mobile purchases, will become a major source of our daily purchases.

And what does the future hold for Twisto?

We are pivoting new products for offline transactions together with an app which will bring complete control over your financial life. In 2017 we are looking to expand into other markets across the CEE region.