How to scale a startup
For Michael Lightfoot, building a company is as much a personal journey as a professional one.
After co-founding Domuso, Lightfoot came to understand the importance of inviting people to learn about the pioneering company’s goals and gather insights from their many perspectives. Now, as the COO, he finds that it is even more critical as the online payments platform for renters and landlords is scaling.
Soak up experts’ opinions
"Entrepreneurship is not about building something in a black box," Lightfoot says. "You cannot be afraid to put yourself out there. You have to. That’s part of the process."
It’s one thing to have a good idea for a startup, but it’s a whole level to get it to scale. Since first launching in 2014, Domuso has signed up more than 30,000 units whose tenants can pay their rent online and, should they need to, apply for credit to pay in installments. For example, Domuso, like other fintech companies offering credit services, has had to quickly gain expertise in payments solutions and state and federal banking regulatory issues.
"We made a point of being on every call, trying to talk with every advisor and just get as much input as possible." Mitigating the risk of missing a step or not fully mastering an area is essential: "It’s too dangerous not to have high-quality information."
Be confident yet flexible
He also advises to make changes quickly when something isn’t working. "I think the biggest mistakes happen when you let things linger. The sooner you realize that you need to make a decision, even if you need to course correct later, the better."
Domuso is ramping up its marketing and sales efforts to prepare to expand Series A financing. When hiring, Lightfoot looks for people with a deep commitment to the product and unwavering flexibility: "Finding that right mindset is very important."
Lightfoot says that he has learned to be flexible in every step of his journey: "Every time we say, ‘This time we know what we’re doing,’ things always change." And he adds, he’s had to get used to the fact that there is always going to be more work than you can do.
Choose a bank that gives you access
Lightfoot says SVB has given Domuso a competitive advantage by providing access to information, people and operational tools required to scale.
In 2016, the company was chosen to participate in Commerce.Innovated, an annual four-month-long accelerator co-sponsored by the bank that is designed to help young fintech companies gain access to a network of experts and services.
The program helped Domuso gain expertise on how to handle compliance issues and design payments solutions for their specific clients. "With SVB, they were willing to work with a small company and customize things," Lightfoot says. "That’s extremely helpful."
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