Are intrapreneurs destined to leave their company when their startup matures? Is work-life-startup balance possible? FinTecubator, the internal incubation program initiated by Hang Seng Bank, is always looking out for our intraprenuers by bridging them with our industrial partners.
Live Chat with Successful Entrepreneur
Organized by Fintecubator, the event “Live Chat with Successful Entrepreneur, Pascal Nizri” was held on 16th April 2021. It was an exclusive internal event which aims to give our internal entrepreneurs some inspiration and motivation in intrapreneurship.
Our Guest Pascal mentioned that it’s never easy to handle two full time jobs at the same time, especially when both of these are senior executive positions. To fuel up and help our intrapreneurs to drive further, we are proud to have Pascal Nizri, founder & CEO of Chekk, to talk about his startup journey and his years of intrapreneurship in working for both Chekk and HSBC.
“When I decided to go full time on the startup, I did a lot of calculation, not only on the financial equation, but the equation of life and its many more parameters to take into account” – said Pascal Nizri, Co-Founder & CEO of Chekk
Highlights of the Live Chat session During the session, Pascal covered topics such as market validation & customer acquisition by illustrating some of the life events he’s encountered and how it has helped him to refine and put forward his idea.
Q: What is the process you have been through to broaden your understanding of the market? Pascal: As Chekk is a B2B2C & B2B2B provider, it was important for our product to make sense for our clients and their customers. We built on our understanding of the market but also interacted a lot with potential clients, partners, users… to refine the platform / product and confirm market fit. As a result, we provide all the capabilities required for Financial Services companies to perform on-boarding and verification of their Individual and Business customers, but we also enable the latter to securely own and reuse their data (portability), and we have expanded to additional verticals (e.g., healthcare, telco…)
Q: How did you gradually develop your product base on your increasing knowledge of the market? Pascal: We have a large and powerful ecosystem of capabilities (digital forms, Identity & Verification, connectivity to company registries & data partners around the world, AML…) which we didn’t build in 24 hours. We had an overall business vision from the start and then formalized a roadmap to develop our products in phases, thinking about what could be delivered within 6, 12, 18 months and beyond. And whilst we were building the end-to-end platform, we started commercializing our various capabilities when they respectively became available, starting first with the secure Digital Identity infrastructure and consent management solutions supporting Data wallet & Portability use cases, then followed by our Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Business (KYB) solutions. In other words, it’s ok to conduct your market research & validation in phases, as long as your product grows along with it.
Q: Do you think startups have to build everything before they go to market? Pascal: I think It’s ok to do “bite size chunks” and launch things over time. Don’t feel like you have to raise USD 20 million dollars, hire a 50 people team and build everything before even going to market. It’s ok to learn and iterate while you grow your startup. And whist we didn’t need it for Chekk, pivoting is also a useful tool for many startups to find market fit.
Q: What do you think are the key points in acquiring customer? Pascal: The key is understanding your customers and knowing the purpose of your company & product. Too often does one see “technology solutions in search of a problem” because they have been built by people who don’t understand the real pain points of the industry they are trying to sell to. And this is something we are often reminded by prospects when we attend conferences, like the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) which is the largest FinTech event in the world and to which we have been co-exhibiting the last two years with a large European bank, and where very regularly attendees would tell us that they were impressed not only by Chekk’s platform but also by the clear understanding of their industry pain points and how to solve it, compared to what they had seen all day long on other KYC startups booths.
Q: How did you convince your manager that you were capable of fulfilling your full time job in the HSBC while also becoming the Co-Founder & CEO of your startup? Pascal: I think for me it started even before the startup. 12 years ago when I was Global Chief of staff of HSBC Retail Bank, I pitched my manager about the importance of developing a digital strategy for the Group (at a time when “Digital” was not yet on the lips of every executives). I was then allowed to work on Digital during my free time (night, weekends, holidays…) as long as it didn’t disrupt my duties during the day to support the strategy and transformation of the business. I then gathered a few motivated like-minded individuals from around the bank, and together we formulated a global Digital Strategy, secured large funding and put in place the foundations to execute it. Later on, I explained to my managers that I had an idea for a startup which I would work on the side during my free time without impacting my HSBC duties, and they believed me because they had seen me do it before. It worked well, as my managers over the years kept supporting this setup and promoting me to more and more senior positions across the Group. And I was also helped by the fact that I only sleep a few hours per night (giving me more hours each day to allocate to what I am passionate about) and I was supported by great teams both on the HSBC and Chekk sides.
Q: How did you know it was the right time to resign your position in HSBC and focus entirely on your company? Pascal: It was a difficult decision. After 20 years in the bank, I was very attached to the HSBC family, and as a young Managing Director (GBC2) with a growing career, there was still a lot my management and I thought I could do in the Group. But Chekk was growing fast (new teams, customers, partners…) and I wanted to be able to focus on it. So I discussed it with my family (my wife and three children) and my co-founder (Benjamin Petit), and I decided to leave HSBC in the second part of 2019 and was then able to grow the startup even further despite the pandemic times (e.g., in 2020 we doubled the team, launched an even more powerful rebuilt platform, signed more customers in Europe, Middle-East and Asia, formed partnerships and alliances with Big 4 consultancy firms and data partners, prepared another funding round…) The life of an entrepreneur is a long journey full of ups and downs, each intrapreneur has to make that decision for himself / herself and it’s not always at the same time for everybody, but with hindsight I can say that for me it worked out to be at the perfect time.
Q: What are the criteria/parameters you take into account when you make the decision of leaving HSBC? Pascal: Certainly the criteria would be different for every people. For me, I factored in various parameters like my family, my banking career, the maturity of my startup, personal dynamics, etc. When I decided to go full time on the startup, I did a lot of calculation, not only on the financial equation, but the equation of life and its many more parameters to take into account. For example, where you want to live, how much time you to put in your business & in your family, what type of business do you want to build and where you want it to lead you. That is something each of us has to work out for ourselves and once one has a better understanding of and vision for these parameters, it is then easier to know when and where to go next.
Continual supports for intrapreneurs Through Pascal’s sharing, our intrapreneurs were able to obtain a better picture of what intrapreneurship is and what an example journey can look like. FinTecubator will continue to strive for innovation and inspiration that can stimulate the minds of our intrapreneurs and cultivate new visions & culture that facilitate the success both inside and outside of the bank.