Interview between Maria Aponte, Head of Programs at Fintech Cadence and Mohamed Salamé, Founder and CTO at Cashflow.io, a recent graduate in our Ascension 2022 Cohort.
Cashflow.io helps brick-and-mortar companies go paperless and improve cash flow by giving them access to and centralizing digital payment tools already available to online businesses.
Can you tell us about your backstory and what inspired you to take the leap into building Cashflow.io?
Ray and I worked together back in the 90s for a Webhosting company. We kept in touch since those days, knowing that one day our paths would cross again. That day came in the summer of 2018 when I reached out to Ray to discuss a startup idea I had for Telemedicine. Ray had his own ideas, he had been working in the payment industry for a few years already and had seen first-hand the kind of issues merchants have to contend with when dealing with their payment processors and providers, let alone with late payments and accounts receivables headaches. That’s when he recruited me to join his efforts in building VTPayments, the precursor for Cashflow.io.
Cashflow.io offers to brick and mortar businesses, digital payment tools that have been historically, almost exclusive to online businesses. What has been the most exciting aspect of bringing Cashflow.io to life?
When we started, we were lucky enough to have live merchants on our platform from Day 1, thanks to Ray’s networks in the payment industry. Once we saw these merchants adopting our new tools, and agreeing to pay for them, that’s when we knew we had something in our hands. We had a business to run, and not just a project to build.
On the other side, what have been some of the most challenging aspects of scaling up this startup?
Being on a shoestring budget and bootstrapping can be exhausting. You never have enough bodies to throw at a problem. There’s so much we want to do, and can do. We need a bigger sales team or one or two more developers.
Brick-and-mortar businesses tend to be more traditional in their financial management practices. However, this paradigm seems to be gradually shifting even in the case of mom-and-pop stores. In your opinion, which are the conditions triggering this change?
A couple of aspects are contributing to this. First, being that there is an explosion of digital payment tools, like Stripe, Square, and Shopify, that have brought awareness to the wider market. Second, the current economic downtrend is putting companies under a lot of pressure to keep their cash flow positive. Businesses are open to adopting new tools that would help them collect from their customers quicker and easier.
What are some of the next big milestones for Cashflow.io?
We look forward to working with certain Financial Institutions, which shall remain nameless for now. This kind of partnership would open new opportunities for us and access to a much wider market segment.
As a founder and leader, what are some of the most important skill sets that aspiring entrepreneurs should develop?
The ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes, be your co-founders, your employees, your customers, or your partners. You need to understand the world from their perspective in order to appeal to them. This has allowed me to get the buy-in of my team.
Being a founder and undergoing the startup journey can be a rollercoaster. What have been the driving forces to keep you going despite the lows and what advice would you give to founders?
Perseverance is the number one trait that an entrepreneur must develop. Perseverance is what will allow you to push through hard times, and inspire your team to do so as well.
Also, patience when it comes to the long-term strategy, but impatience when it comes to the day-to-day operations. Understand that you’re playing the long game for the success of your company, but be impatient when trying to get stuff done on a daily basis, get through that to-do list now.
You’ve been part of the 5th Ascension Cohort which has undertaken a new spin on supporting founders by maximizing their funding opportunities and fostering peer support from founders. What have been some of the biggest takeaways for you?
Ascension’s biggest takeaway has been how to talk to different potential stakeholders. Angels need to be talked to differently than VCs, government bodies, or financial institutions. Framing the discussion accordingly improves your chances of moving on to the next steps in those relationships.