FEEDZAI: PORTUGAL’S
FIRST FINTECH UNICORN

 

Our team had the honor of interviewing Nuno Sebastião again, after his collaboration with the 2018’s edition of the report. Now, three years later and one famous financing round in between, we tried to learn from Feedzai’s amazing journey that led them to become the first Portuguese fintech unicorn in Portugal.

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NUNO SEBASTIÃO
Chairman & CEO
WE MUST ASK. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE REACHED THE STATUS OF ‘UNICORN’ AND ESPECIALLY, GIVEN THAT THERE ARE ONLY FIVE IN PORTUGAL AND YOU ARE THE FIRST IN FINTECH?

The latest funding round back in March was an important milestone for us given our goals and commitment to delivering the best risk management tools to the largest financial institutions in the world. It’s not so much about the status, but what you actually can accomplish with investors backing you up while validating your vision and strategy. As you grow, your dedication to your people, customers, and partners needs to grow at the same rate. And going beyond expectations has certainly being a key priority to us.


I also see it as validation of the local ecosystem. If a fintech born in Portugal can achieve this level, it certainly means that many others out there can execute at this pace and accomplish great things. Fintech is a level-playing field these days - if you have the next big idea that will disrupt the market and you can access world-class talent, there’s no reason why you can’t succeed.

COULD YOU LET US KNOW HOW THE PROCESS OF GROWING THE COMPANY HAS BEEN, PARTICULARLY IN THE LAST RAISE OF CAPITAL?

The interesting part about achieving these big milestones is that they are not the prize itself. The minute you break through your mind becomes obsessed with the next growth phase and the limitless possibilities ahead of you.


I think the most important element to raising capital is knowing exactly where you want to go next. World-class investors get to know a huge amount of companies every day. This means that they will not only bet on good ideas and the people behind them. They will support detailed roadmaps, technical capabilities, and a solid vision around how will we take over the market.

For us, picking the right investors has always been critical. It obviously depends on your stage and what you are looking to accomplish, but expertise is always key. I’m a big believer that raising money for the sake of raising money is not a good idea - you need to surround yourself with the best investors. The ones that can bring something new to the table. Whether it’s a network, expansion expertise, or growth acceleration processes that speed up your business even more. Raising capital is a two-way street and good investors appreciate companies that know exactly what they want to get out of the partnership. Mutual understanding means growth if you have all
the right ingredients. And growth is good for both parts.

 

With our Series D, for example, we knew the goal was to solidify our regional expansion in markets such as LATAM and APAC, but also grow through acquisitions. That’s why we bought Revelock, a leading biometric behaviour company that allowed us to create the world’s largest Financial Intelligence Network (FIN) to secure cashless commerce.

ARE THERE DO’S AND DON’TS?

Starting a business can feel like building an airplane on the way down. You just figure it all out along the way and you need to just go for it. So, set your goals early on, and don’t be afraid to take risks because there will never be a perfect time to start or to make the next move. In fact, fear is one of the worst things in business and life. Take chances, fail fast, and move forward.


There are lessons that stick, obviously. One of them is the importance of the team around you. Technically speaking, they need to be excellent but they also have to believe in the vision as much as you do. That is one of our greatest achievements. Our people know that they are making an impact in the world. The level of motivation can become so much higher if you’re doing something that inspires people.

WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT FEEDZAI’S PRODUCT? HOW HAS THIS EVOLVED THROUGHOUT THE YEARS?

We are the cloud platform to manage financial risk. In other words, that means safeguarding global commerce with the most advanced technology that is able to prevent, detect, and remediate some of the most vicious threats ou there. Whether it’s payments fraud, illicit access to banking accounts, or money laundering, Feedzai is able to detect it in real-time and deal with it in a way that doesn’t impact customer experience. The reason why we cater to some of the largest financial institutions in the world is because our technology allows our customers to protect consumers while offering that seamless experience that everyone expects these days.
 

Today, Feedzai protects more than 800 million people in the world while more than 20 percent of the world’s money flows through our platform. In other words, we secure the bank accounts of 1 in every five people, which comes with a great deal of responsibility. 

WHEN WE SPOKE TO FEEDZAI ON THE 2018 REPORT, YOUR ADVICE TO FOUNDERS WAS: CONFIDENCE. IS IT THE
SAME TODAY?

Confidence, no doubt. But I would also add grit. The last year and a half have shown us that there are a number of things that we cannot control and that inevitably have a big impact on our lives and our businesses. We need to accept what we cannot control. For all entrepreneurs and start-ups, if you have an unshakeable belief that your technology is worthy and adds value to people’s lives, then you need to keep going. Execute and enjoy the journey.

 

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