Recently our friends at eCollect – a technology company that specializes in digital invoicing/ early collection services - made a successful exit. They were acquired by Intrum - the market leader in credit management services and debt collection in Europe. The company boasts over 10,000 employees in Europe and almost €2 billion in revenues, covering more than 20 countries on the continent.
During our October Pitch2Pitch event, their cheerful CFO Panagiotis Dermitzian took the stage to share inspirational advice to young startups. "If you have confidence in yourself," he shared, "and confidence in your product, and you know exactly you are on the right way - just continue and try to make your dream happen! This is what we have done. [...] If you have confidence and time - the moment will come and the success will come."
We sat down with Panagiotis to talk about the exit and discuss advice for ambitious young start-ups headed for success.
NP: Can you describe your emotions after the great exit?
Panagiotis: These are emotions that you can’t describe! We are so happy. We started 4 years ago with a small but ambitious team, facing a very high burn rate.
Now, we are a team of 80+ and just made a successful exit. This is proof that if you believe in yourself and know what you can do, you can accomplish anything! Marc Schillinger (the founder and CEO of eCollect) and I believe in our business model and that we can generate value, and this drives us.
I’d also like to thank you, team members, who all share a strong vision and believe in our direction. This is mainly their success.
Tell me a bit more about eCollect's path till here. Was this your plan or did it happen organically?
ECollect started 4 years ago – Marc and I have plenty of experience in this industry. We noticed that to be successful, you need to provide a solution that has additional benefits. We were aware of what the market demanded, and we were able to provide this product and grow in a rapid way. Our intention was never to score a big exit or something like this – we wanted to provide this product because we believed it was needed. Our vision was our goal.
This was the key to our success – both in business and in life - to believe in your path and to do the best you can every day. Don’t care about anything else.
What was your biggest challenge throughout the whole process? What gave you the most sleepless nights?
Yes, there were a lot of sleepless nights (laughs). But in the end, we passed through the challenges thanks to our confidence. If you believe in your vision and your product, you know you will succeed. Maybe not immediately, but you will! And we knew we would be approached by potential companies that want this sort of solution.
There was lots of interest in us. They knew we work with passion and a customer-centric approach. So for us, it was about picking the best option for us, and we are confident we did! Intrum is such a massive player in the market, and with our technical prowess, we are the perfect match.
What did you do to attract investors, apart from having a great product?
We never proactively contacted investors for a money injection. Never. We were fully bootstrapped. The investors came automatically to us.
We put our own money in this company because we believed in it. The great feedback from the market and the customers kept us going, and helped us be approached by potential investors or buyers. If you do a great job – in the long term – everyone will see it.
To finish off, could you give some advice to ambitious young start-ups that dream to achieve your level of success?
The most important thing is to believe in your vision, in your idea. Also, you need some sort of risk management. As a start-up, you face a product risk, a market risk, a team risk, and a financial risk.
Effectively, we knew the market and how it works, we knew what product was needed, we were able to build a fantastic team where everyone knows their role, and we used our own finances for the project. But if you believe in something, you will realise what your potential is – if you love something and you believe in it, you will be successful! It’s all about passion and confidence.
In the end, we would like to congratulate eCollect on this fantastic milestone and wish the best of luck to them and Intrum in their future work together.