Tech + People + Post-it notes = Studio day success

Access to capital is undoubtedly the foundation that propels startup growth, but capital alone is not a silver bullet. To thrive, these emerging businesses need a mixture of resources, mentorship, and money to scale effectively. As our venture studio at Anthemis evolves, we have learned a great deal about how we can help founders beyond capital allocation, harness our capabilities and leverage the expertise of a great partner like BBVA to support startup growth.

We launched our discretionary venture studio in London in 2014 to help fintech entrepreneurs develop their ideas to get them ready for seed fundraising. We partnered with BBVA in 2018 to support disruption and innovation in fintech and use our expertise and knowledge to help entrepreneurs to succeed with their ventures. Over the last year, we have completed research on problems we believe need to be solved and have spoken to several subject matter experts in spaces as varied as homeownership, the gig economy, open banking and compliance in the financial services industry.

Together with BBVA, we have shaped the BBVA & Anthemis Venture Creation Partnership thesis around what types of companies we want to build and together what problems we want to work on solving. We have brought a number of concepts and companies to our studio days and workshops to explore whether our ideas were pipe dreams or whether the companies we were working on had a legitimate chance to change the way people live, play and work. I am really proud of the work the teams from Anthemis and BBVA have done over the past year, and it is exciting to see what the opportunities that are starting to see the light of day actually look like.

One of the most captivating propositions we brought to a studio day earlier this year was Cledara. Cledara is a spend management tool designed to address the problem of inefficiencies in SaaS subscriptions, billing and waste for technology-enabled businesses. Anyone who has worked in a startup or the finance or technical functions of larger organisations will understand how difficult it is to manage subscriptions to SaaS products. You have individuals who use their own cards and then expense subscriptions, you have others who use a corporate card and then disappear, and you have those who sign up with their own accounts for company use. It becomes the job of the finance department to try and understand which teams and individuals are using which products and which products are no longer being used.

It is obvious that SaaS spending is getting out of control, but it is a symptom of a much larger problem. There are some really amazing companies working to tackle the team expenses problem in many different ways. Yet, no one seems to have cracked the problem efficiently and elegantly. Every CFO, Head of IT, CTO or anyone else responsible for managing finance and technology in organisations we asked shared similar stories of people buying software and then disappearing, leaving a legacy of SaaS products that were without owners. It was great to see prospective customers validate the proposition that is Cledara.

On the waste side, we have heard countless stories from larger incumbents about people expensing their own copies of software, lacking the visibility to know that they are offered as a product through their employer. On the data side, we are seeing a lot of carelessness, especially in smaller UK companies where an employee will unthinkingly export data into international companies that do not hold themselves to the high standards of the GDPR.

Another relevant trend is that employees, especially the younger and more technical ones, are not accepting of procurement cycles and delays to the flow of work. Methodologies like lean and agile rely on empowered individuals to make short-term smart decisions alone, and iterate on the larger ramifications over time, for greater speed and productivity.

This is directly at odds with accounting and operations people who need visibility at the very least, and some form of control at the most, to avoid overspend and duplicated services proliferating in every team. Previous attempts at solving this problem for different types of organisations have failed or been suboptimal for a variety of reasons. If a system is too controlling, employees will subvert and game it; if it is too permissive, the company will lose money.

This environment and evolution of work is why we believe Cledara is solving a problem worth working on. With our own experience in building a portfolio of early-stage fintech companies at Anthemis, and with the BBVA experience of global banking for SMEs and other companies, we also believe that the problem Cledara is looking to solve is a problem that our organisations can bring expertise and understanding to. Combined with technical, product, user experience and business development expertise within our team and our ecosystem, we believe we are uniquely positioned to help Cledara build a dynamic proposition and company.

We’ve worked with Cristina and on the problem area for the past few months, and I’m personally looking forward to seeing the impact we can have on this market in the future. I want to send a special shout out to the BBVA & Anthemis Venture Creation partnership team who have spent a number of hours and days with Cristina to help think about the Cledara proposition, especially Sean James Newham who has lead a lot of our work with Cristina from a technical and product thinking perspective.