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Innovate UK x Shieldpay: Building a Startup within a Scaleup

I’m going to start with some general platitudes on the key to success of any startup or project within any company: it requires: (i) a clear vision; (ii) product market fit; and (iii) a team that can get you there and weather the storms along the way. What I’d like to dedicate this post to, is the lessons learnt from building our innovate project team. Shieldpay has received an Innovate UK grant for the development of our Third Party Managed Account solution for property transactions.  

Internal team

Under the rules of the grant you are supposed to allocate specific resources to the grant project. In most cases, the whole business of the company is centred around the purpose of the grant. In our case, the grant serves to explore and develop an innovative use of Shieldpay’s existing and underlying payment product and regulatory authorisations in the field of complex property transactions.

Shieldpay is in a phase of rapid growth and we have had to carefully balance the day to day needs of our business and existing clients, with the opportunity that the innovate project can bring. To do this, we have had to reallocate a number of existing employees as well as hire additional resources to focus full time on the project.


Reallocation of resources

I, as Business Owner, and Ashley Barwick, as Product Owner, moved from spending any spare time we had planning, designing and scoping the grant project, to turning our full attention to it once the grant period started. This step change has had a huge impact on our ability to successfully deliver on the promise of this new business vertical for Shieldpay. Other Shieldpay core employees have had to allocate a portion of their time to the innovate project too; our existing tech team, legal and finance operations. In short, this should not be taken lightly for any startup, scale up or company as everyone is time poor when you are travelling fast.

I can’t say we have absolutely nailed this part of it, but we have managed so far to get the right input and deliverables without negatively impacting the core business or people to pull all-nighters. This has been in part by being very realistic about what can be expected, being specific about roles and responsibilities and planning well in advance the deliverables and input required by the shared resources. Furthermore, the discussions and questions asked from the innovate project have also driven improvements in process and technology for other aspects of our business.

Key lesson: Make allowances for delays and remain open to rethinking and reimagining

 

Fresh blood

The innovate grant has enabled us to hire a project manager, business analysts and a tech team that have hit the ground running. It is amazing how much they have contributed. Everything built to date, every assumption and every part of the plan is under the scrutiny of a fresh pair of eyes with specialised skill sets - I guess that’s why we hired them. Two months in and it feels like we are working well as a team, but a number of things had to happen in that period before we were fully operational (a non-exhaustive list):

  1. Downloading the vision and market knowledge– We have spent many sessions downloading the information and market knowledge that we have gained over the years leading up to this. Explaining to the team the intricacies and complexities of a lender’s mortgage distribution process, how that can be linked to the regulatory obligations on cashiers and law firms’ client ledger entries and how all of this needs to be built to integrate into a case management system and allow for HM Land Registry and HM Revenue & Customs references to be captured and payments to be made. I think we have got there. Next comes explaining how that works in a chain of property transactions… If it was easy, we probably wouldn’t have got a grant.

  2. Getting up to speed- The tech team had to get their hands on the existing code and architecture to understand what they had to play with and how to make sure that all that we are building can handle massive scale and interact and be interoperable with other systems and data; and

  3. Working together- Establish ways of working as part of our sub team within Shieldpay efficiently, whilst still working alongside the general business goals and priorities.


Key lesson: You don’t know what you don’t know but someone else might


Next up, I’ll share our experience to date of building our product with the 8 law firms that have joined our Legal Services Advisory Board: My Home Move, The Partnership, Fletcher Longstaff, Angela Viney, Legal Zoom, Convey Law, WYM Legaland Total Conveyancing Services.

If you are interested in hearing more or getting involved. Whether you are a lawyer, work for a lender or just want to help in any other way, feel free to tweet us @shield_pay or get in touch with me at gdunnett@shieldpay.comor via twitter on @GeoffDunnettor Linkedin

 
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At Shieldpay we look after the most important transactions in people’s lives.

Our Third Party Managed Account solution for property transactions is part-funded by the Innovate UK grant and together we’re working towards establishing how TPMAs can help make property transactions more efficient and more secure – for everyone involved.

Find out more about Shieldpay, or let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment or chatting to us on 
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