Martin Schrimpff, Zinobe: Supporting Underserved SMEs with Fintech, Ep 115

Almost 20 years ago, after finishing his engineering degree at the University of Edinburgh, Martin Schrimpff jumped at the opportunity to move back to his native Colombia to set up his first software development company with a friend. That company, Sirius, would kick off Martin’s entrepreneurial journey and lead him to found Payu, a payments business with clients like  Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Airbnb, and Google. 

Becoming an entrepreneur was always at the back of Martin’s mind from a young age, whether it was selling chocolate or setting up small casinos at school, he knew he wanted to have his own business. Over the years, Martin has become an expert in the online payments industry and has founded several successful tech companies including Sirius, Payu, Zinobe, and most recently Centeo.

In this episode, I sat down with Martin to talk about his multicultural background, his experience financing his second company, and eventually founding the leading fintech in Colombia for consumer and SMB lending, Zinobe. We also discuss his latest endeavor, Centeo, a startup in Mexico that specializes in vendor finance, and his passion for helping other entrepreneurs get started on their journey.

Starting a multimillion-dollar company

Martin explains the main differences between building a company that provides a service versus one that provides a product. There are many reasons why a business can fail when developing a product, one of them being the time-consuming nature of the process. It can take many years before you find the right product-market fit, which ultimately can be very costly. Martin adds that there are other ways of financing a company besides venture capital, and his companies are proof of the success that can come from these efforts.

Find out how Martin financed his companies at a time when venture capital wasn’t as available as it is today in Latin America in this episode of Crossing Borders.

Make-or-break moment

Payu received its first big blow after discovering that what appeared to be a growth in sales was actually the result of a scam. This discovery sent a shockwave throughout the company, and created a huge loss in revenue, with most people suggesting they close the business. Instead, Martin and his co-founder decided to take this moment as an opportunity to dive deep into learning more about fraud prevention and improving their product.  

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about this critical moment in the history of Payu.

Acquiring the acquirers

In 2008, an Argentine company, DineroMail, approached Martin to acquire his company. However, the deal never ended up happening, which in this case, was another wake-up call for Martin and his team. Realizing what they had almost lost, they had a complete change of mindset and started being more aggressive in growing the company and raising money. Over a year later, in a complete turn of events, Martin and his partner acquired DineroMail.

To learn more about the company’s shift in mentality and how they acquired the Argentine company, listen to this episode of Crossing Borders.

Martin Schrimpff is a true serial entrepreneur, with one success after another. He is passionate about leveraging his years of experience in entrepreneurship to help others get off the ground and build a successful business. Martin’s extensive knowledge of the online payments industry makes him one of the best in the field to facilitate credit to Latin Americans.

Outline of this episode:

  • [2:12] – About Centeo
  • [2:56] – Growing up in Colombia
  • [3:28] – Choosing to be an entrepreneur
  • [4:11] – Culture shocks in Latin America
  • [5:34] – First business: Sirius
  • [6:48] – Advice to entrepreneurs on developing a product
  • [9:48] – Starting a cashflow business
  • [11:06] – Payu’s milestones
  • [13:35] – On raising money after bootstrapping
  • [15:15] – Expanding Payu 
  • [16:26] – Starting Zinobe
  • [20:26] – Next project: Centeo
  • [22:16] – Lessons learned as an angel investor
  • [24:18] – Advice to Martin’s younger self
  • [26:12] – What’s next for Zinobe and Centeo?

Resources & people mentioned:

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