Retail finance platform Divido allows companies to offer their customers to pay monthly for any purchase. Launched by three Swedish friends in 2015, the company has now grown to working with over 700 merchants, including well-known names such as HTC, BMW, Mastercard and BNP Paribas. The LINK spoke to Divido co-founder and CEO Christer Holloman about being patient, learning from your mistakes and the company’s plan to become the largest point of sale retail finance company in the world.
How was the idea of Divido born?
Several years ago, I decided it was time to buy myself a new sofa and so I visited a local independent store. I was a little hesitant to buy because it wasn’t an inexpensive purchase, so I asked what instalment plans they could offer. The answer - none. They did not have the resources, time or capital to set-up their own finance plan like the majority of retailers out there. So, I thought, how many other retailers are in the same position, and how many other customers like myself have been on the edge of purchasing but stopped, because there wasn’t a finance option to push the sale over the line? A lot! So Divido was born.
Tell us a bit about the company journey from the beginning to today?
Divido is based in the UK, in the heart of London. It was founded back in 2015 by myself and my two friends, Anders Hallsten and Fredrik Borgquist. Three years on, we have over 700 merchants and partners that include HTC, BMW, Mastercard and BNP Paribas. We are live in the UK, Germany, Nordics and the US, and set to go live in Spain, Italy and Australia in Q2 2018, followed by France, Netherlands, Poland and Austria by the end of 2018. It’s been a hectic three years, but it’s fantastic to start seeing the hard work pay off.
Do you still see yourself as a Swedish company ?
We undoubtedly have a strong connection to Sweden - myself and the other two founders are from Sweden. However, we don’t really see ourselves as specific to any one country. We have employees from all over the world, from Germany, Poland, Greece, and of course the UK. On top of this, the Divido platform is also multi-country as I explained earlier, set to be live in over 10 countries by the end of the year, so we naturally are gaining a more global identity. Having said that, we do enjoy celebrating our Swedish background - there are always plenty of traditional Swedish sweets filling the office shelves, from kexchoklad to filidutter!
What is your background before founding Divido?
Before launching Divido, I set up Glassdoor.com in EMEA, which has now gone on to become a billion-dollar Google-backed startup. Previous to that, I was Head of Digital Product Development at The Times and Sunday Times, and before that Head of Commercial Product Development at the Daily Mail.
Along the way, what have the main challenges been?
One of the biggest challenges, as is typical when you first begin, is keeping your chin up when an investor turns you down. This happened to us and whilst it is of course disappointing, it’s natural to happen. You have to remember that you only need one investor to believe in the company right at the start, and they did. We have already raised a £5m seed round and are now concluding a £10m Series A raise.
Have any mistakes been made along the way and what have you learnt from them?
To be more patient. Setting up a global business cannot happen overnight, a lot of components take much longer than you first might think. It’s important that you remember this, stay patient, keep building on every success you have and learn from mistakes that inevitably happen along the way.
What is the future goal of the company?
Our future goal is very straightforward - to become the largest point of sale retail finance company in the world. To get there, we will continue to focus on international expansion in 2018 and beyond, as well as look to grow ‘Powered by Divido’, our licensing platform that allows lenders to white-label Divido’s technology under its own brand and offer its consumers a new line of instant, omni-channel credit. It’s going to be a busy few years.
What is the best part of your job?
We have a great open plan office in the centre of London where everyone including myself sit and work. I really enjoy being in the middle of all of this and hearing the buzz of the office. There’s never a quiet day! Hitting a milestone is also one of the highlights of my job as it brings the whole company together and gives proof to Divido’s bright future ahead.