“We needed a market big enough to test in, and raise money through. Ireland wasn’t really an option.”
Garrett Cassidy, co-founder of Trezeo, which won NDRC’s investor day this winter, is honest when it comes to casting glances beyond these shores.
“Ireland was too small. Germany ticked a lot of boxes, but it wasn’t quite the right market. We looked at the UK, before Brexit, and it all added up. So that’s where we’re targeting.”
A fintech business, Trezeo provides financial stability for self-employed workers in the gig economy by turning unpredictable income streams into reliable and regular payments, with no interest or hidden fees involved. Subscribers pay a fee for the service.
Trezeo was founded by two highly experienced financial services and technology professionals, Cassidy (CEO) and Flavien Charlon (CTO). Its pilot in the UK will launch soon, with the company raising funding in the coming months to satisfy a subsequent, full product roll-out.
To-date, that funding has been significant. The company recently won the Payments Dragons’ Den competition at PayExpo Europe in London, as well as winning €30,000 in follow-on investment from NDRC, to go with the €100,000 it already invested in the fintech startup.
But why Trezeo? Why help the self-employed? The answer involves Charon’s history in bitcoin, and Cassidy’s five years working through the financial crisis.
“After working in the Irish banking sector during such a stressful, busy time, I needed a change,” said Cassidy. An about-turn saw him leave the corporate life and enter the startup world, first with Circle and then gradually picking up more and more experience in ecosystem roles.
“I did some work on the fintech pre-accelerator at NDRC a few years ago,” said Cassidy, who met Charon during his Circle days, when the Frenchman was becoming a prominent technologist in the bitcoin space.
A full two years later and, now, Trezeo is turning heads in the UK amid a time of economic uncertainty that actually works in Trezeo’s favour.
Freelancers should be able to live their lives without constantly worrying about whether they can make their next rent or mortgage payment- Garrett Cassidy, co-founder of Trezeo
“We looked at Ireland, it wasn’t big enough. Germany was OK, but when we did our customer discovery in the UK it was remarkable,” said Cassidy.
“Small business is kind of ignored,” he said. “Self-employed people […] they are completely ignored.”
Cassidy and Charon applied to be at NDRC after a chat with some of the in-house team and, just before the 2017 programme started, Cassidy got a call.
“We thought long and hard about it, eventually deciding that the support provided at NDRC would help us. We had received an Enterprise Ireland feasibility grant, too, and the investments helped give us a line of sight,” said Cassidy.
Trezeo could thus go about applying for licenses before it had to raise funds, it could develop the product, it could avail of a Dublin hub allowing for easier access into the end-goal: London.
Despite being able to earn a good living, many freelancers struggle to deal with the volatile and irregular nature of their income while still having to pay their regular bills. This puts stress on freelancers and regularly forces them to use overdrafts, credit cards or short term payday loans to make ends meet. The resulting interest and hidden fees can be expensive and, in extreme cases, lead to a vicious spiral of high cost debt that damages their credit status.
“Freelancers should be able to live their lives without constantly worrying about whether they can make their next rent or mortgage payment,” said Cassidy. “We want to give them financial stability so they can focus on doing what they love. We are building a cashflow smoothing service that will turn freelancers’ unpredictable income into a regular payment.
“Now we’re looking to raise seed investment. This will allow us to release our product gradually into the UK, and secure capital to back up our lending capabilities, once we get going.”