Dimitri Raziev

It’s attitude and talent over experience

HOF Entrepreneurs Dimitri 1920X1080

Dimitri Raziev’s first experience of running a business was watching his mother manage a chain of four ice cream stores. There were challenges – from the weather to cash flow – but there was no option for customers not to pay on time. They either paid up front or they didn’t get their ice-cream.

It was only when he went to work for a fund that helped businesses with their international supply chains that he saw the problem of late payments. To thrive, rather than just survive, businesses needed access to working capital. “I saw a lot of mid-sized businesses and CFOs in the UK during my time there,” he says.

“The UK has £50bn in late payments every year, with 400,000 bankruptcies annually because of problems with working capital. These figures made me reflect.”

He saw a yawning gap between the options offered to consumers on their smart phones, and the solutions available to businesses. “Businesses were still living in the ‘dinosaur’ age” he says. “They didn’t have the right cash flow management tools to ensure they received payments from their debtors.  In particular, B2B businesses have lagged behind in terms of innovation and digital transformation, with businesses often managing their payments on Excel, Outlook or Google.

Dimitri, along with co-founder Ron Danenberg (formerly of Expedia and Vatglobal), came up with the idea of a single platform to help businesses manage their finances, cashflow and receivables – going from five or six different systems to just one. This helps improve business’ working capital position, while giving time back to CFOs and credit controllers to focus on what matters most – their clients and their business.

The Kolleno system completes cash reconciliation, prioritises workflow and provides tailored collection strategies using AI and machine-learning technology. It sends out reminders to late payers, and adjusts the tone of voice for those who have missed only one payment versus serial offenders.

“Through the platform, businesses can have better visibility on their cash flow and see who their late payers are. They can easily log in and see all the correspondence that they have had with that client. If they are a consistent late payer, you may need to call – and the system will tell you that. If they’ve just missed an invoice, you can probably just send a text.”

Dimitri’s entrepreneurship journey

Dimitri admits they weren’t the first into the market, but that reassured, rather than troubled him:

“When you’re starting a business, it is always important that there are other people in the market. It validates that there is a problem.”

Unless you’re Elon Musk, of course. We’re comfortable as a product differentiator, not a first mover.”

It’s also all about timing. He hit a time where businesses of all kinds increasingly understood what it meant to be in the cloud. COVID-19 accelerated the digital transformation. Businesses had to adapt – they needed the right technology stack, the right training and development. This helped Kolleno’s adoption; it was knocking on an open door at a time when business owners were receptive to new technology.

“We started in October 2020 and grew in the pandemic. It meant it was easier to have a conversation. Business owners could see that digitisation would have a direct impact on their profit margins. They also needed working capital and money in the bank.” By the start of 2022, the group had already processed over 10,000,000 payments across the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK, and Europe since it launched.

The group has an Open API integration with accounting and legal software providers, including Xero, QuickBooks, Clio, NetSuite, and Microsoft Dynamics. Dimitri says the group’s business customers are already reaping the benefits, with the system removing repetitive tasks from employees and freeing up time to focus on value-added activities.

What’s next?

The business has grown very fast, and is now in multiple countries: USA, Canada, UK and South Africa. Dimitri says: “The opportunity for us is to create a brand using a human approach to cash collection. Other companies are using a CRM or other technology - we are much more about people-to-people relationships.  The biggest challenge is to combine trust, credibility, and technology together to portray the right commercial vision. Businesses have a lot of options. There’s plenty of competition, but it’s not just about being a technology platform.”

He also wants to sustain the culture, as he brings new people into the business: “We want an athletic mindset with family values. Culture is a key for a business that expands internationally. We have people in Canada or South Africa and it’s about finding people who can talk a parallel language.”

Advice Dimitri Raziev gives?

“It’s attitude over talent, talent over experience.”

Resilience is so important. How do you put ideas that are in your mind on paper? You need a strong vision to make them a reality, but also flexibility. A ‘North Star’ is important. You will receive a lot of advice and you need to trust your gut.”

For inspiration, he turns to Michael Pennington, founder of Gumtree, who is also a major investor in Kolleno. “He says that when you build a business of thousands of people, you learn how to work with your own emotions.”