FD Q&A – the year ahead: Sanjay Bowry, people.io

Sanjay Bowry, CFO of burgeoning consumer data marketplace people.io, gives his views on the year ahead

What have been the biggest challenges for your business over the past year, and what role did finance play in addressing them?

As a tech startup, speed is crucial. Companies are entering the space all the time, and staying ahead of the competition represents our biggest challenge. On the finance side, we’ve ensured we have flexibility to instantly react to any changes and take advantage of any new opportunities.

What are the key political and economic risks/opportunities you face in the year ahead?

Being a UK-based company, the current political situation poses certain risks. The stability of currency around the world not only affects the way we may look at our expansion plans in different markets outside of the UK, but it needs to be managed in terms of our cost base. There is also the effect this can have on the investor outlook as we look for further external funding.

The year ahead is definitely going to be exciting. Our biggest opportunity is the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), approved by the European Parliament earlier this year, which will increase the standards for data collection and processing in Europe.

This, coupled with a change in consumer mindset, is likely to create a fundamental shift in the way companies use data. As a business focused on giving consumers more control over their data, this will undoubtedly bring an opportunity for us to grow.

Which capex projects will you be focusing on in 2017, and how will these be financed?

At the moment, our focus is on opex rather than capex. The emergence of new, stable technologies, such as cloud storage, reduces the need for big capital spends.

Choosing to invest in capex projects has the detrimental effect of tying up cash. Besides, in today’s fundraising environment, it would be almost impossible to raise the amounts of cash necessary for large capex projects. However, as the company grows our approach to capex will need to change as the need to invest in tangible assets increases.

How do you expect the balance of your role to change in the coming year; between compliance and forward-looking/strategic? And why?

I don’t actually expect it to change – it has always been and will remain forward-looking. We’re in a business that seeks to transform the current advertising landscape; by definition we’re future-facing. In the next year we are looking to expand into new markets, which is going to be a challenge.

Naturally, as in any CFO role, day-to-day issues around compliance occur, for example keeping up to date with any governmental policy changes such as SEIS, EIS funding arrangements and R&D grants that can affect SMEs.

Advice for other FDs for the coming year?

Do not be scared of change – embrace it. New technologies are popping up almost every day and it would be foolish not to take advantage of them.

Why not try Slack for internal communications, Xero for bookkeeping and Receipt Bank for expenses? You might like them better than your existing tools and I guarantee it will free up time to enable you and your team to focus on more value adding work. Then spread the world across your business. Be the instigator.

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