Spotlight: Meet Rich Serunjogi
Tell us a bit about your background?
I am from South London born and raised. I started my career really focussed on the community. I was the youth MP of Croydon in 2009. This involved a lot of work around improving relations between the establishment and young people and making sure that local government services were being made available as well. I then went on to work for the Spirit of London Awards, which was a massive show that celebrated young people across London who had done amazing things. After graduating from the London School of Economics, I worked as a management consultant focusing on the public sector, as well as on financial services companies. Then I decided that it was time for me to go and build something. I spent a lot of time thinking about where I felt I could have the biggest impact. Ultimately, the big problem that I saw was the lack of access to finance for business owners, with great businesses really struggling to access the funds they need. That inspired me to start Business Score. With Business Score I went on to raise funding, participated in the Y-Combinator program and now am currently building up my team.
You had what some may consider comfortable job prospects, having previously worked at Google & McKinsey — why did you decide to embark on your entrepreneurial journey?
I believe there were 3 reasons.
Firstly, I had this feeling that it was important to make the maximum contribution to the world that I could.
Secondly, realising that I had the privilege of so much experience working with all these prestigious companies, I felt the need to build on this, to prove myself by doing something that would have a positive impact.
Thirdly, the realisation that life is short and that building your own company is hard but worth the risk. It might not succeed in the end but at least I can say that I tried it.
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey so far. What was your inspiration behind Business Score?
I think, from my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve learnt that the path is long and that’s it’s not an overnight thing. I think we often forget that a lot of the success around us happens after such long periods involving many setbacks and difficult moments. I think it really is a journey and people really underestimate that.
The good thing is that once you know that it’s a journey you realise that little mistakes and setbacks are normal. The truth is that when you see the successful start-up stories around us, whether it’s the big fintech like Monzo or brands like Gym Shark for example, they all started off really small and insignificant with the founders just grinding it out. I think it’s important to remember that because when you’re at the early stage of your company things may feel a bit tedious and lacking in scale, but that’s normal and that’s where you’re meant to start from.
What is your attitude around savings and investing?
Where savings are concerned, when I was younger, I knew it was important to have your ‘rainy day — don’t touch it’ funds, so that if anything goes wrong you have savings to fall back on.
My attitude to investment is that you know I don’t think anyone ever got rich by simply saving alone. You also need to have investments and think about how best to invest in your future and assets in the hope that they will grow in value over time.
So for me, it’s very important to have your savings so that you have your foundation as the first step. Then the next step is to have investments that will grow over time so that you can reap the benefits.
What top tips would you give young entrepreneurs about managing their finances?
If you can, don’t mix your personal and business finances.
It’s also important to keep a record of what you’ve spent using your personal money. Keeping receipts is important for the business because those are the things that can be reimbursed. Also, if you do bring other people into the business then at least you have a clear record of what you and others have contributed so far so that things are kept transparent.
I think that when you are using your own money to grow your business, it’s very important to value things as cheaply as possible. It’s important for a number of reasons. Firstly, if you are bootstrapping and funding your own business you will only have a limited amount of funds to devote to the business. Secondly, it also makes you a lot more resourceful when you are constrained so you have to focus and prioritise. Not prioritising properly is a big mistake a lot of founders make, and one that I made myself when I used my personal money to pay a software developer to build a website which didn’t make any sense whatsoever at the time. I think that painful experience made me approach things differently so that now I validate things before investing the business’ money.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
As we are focussed on serving online businesses, we are fortunate to have seen an uptick in a lot of e-commerce businesses needing to grow even further, given the increased move to digital services.
However, the pandemic has also been a challenge because the appetite of many lenders has now reduced, as lending is now seen as much riskier when the funds are being used to fund businesses which may be vulnerable at this time. Although there are more government initiatives supporting businesses, the reaction has been quite nuanced. Overall, we’ve had more enquiries from online businesses.
Who did you admire most growing up?
Probably over the last decade Lewis Hamilton was someone who I admired a lot. I think closer to home, definitely my mother because she works really hard to provide for us and make sure we’re all well.
What are your interests outside of work?
I’m a typical millennial; I like to travel a bit and I love good food. In fact, I will travel for food. I also enjoy watching Netflix series as well; I’m watching “Designated Survivor” at the moment. There’s not necessarily a lot of time though. It is sad that he’s now passed away but I’ve recently discovered Anthony Bourdain on Netflix. His shows give me my food fix since they are always eating good food around the world and has some great insight into different cultures around the world.
Are you much of a cook?
A little bit (laughter), I think when I was growing up but now, I don’t have much time to be honest. My partner has taken charge of most of the cooking now, but I can do a few prawn and seafood dishes that I like a lot.
What is your hope for the future of financial services?
I think there is a world where, if you are a business owner, you will be able to access affordable capital instantly based on your business metrics. I think it is important because there is often a lot of discrimination when it comes to funding and it’s often very difficult to navigate. If you help businesses grow, then you’re also helping create more jobs and contributing to the wider economy. Ultimately, creating something yourself is such a great privilege and I think it should be even more accessible to more people.
When investing, the value of your investment may rise or fall and there are no guarantees you will get back all the capital you have invested.