Founder Interview: Shlomit Kugler, Co-Founder and CEO, MyCheck
In the second of our founder interviews, we met with Shlomit Kugler – Co-Founder and CEO at InnoVentures portfolio company MyCheck – to hear more on the thought process behind the company and the challenges of getting to beta.
From idea to proof of concept
A recurring theme with fintech startups is how many have been started by outsiders. Individuals not necessarily steeped in the finance industry. Is this because they are liberated from legacy thinking? Unburdened by reasons why things can’t simply, be different. Be better.
Shlomit Kugler’s formative business experience was in the advertising industry. That’s an unusual finishing school for the CEO of MyCheck a fast growing Israeli payments business. Kugler is sure that an independent mindset helped form the business.
“It all sounds so simple. We were having a meal among friends and we just started to speculate: how crazy would it be if we could just step out of the restaurant when we were finished. That is without having to catch the eye of a busy waiter, wait to collect our bill, and then do the whole swipe or PIN thing. Wouldn’t that be a far better experience?”
Just three months later Kugler and her co-founders were looking at a proof of concept app that allowed them to do just that, and MyCheck was up and running.
“No-one had experience in payments,” explains Kugler. “We were creatives and marketers. Which is why we started with the customer experience first. Payments professionals might celebrate their systems but all we saw was that the transaction was a chore spoiling a great customer experience.”
“Restaurants work so hard to create delicious cuisine and offer efficient service. Then the payments industry puts a big clunky barrier in the way of satisfying diners. It seemed a problem in need of a solution.”
Getting to beta
By this point, Kugler and the team had learned a great deal more about the payments industry. In fact the team had grown to ten. “We joke about being outsiders but we obviously saw the need to learn from experienced payments professionals as we built the team,” says Kugler.
Building a more robust beta version of the product was also a vital proof point in MyCheck’s next step, a more substantial formal fund raising round involving professional VCs.
“It’s a little like finding a wife or a husband. They need to believe in you and your vision,” says Kugler. “Your VCs will become a part of your company. Choose them carefully.”
Santander InnoVentures joined the new round. The corporate VC had established an early presence in the Israeli startup arena, attracted by the technical expertise of Israeli software engineers, and the entrepreneurial attitude of what has been characterised as the Startup Nation.
“Santander has been amazing. Both through the fund raising process and afterwards. They were true to their promises and not only introduced us to their own innovation teams but also to prospective customers. We have closed deals as a result.”
Our conversation with Shlomit continues in another post, watch for links