To celebrate reaching the milestone of having one million subscribers across Australia, the Xero team is turning a spotlight on some of the people who’ve made it all possible. Like Xero, our customers, advisors, app partners and their employees who’ve come along on the journey, have evolved and adapted over the years. We explore how and, in doing so, uncover what truly makes them one in a million.
In this piece, we talk to Aris Allegos, one of the Founders of Moula. He explains how the financial app has grown from humble beginnings in a small Melbourne office to a trusted brand that’s helped thousands of businesses grow.
When did you first hear about Xero?
I started my career in accounting, so always kept an eye on what was happening in the industry. Xero kept coming up in conversation – it came up with numerous colleagues – again and again and again. Then, by coincidence, I was out for dinner one evening and was seated next to Chris Ridd who was Xero’s Australian managing director at the time.
Chris spent the evening doing what he does so well: selling Xero and its potential to support a platform like Moula. From that point on, I was a convert and Xero has become an important tool in how we assess and underwrite our loans.
Tell us about how Moula has grown since that time?
In 2014, we were three people huddled in the back of a small city office executing our first loan. By the end of the following year, we’d integrated with Xero and written our thousandth loan.
Fast forward to today, and we’ve grown our headcount significantly, brought on new strategic partners, and expanded our product offering with Moula Pay. Moula Pay enables businesses to get paid upfront while offering great payment terms to their business customers. We’ve witnessed a huge increase in uptake, with a 174 per cent jump in new merchants coming onboard since March this year.
We don’t lend based on asset security; we lend based on the health of a business. Our integration with Xero empowers our customers to turn their data into a tool they can use to access finance. Back in 2015, this was a real game changer, and has since created thousands of growth opportunities for Australian small businesses. Partnering with Xero has been critical to our growth and enables us to deliver value to our small business customers.
What has been your biggest learning during this period?
One major learning has been that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for small businesses. As a platform, we need to stay relevant, and we’re constantly developing our offering based on customer needs and feedback.
In the beginning, we were laser focused on building a business loan product, solving for slow turnaround times by banks and for out-dated models for evaluating credit risk.
Over time, the market has shifted, we’ve gained further insights, and now we’re using our expertise to address other problems small businesses face. Moula Pay is an excellent example of that.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been managing through uncertainty. Like everyone else, we were faced with the economic landscape suddenly changing as a result of the pandemic. Virtually overnight, how we operated as a business shifted, along with our priorities.
It’s difficult to reorient your thinking to the short term when you’re so focused on the future. Long-term strategy has always informed our short-term goals, but this time around, the road ahead wasn’t clear, and we were contending with factors outside our control.
Looking back over the last six months, it’s been difficult at times to know when to focus on maintaining our status quo and when to flick the switch back to growth. As an entrepreneur, you’re always acting with incomplete information, but to run a successful operation, you have to make calls with conviction.
What has been the most rewarding aspect?
Seeing competition grow in the market and creating better outcomes for small businesses has been really rewarding. We’ve seen more options emerge, and banks are being forced to improve their service levels in response to shifting customer expectations. While some banks are still taking weeks to process loan applications, the sector has definitely woken up to the challenge that fintechs present.
Competition can sometimes be frustrating; you work hard to innovate and break new ground, and then others race to match your offering. But, at the end of the day, we’re on a mission to give business owners better access to finance, and increased competition in the market has been a win for Australian business owners.
In one sentence, what makes Moula one in a million?
What makes us different is what we call our ‘heads and hearts’ approach; it’s balancing the data, automation and tech with the personal human touch.