In the B2B payments realm, small to mid-sized businesses benefit from two trends: Access to working capital and the ability to keep tabs on business in real time.
It’s a rarity that one executive straddles both movements, but the latest executive profiled in our Commander in Chief series has done just that. Max Eliscu, who is the founder of both LSQ Funding Group, which provides accounts receivable financing, and Viewpost, an online payments and invoice processing firm, spoke to PYMNTS about the need for speed and innovation that drives both of his companies and the B2B industry writ large.
How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?
Max: I am the chief executive officer and founder of two companies: LSQ Funding Group and Viewpost. Both take a similar approach to innovation through a few core beliefs. Innovation rarely happens in a straight line; in fact, innovation regularly originates as a tangent pulled from another idea. Also, new opportunities open up when teams feel free to ideate without judgement or risk, and autonomy is a cultural essential. Without autonomy, teams need to be told what to do. But with autonomy, teams act in the absence of direction. Finally, a byproduct of experimentation is failure. It is essential to embrace and support this reality.
What is the most innovative thing that you have introduced into the market, and what value did it deliver to the stakeholder group that was its target?
Max: LSQ Funding Group uses an innovative service design to not only revolutionize the value it delivers to its small business customers but also to set our employees up for success as a matter of routine. We embed the majority of each employee’s job in IT systems that allow our teams to deliver exceptional service from day one. Our newest innovation, which is approaching launch, simplifies and automates access to working capital financing for small and micro-companies.
At Viewpost, we’re bringing the transparency we have all come to expect from Facebook, Twitter and even FedEx and UPS to invoice delivery and payment.
It is outrageous that business owners can track the delivery of online orders all the way to their office, but they can’t tell if their invoices have been received, approved, scheduled for payment or have been paid. When payment can make the difference between success and failure — or profit and loss — that just isn’t good enough.
We are particularly proud of the work we are doing with U.S. Bank and Fifth Third Bank (and a host of others to be announced soon) to accelerate and simplify B2B payments and improve cash flow management.
In the near future, we’ll begin providing real-time contextual recommendations and an ability to act, smoothing out fluctuations and bringing small businesses everywhere the ability to adapt their cash positions at the swipe of a thumb.
Where do you look for innovative ideas and why?
Max: I find that we’re not innovating as a result of a search for innovative ideas. Rather, we identify problems and ask nearly endless questions about why they exist and if they can be fixed.
My experience has taught me that the most innovative ideas often address problems that we have all grown accustomed to accepting. Examples: Waiting in long lines at airport ticket counters for boarding passes, making trips to stores for every manner of purchase, enduring the inconvenience of limited access to taxi cabs.
At LSQ, we solve for access to working capital financing. To make that possible we have built innovative technology that makes the tools of the job easy, and soon we’ll begin delivering near-instant approval and access to working capital on demand. At Viewpost, we solve for lack of transparency in B2B transactions: slow payment, duplication of data entry and the obvious imbalance of liquidity between many buyers and their smaller vendors. In both cases, we are tackling problems that businesses have always assumed are immutable.
What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?
Max: Innovation in payments is challenging for a number of reasons, but it comes down to the regulatory processes that exist to help ensure the flow of payments remains stable, reliable and secure.
Logically, banks are in the best place to solve for faster payment. Unfortunately, the highly regulated nature of the industry makes it difficult to effect change. In part, that is because today’s regulatory environment carries with it a workload that often represents an enormous drain on time and energy, stifling innovation. The effort to effect change within the banking sector is made even more difficult because it requires collaboration, often among players with competing interests.
While we sometimes see renewed effort, the reality is that there are 5,400 commercial banks in the United States, and getting them to agree to anything is a Herculean task. Nonetheless, innovation is happening and is often led by innovators that are willing to accept a degree of personal and career risk to advance the rightful goal of faster payment.
By definition, these people are rare, and as a result, the majority of change coming out of the industry is incremental, rather than transformative.
At Viewpost, we took these challenges into consideration from the beginning, building a team of experts who understood the payment, security, compliance and regulatory challenges of the industry, and then we built an organization and product that is able to support and unlock innovation.
What person or company do you think “gets” innovation and why?
Max: Innovation generally begins with the identification of a problem and ends with solutions that feel obvious. Southwest Airlines, Progressive Insurance, Tesla, Uber, SoFi, all recognized a unique problem in the market, from high-priced air fares and inconsistent departure timelines to untenable student debt, and then set out to tackle the problem in ways that were disruptive to the status quo.
Each sought to change the core expectations of their market. Each allowed their teams the freedom to see the world differently and encouraged them to move obstacles that others believed were unyielding.