When Sonovate secured the coveted ‘Fintech Company of the Year’ accolade at this year’s Fintech Wales Awards, it capped an incredible year, even by the astonishing standards of this extraordinary company.
This latest in a long line of prestigious awards recognised Sonovate’s achievements as one of the UK’s most established and scalable fintechs – but the Sonovate story runs much deeper and even more impressively than that.
A journey that began in 2015 has seen this Cardiff-based team grow to become one of the most client-focused, purpose-led digital solutions in the field of human capital: providing finance and tech solutions to recruitment agencies, consultancies and labour marketplaces around the world – enabling employers to engage contractors and freelancers seamlessly in the ever-growing global gig economy.
“£2 billion of total funding, multiple industry awards and a widespread expectation to become the first Welsh ‘unicorn’”
Having surpassed £2 billion of total funding during September 2021, this remarkable team is getting used to receiving widespread plaudits (not least for keeping the contract labour market moving despite the economic shock of the COVID crisis), with a roll of honour that’s seen them crowned winner of the Deloitte-sponsored ‘Talent Tech Scale Up Award’ – and being tipped to become the first Welsh ‘unicorn’ by both the UK government’s Digital Economy Council as well as the industry experts at Dealroom.co.
Such phenomenal success is unlikely to go to the heads of anyone in the Sonovate team. Co-founded by Damon Chapple and Richard Prime, this is a business rooted in deeply-held values and a shared vision – and we caught up with Welsh-born-and-bred Co-CEO Damon, to discuss how the Sonovate philosophy of smarter pay for the new working world has achieved such growing global recognition in just a few short years ….
“Sonovate is a story of superlatives and success built on vision and values”
“Richard and I had nearly 20 years experience between us in contingent staffing across the UK, Europe and globally – and we came together in 2015 to solve one big problem. There has traditionally been a fundamental disconnect in the contingent worker space, causing real payment headache problems for companies who supply contingent or temporary workers. Our platform enables the payment of the worker as soon as the work is completed and allows the agency or intermediary to make their margin – by providing the funding, payment system and infrastructure that deals with all the complexities in a really easy manner. So in a very real sense, we’re a platform that’s here to fund the future of work.”
How does Damon explain the extraordinary success achieved since Sonovate started its current journey in January 2015? “It really is down to the team”, emphasises Damon. “Both Richard and I come from a recruitment background and we have challenged ourselves to bring in the right people at every stage of Sonovate’s development. That means investing in people who share the values and buy into the vision. Those people are the driving force, not Richard and I. We have done all we can to create the environment for those people to succeed; and as the business has changed and matured, we have been careful to put the right places in place – processes that have enabled us to set and achieve quarterly goals, which is something we believe in strongly.
“We’re a tech platform that’s here to fund the future of work – and it’s all been made possible by our people”
“Creating a transformational tech platform has obviously enabled us to deliver and grow – and we were conscious to invest in a CTO and tech team that allowed us to take ownership of the product, putting our customers front and centre. But ultimately any achievements have been the result of having a collective drive to succeed. Everyone has bad days and there are always bumps in the road – having a whole team that believes in the vision and grows with the processes is the underlying reason why we have been able to continually progress.”
“We live by a Values Playbook that was created by the whole team itself. We recruit against those values and base our personal development reviews on them too. Elise Lockyer, our Chief People Officer, has been amazing in helping embed these key pillars to working at Sonovate. Our four values are being able to adapt to change, taking ownership, solving problems and giving a s*** – because ultimately we want people who care about what they do and how they do it, people who value their customers, their colleagues and the world that we’re trying to improve through our service. We’re a 124-strong team right now, with open opportunities that extend across all areas of the business – and I’m proud that we’ve been able to attract, retain and develop most of our people because of our value-set.”
What else makes Damon proud, beyond building a strong and high-performing team that shares a common vision and values? “Our service evolution has taken us from providing a full workflow and funding solution for small contingent agencies in 2015, to providing a novel funding solution that attracted larger businesses from 2018 onwards. And right now, we’re launching a unique lending-as-a-service solution that can be accessed through five simple steps on a single platform. It’s the only lending as a service solution providing invoicing and funding to anyone in the contingency worker supply chain – which represents a $4 trillion global market. If we consolidate our position as number one in the UK market and continue to grow our presence in the US and worldwide, we’ll be proud of the progress we have made.”