Yanir Yakutiel is one of Dynamic Businesses’s Top10 Dynamic Entrepreneurs for his role as the Founder and CEO of small business lender, Lumi.
After seeing a gap in the market for services that gave financial aid to small businesses, Yanir launched his fintech Lumi in October 2018, despite regulatory uncertainty with the Hayne Royal Commission.
Within 3 months of launch, Yanir had raised $31.5 million through seed investments.
Yanir’s persistence to create something that aligned with his vision was strong, stepping away from his previous startup as a result of misaligned vision with his investors and instead founding Lumi.
Yanir credits his willpower for the success of his startup.
From pursuing corporate roles in legal and financial sectors to eventually starting Lumi, what made you realise that you wanted to launch your own business?
After studying economics and law at university and starting my career as a lawyer, I quickly decided the legal life wasn’t for me – so I moved onto trying my hand at financial analysis. Unfortunately, there was still an itch I couldn’t quite scratch – so after a few years working in big corporate companies I decided to do my own thing and launch a business that I’m genuinely very passionate about: helping small businesses make their dreams a reality.
The driving factor for starting my own business was for my family. My wife is a cardiac anaesthetist which means her job never allows her to work from home or utilise flexible working, so I wanted to make sure I was doing something flexible so we could spend more time with our son.
Building my own business meant I could call the shots on my own life and make my work as flexible as I wanted. I’ll often work from home in the late evenings and I bring my son into the office after school. Flexible working also means I get to work around my wife’s schedule when I’m needed to, which definitely helps to find pockets in time to spend together as a family.
During the challenging time of transition, what did you do to upkeep the spirit of your team?
In 2018, I transitioned from the previous fintech I founded called Sail due to misalignments of the vision. This was a big moment for me and my growth as a business leader. I’ve always been one to stay true to my original vision of the brand even through times of adversity.
To maintain the motivation of the 13 former Sail staff members who stuck with me through the transition period, I made sure to keep my promise about what I had planned for the team by being transparent and honest with them. I think it’s so important for business leaders to be honest with their teams during times of strife, as it shows staff that you’re committed to them and that being vulnerable is okay. Through these times I found that I wasn’t alone during this transition and I had a great team behind me, which is the best thing a startup could have.
Is owning a business what you have envisioned? Is there anything that has taken you by surprise as an entrepreneur?
Owning a business is everything I envisioned and more. From inception to now, Lumi has come with its fair share of celebrations and challenges. I’ve had to break down walls again and again until they are at a place I want them to be, and the most surprising thing for me is realising how persistent I can be during challenging or high stress times.
As an immigrant, I had to quickly familiarise myself with the fintech, startup and small business market in Australia, and my persistence has driven my ability to continue the success of Lumi for my team. While being a founder can be perceived as ‘calling the shots’, I’ve realised how important it is to have a leadership team that can really help make the best possible executive decisions for the business.
What advice would you give to people thinking about starting their own business?
“Be willing to be different. Don’t follow the herd. Do what is best for you and your situation.” – Warren Buffett. To this day, this advice has made the most impact on the way I approach life and run my business, along with never, ever forgetting that start ups are a team sport.
When you’re trying to disrupt an industry, you have to think differently and challenge the prevailing status quo. Be a contrarian, surround yourself with other contrarians and make sure you don’t collectively fall into groupthink.
What is the future plan of Lumi?
It’s an exciting time for Lumi because we’re currently going through a period of prominent growth. Our first priority is securing even more funding. Since our launch in October 2018 we’ve gone through two capital raises, and we’re currently gearing up for another one because the demand for alternative loans is increasing immensely in this post-Hayne Royal Commission climate. We’re also looking to do a debt and equity raise in the next twelve months to turbocharge our growth even more.
Raises aside, to increase our growth we’re seeking out and leveraging strategic partnerships for both online and offline distribution. This allows us to increase not only our tangible growth, but also the rate of which we are growing.
Finally, at Lumi we’re constantly hiring to meet the needs of our customers. We recently took on a new office, and because of the growing rate of our team we’ll soon be moving into a new one in January. Our ability to adapt and change our processes depending on what is and isn’t working for us is also shown through our recruitment process. We were previously constrained by our ability to recruit the talent we need quickly enough, but we’ve recently made a few changes to our current system and have internalised the recruitment process, which will allow us to recruit and onboard talent at a much faster rate over the next year to answer to our business’s needs.
You can read more about our other Top10 Dynamic Entrepreneurs here.