When Marek Fodor arrived in Spain in 2000, he never imagined that he would become the cofounder of a large company like Atrápalo. The tech market then still had a long way to go, but digital was already looking like it might be a good bet. Years later, the company he set up has become one of the largest e-commerce leisure platforms in the country. And Fodor, a business angel, company mentor and chairman of one of the pioneering firms and leaders of the fintech sector, Kantox.
He explained his contribution to this latest adventure at the Startup Grind Barcelona Conference 2017, which was held this week. It is an event that aims to put at the centre of the ecosystem successful cases rooted in Catalonia and to bring together influential figures in the sector. And one of those is Fodor.
All great businesses start somewhere
"An open culture, a flexible working environment and a lot of challenges are things that attract professionals who give up their stable jobs with large companies”
Moreover, they also boast a multidisciplinary team. With none of its founders being technicians, they had to find the right profiles when it came to structuring the staff. “When we want to take someone on, we look at what we are missing and put the offer out there,” he says, adding “we are lucky enough to have an open culture, a flexible working environment and a lot of challenges, which are things that attract professionals who give up stable jobs in large companies.”
In short, it has allowed them to become part of that group of companies that emerged in the Catalan capital with staff containing as much as, or even more than, a score of nationalities. It is a feature that for Fodor is completely advantageous: “Proportionally there are more startups with international teams here. This is a positive fact because it allows for communicating a wider vision and for being more dynamic when it comes to adapting to the market.”
Listening to the words of the chairman, the story of Kantox sounds like it was easily written. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and the chairman insists that they encountered a lot of problems, such as operating in a market dominated by banking. That is because the company –that today can no longer be considered a startup- was set up with the aim of “solving the currency problems of companies and reducing risk,” he points out, a service that until then had been in the hands of financial institutions.
“When we began, we followed a low price strategy, the lowest on the market as possible, but we saw that it was not sustainable. Once the banks opened their eyes and saw they were losing potential clients, they would bring their prices down,” says Fodor about the first steps the firm took to become a player in the market.
Changing the model, they decided to develop an agile platform with all the functions possible, which would become its added value: “The combination of good prices and a solution that fits the needs was the key. The tools and the platform were what made it different.”
Towards the red carpet
One thing that most helped Kantox to gain visibility was sponsoring the Caterham Formula 1 team. “When you enter such a tough market, you have to do things that are different to gain credibility,” argues Fodor, “a member of the team is a fan of the sport and had the idea.”
"We became known as the Kantox that was investing in F1, that was clickbait”
Caterham, considered one of the weakest teams on the starting grid, did not have enough money to finish the season. Kantox, a new company that was also seen as a small player in a market full of giants like banking, found itself in a similar situation. It was a similarity they took advantage of and they dived into the media paradigm: “We suddenly began appearing in the press and we were able to create a different image. We became known as the Kantox that was investing in F1, that was clickbait”.
Since 2014, when they adopted this strategy, they have come so far as to refer to the banks as banksters, as cofounder Philippe Gelis has referred to them on a number of occasions. “He genuinely believes it,” says Fodor, who denies that it is all just marketing. “Day after day we see the banks threatening their clients, they tell them that if they go over to Kantox, one day they will be penalised by the law and there will be consequences,” which is why he does not hesitate to call them banksters.
However, they know that some day they will have to work with these competitors. Yet, the chairman makes it clear that they are not worried about how it might affect them.