When I first took up my post as a marketing intern at Fluidly this July I was already strongly convinced there would be nothing like working for a tech startup. Stepping outside of the newsroom for only the second time in working life thus far, I was curious. After all, I’d only ever delved into the startup scene through the muddy lens of social media and an extract from Dan Lyon’s brilliant 2016 book: Disrupted, which we serialised last summer at The Sunday Times Magazine. Lyon’s hyperbolic depictions of dodging rivers of hipsters in skinny jeans and chunky eyewear riding skateboards on his way to work before watching his colleagues hit press-ups in the lobby first thing in the morning left me with absurd expectations. Thankfully, my experience working alongside Caroline Plumb OBE and the Fluidly team in Holborn demanded no random bouts of exercise, nor near-fatal brushes with skateboarders in flesh-tight skinnies. Instead, I spent an excellent six weeks immersing myself in a fast growing company founded on a superb product, learning a number of valuable lessons along the way.
My role as a marketing intern would entail a number of responsibilities. Some like writing blog posts and other brand-related content more readily fit my skill set, whilst others, like in-depth SEO analysis, would take a more time to adapt to. There was an even bigger caveat though, I’d never, ever, loosely had anything to do with accounting, (my far too frequent leaps into my overdraft at university confirm that) nor had I truly tackled the world of fintech. This was to be a working challenge like no other.
Topping up on the knowledge I’d accrued preparing for my job interview, my first day included a thorough walk through a tool which a growing team of excellent engineers and data scientists were developing for an upcoming autumn launch. Fluidly, designed to sit on top of existing accounts packages, was an intuitive piece of software based on providing SMEs (Small and Medium Businesses) with an intelligent cash flow management solution. Armed with a base level understanding of the product which grew every day with each phone call I listened in on and meeting I attended, I set about throwing myself into startup life one slack message at a time. I spent much of my first week picking up on how to optimise useful, engaging content for humans and search engines, as well as tracking down influencers who ranged from ‘rockstar accountants’ to well-known journalists with a view to the aforementioned sharing our content to gain traction on social media and internet forums. Quietly becoming more confident about my knowledge of the field and our product, I began to work my way through creating a list of prospective blog posts ranging from quirky cash flow forecasting tips to innovative ways to chase down outstanding payments as well as trying my hand at articles of my own, four of which you can soon find on the new Fluidly blog.
As my first few days turned to weeks, I quickly began to realise this was a growth-based internship in every sense of the word. Sitting in on bi-weekly sprint meetings always provided a strong barometer for both mine and Fluidly’s progress. We’d discuss bug fixes and improvements based on work with a range of trial clients as well as the next steps towards improving the tool. Behind lengthy discussions on the finer details of the product, the Fluidly team always had their eyes on the prize. They were building towards a big picture; the creation of a business with a unique place in the market and real use value for SMEs, for whom late payments and money woes were far too commonplace.
The strong collective sense of teamwork at Fluidly from the beginning to the end struck me the most. From earning a spot as one of 20 winners of the Open Up Challenge for fintech innovation in Open Banking to securing deals with prospective clients, we would celebrate our successes together, oftentimes over the breakfast table with bacon sarnies and helpings of brown sauce every Friday. Fluidly, like any startup had its cultural quirks, but this always felt more like a workplace than a gimmick, and I loved it. By the end of six weeks, I not only finally understood what a ‘debt ledger’ meant, but I also tasted the sense of the camaraderie that goes into working for a fast-growing business with ambitious targets.
Though fintech products like Fluidly come with a focus on artificial intelligence and data science, my time spent with the startup felt anything but mechanical, and far more than a CV filler. Whilst I’m transitioning from the world of invoice chasing and cashflow management back into my beloved newsroom, there’s no substitute for the skills and knowledge I picked up working with the Caroline and her team, and I am absolutely sure Fluidly will continue to grow in leaps and bounds.