Thriving in a Time of Uncertainty: A Fireside Chat

By Carrissa Pahl Published on Aug. 06, 2020

COVID-19 has presented many challenges, setbacks and disappointments, but companies like Symend have found new ways to adapt and have come out extremely successful. Symend’s science-driven digital engagement platform enables service providers and financial institutions to better engage their at-risk customers with empathy, contributing to the dignity and welfare of individuals while clients building lifelong value for their company and the brand. 

On July 21st, Plug and Play’s George Damouny and Simon Mawer hosted a fireside chat between Hanif Joshaghani, Co-founder and CEO of Symend, and Plug and Play CEO and Founder Saeed Amidi. Joshaghani gave insight into where he is today and how he overcame adversity as a child born during the Iranian revolution. 

Watch the whole video here:

About Symend 

Hanif Joshaghani co-founded Symend with the hopes of making a tough process more manageable. Symend’s approach to customer engagement takes a different perspective on debt recovery. By approaching past-due customers with both evidence-based insight and compassion, Symend helps their clients focus on the individual and on long-term customer engagement.

The company combines workflow and campaign automation with proven approaches in behavioral science to drive higher engagement and cure rates with at-risk customers. Symend understands that customers need to be seen as more than a “transaction.” Approaching customers with personalized digital interactions strengthens the relationship, restores dignity and helps build lifelong customers. 

Symend has achieved a raise of $52M USD during the pandemic. Founded in 2016, Symend is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and has offices in Toronto and Denver.

Driven to Succeed

Joshaghani said that being brought up in multiple refugee camps and finally getting out at age 13 ignited a passion to find a way into security. When a lawyer showed up in his fancy Lincoln to the car wash where Joshaghani was working and shared his career journey, Joshaghani made a promise to himself. He would do whatever it took to achieve success and prevent history from repeating itself so he could give his family the best life possible. 

Joshaghani made clear that his focus and determination in education paved a clear path in his future. His parents may have given up their education to give their family a better life, but that never changed his family’s drive towards self-improvement and a right to win. He knew that he wanted to be strong in business, but how would he get there? 

Experience Leads to Ideas

Symend was built around past experience. Joshaghani lived and breathed the struggle of his family being unable to pay bills and being harassed by debt collectors. Surely though, the situation had improved since – but it hadn’t. He couldn’t understand how this was not the case and began intense research to form a thesis. After spending over eight months researching the problem, key players and current solutions, Symend launched. 

Joshaghani explained, “You have to understand the full extent of the problem you are trying to address before building a product.” He continued, “If we hadn’t done all the work up front, there is no way we would be where we are today having been able to pivot in different directions given the circumstances.” 

People Come First

One of Symend’s goals is to help as many customers as possible and prevent them from going through the negative experience of debt collection. Joshaghani said rather than, “hammering blood from stone to get as much money from them as possible, saving them and holding their hand through tough times proves to exceed the current balance.” He explained that the loyalty gained in the long term far exceeds the value of trying to get as much money as possible up front. It is important to understand and get to know your customers to build lasting relationships rather than one-time transactions. Although Symend is thriving right now, no company is free from tough challenges.

Challenges from COVID-19

Here are some challenges that Joshaghani and Symend are trying to work through given the current circumstances. 

  • How do you take everyone remote while continuing to scale the company?

  • How do we keep our employees happy and feeling as though they are part of our family?

  • How do we support our employees while telling them to work harder than ever before?

Actions to Take Now

Joshaghani also gave some helpful tips to try and navigate these challenges.

  • Encourage mental health days for employees

  • Make sure you are fostering a healthy work environment, but still getting to where you want to be

  • If COVID affects an employee, make sure they are taken care of and have everything they need to get through.

  • Give back. You cannot push your team to its limits and not give anything in return.

Fundraising During COVID-19

Is it a good time to try and raise money? Joshaghani says yes! The winners of this time will be able to consolidate funds and come out stronger than ever. It may be more competitive, but strive to be the best and the funding will come. Be smart with how you raise money. It is important to plan. Joshaghani said he often starts planning his fundraising sessions a year in advance to prepare. Don’t be a deer in the headlights and wait to react. Start planning now on how you will come out of this crisis stronger.