Excellent people, crazy ideas and a lot of M&Ms
What drives Butn Co-Founder, Rael Ross (pictured)
Stack up all Rael Ross’s achievements, and you have to wonder, ‘How does he do it all?’
He’s not sure.
“I’m really tired,” laughs the enthusiastic co-founder of Butn. “And I eat a lot of M&Ms.”
Rael started his career as an unsatisfied accountant, grinding away with tax returns and paper shuffling. And it’s no surprise that the bean-counting life didn’t suit him. He’d already had a few successful enterprises under his belt before he hit his mid-twenties. At 21, on a trip to the USA, Rael noticed the success of charity silicon wrist bands. A week later, he’d found a supplier and started selling bands to some of Australia’s largest charities.
Underpinning that restlessness is an insatiable need to understand how things work – how things could be better.
“I couldn’t watch movies. Instead, I’d always watch how they filmed the movie,” he explains.
That attitude, he says, is a “struggle when you’re in a job,” but gave him the edge in a series of successful business ventures.
Rael co-founded Tsikot.com, one of the leading online automotive platforms in the Philippines. He also advises and invests in venture capital, finance and technology and has been nominated and won multiple categories as Australian Young Entrepreneur in 2020 and 2021.
“I’m always on the phone, I can’t switch off – I’m wired like that,” said Rael.
Building something new – and better
Beginning with running a first mortgage fund and then moving into factoring, he found himself sitting down for a coffee with the manager of a commercial brokerage firm. The manager and his brokers had a big and all-too-common problem.
“His brokers were getting paid 30-60 days after the deals were settled,” said Rael.
They’d talked about invoice financing when inspiration struck.
“He was already leaving, and I chased him down and said, ‘I’m going to put a button on your CRM system. Your brokers will click the button, I’ll get all the info and they’ll get the money instantly.’”
The business manager was stunned, and that was the genesis of Butn.
“Simplifying the process for B2B funding and SME funding makes Butn a game-changer,” explains Rael.
The beginning of Butn
No one had cracked how to remove the long-winded application process. To access finance, businesses have to manually collate and submit the financial information that already exists in other systems.
“That never made sense to me. That information is already captured somewhere – why couldn’t we use it?”
While embedded finance s becoming more common, Butn was one of the first.
The following three years were all about mapping and developing the product. When MYOB came knocking, the company started to get some serious traction – along with its partnership distribution model.
“Reading through the checklist for the product partners’ needed, I realised we’d already built it. We ticked every box,” says Rael.
The doers behind the vision
Rael has always been the one with the big ideas – but he’s very aware that creativity is nothing without execution. He credits the Butn team and co-founder Walter Rapoport for making his ‘crazy scientist ideas’ happen.
“I’m out with the crazy idea and Walter will say, ‘You’re mad, you’re driving me nuts.’ But we have a very strong team who can execute my craziness, and it’s worked.
“Our tech team is second to none, our CTO and CIO are leading the charge in embedded finance. We go to them, and they make it happen.”
That exceptional talent is driven by one thing, he said – transforming the industry.
“They’re excited about the fact that no one is doing what we’re doing. We’re changing the game.”
“The tech, the systems we’ve built, the integrations and the API’s we’ve built, the flow: it’s all unique. We really do have a good product and the team to support it.”
The secret to Butn’s start-up success
Like most big ideas, that success wasn’t so assured at first.
“The tech game is hard,” said Rael. “It’s not for the faint-hearted.”
The hard work was compounded by events at home: Butn burst onto the scene right when Rael and his very supportive wife were welcoming their youngest daughter.
“The stress was next-level. There were many sleepless nights, which is probably why I think have no hair. Plus, a three-year-old and a newborn – no one slept in those early years.”
The big difference between Butn and other start-ups, says Rael, is that the company had a plan from the beginning.
“People build products thinking they have the bee’s knees, with no client base, no distribution and no use case. We built the systems with a product and a client in mind.
Funding at a click of a button – tells you what it does. It’s simple.
“When I had the idea of Butn, on a whim, off the cuff, I think I underestimated what it actually was and what it could become.”