Interview: Pavel Shynkarenko, co-founder and CEO of Solar Staff, an international fintech payroll company

Pavel Shynkarenko

Interview with Pavel Shynkarenko, co-founder and CEO of Solar Staff, an international fintech payroll company

Pavel Shynkarenko is a co-founder and CEO of Solar Staff, an international fintech payroll company that connects 760,000 freelancers with 2,800 businesses allowing payments to 220 countries.

He founded a bootstrapped startup without relying on investors’ money and reached $12 million revenue in 2022, showing 196% YoY growth. Since starting his entrepreneurial journey 16 years ago Pavel has founded 3 businesses – all profitable.

His mission is to increase opportunities for freelancers from developing regions to work with businesses from advanced economies. He has lived in 8 countries and each has influenced his approach to business and team management.

Tell us a little about yourself

Pavel Shynkarenko: To begin, I am happily married and have two children. I graduated from Donbas State Technical University in Ukraine in 2000 and then earned a degree in law from Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Since then, I have accumulated over 20 years of experience in financial and legal technologies, business development and client-contractor relationship automation.

Before founding Solar Staff, I also started several other companies, including Seneschal International, which specialized in copyright protection and tax counseling.

My passion for law initially led me to provide counseling services to companies from Eastern Europe, but I have since expanded my work to include the IT industry.

Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to live in eight different countries, allowing me to gain valuable insight into diverse cultures and perspectives and deepen my understanding of local laws and business environments.

Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey

Pavel Shynkarenko: In 2005, I opened a private law practice and began serving local internet businesses in Ukraine. At that time, I was one of the first lawyers in the field of  internet law, so I decided to leverage that expertise by building a business to fill the need for those services.

In 2007, I co-founded Seneschal, providing legal services to internet companies, social media networks and brands. 

In 2011, I acquired a partner for Seneschal that could help expand the company’s reach and act as a liaison to attract more clients from the CIS.

Together, we founded Seneschal International Consulting Limited in Hong Kong, specializing in tax counseling for CIS companies with offices overseas.

I helped these companies launch their businesses abroad and make a significant profit. However, I left the company in 2012 to pursue my goal of creating a product that was not entirely dependent on how much time I spent at work.

It was also a convenient time to exit the legal field because launching legal entities was becoming increasingly difficult due to new restrictions.

In 2014, I co-founded Solar Staff, a fintech payroll company that enables businesses to work with freelancers from different regions.

I started this company with Igor Artemenko, co-founder of SeoPult. Over the years, Solar Staff has grown significantly, with offices in New York, Limassol, Dubai, Yerevan, and Amsterdam. We process more than 1.5 million tasks yearly; our 2022 revenue was $12M.

Kindly brief us about Solar Staff, its specialization, and the services that it offers.

Pavel Shynkarenko: Solar Staff is a fintech company with international reach that specializes in managing payroll for businesses that work with freelance contractors.

We cater especially to those who engage specialists from developing regions. Our services include talent onboarding, task management, security checks, payments to over 190 countries and territories, copyright transactions and tax payments for freelancers from different jurisdictions.

We provide a transparent and hassle-free experience for clients and contractors, reducing bureaucracy by taking care of taxes, processing payments, transferring copyright privileges, verifying contractor background checks, providing reports and submitting task results.

Our service is like a mobile application for freelancers, enabling them to receive payments from clients in 190+ countries quickly and legally.

What inspired you to start a fintech payroll company, and what sets your company apart from others in the industry?

Pavel Shynkarenko: Solar Staff offers a unique platform that combines payment infrastructure, legal, and business services all in one place.

We offer a comprehensive solution, unlike other companies that only provide a subset of these services.

For instance, SaaS provides technical capabilities for process automation. However, with our platform, you don’t have to create your processes.

We automate the processes for you to get the desired results without integrating complex technological solutions into your business.

With Solar Staff, businesses contract with us, and we contract with freelancers — as a party to the transaction, we take responsibility for it. 

Furthermore, we are faster to start up than our competitors.

How does your technology help streamline payroll processes for businesses, and what are some benefits your clients can expect?

Pavel Shynkarenko: Solar Staff automates all of the complicated parts of a business-contractor relationship. We are a kind of “digital bridge” that helps freelancers earn a better wage and puts companies that connect with these skilled workers on a fast track to impressive growth.

An extensive legal network is one of the most helpful things we provide for both parties. When companies work with us, many communicate with one of our legal entities.

That legal go-between connects with the legal liaison from the freelancer’s region, creating a simple chain of regional compliance with no extra effort from either side.

This chain also provides convenient payments for both the company and the contractor. The company can easily replenish the balance in its account with the desired currency, never worrying about how or if the contractor will get paid on time.

On the other end, the freelancer has more payment security and can directly receive and convert currency with us before withdrawing it to their card, account or online wallet. Our service takes care of it all, simplifying the process to just a few clicks.

That’s why choosing Solar Staff means increased efficiency, less tedious red tape, substantial cost savings and the ability to work with high-quality freelance talent worldwide.

How do you ensure the security and privacy of your clients’ financial data, and what measures do you have in place to prevent fraud or breaches?

Pavel Shynkarenko: Financial data security is on everyone’s minds lately, and we understand that. We are incredibly serious about protecting every client’s private data, so we take several measures to prevent fraud or breaches.

First, we have servers located in different parts of the world. This helps us comply with local privacy practices and adds extra layers of security.

Our data is stored exclusively in certified data centers meeting GDPR requirements. We work closely with data processing providers like Azure that are knowledgeable about GDPR protocols and provide the most advanced data protection.

Second, we request confirmation of a person’s identity to ensure that only verified individuals can access the financial data. This helps prevent unauthorized access, lowering the risk of fraud.

We also continuously monitor our systems to detect any suspicious activity and take immediate action to mitigate any potential threats. Our approach is very proactive, which lets us stay a step ahead.

Finally, we undergo annual certification from Visa and Mastercard for PCI DSS compliance and test for burglary resistance. 

How do you anticipate the future of payroll and fintech evolving, and what steps are you taking to stay ahead of the curve?

Pavel Shynkarenko: As the fintech and payroll industries evolve, we expect regulations and compliance requirements to become more complex.

To stay ahead of the curve, we have proactively opened legal entities in various jurisdictions to comply with different regulations.

We understand that regulations and restrictions can arise quickly, so we constantly watch the evolving regulatory environment. We aim to anticipate potential limitations in the next 6-12 months and develop solutions in advance.

In addition to staying compliant, we are always looking for ways to improve our platform and services. We regularly gather feedback from our clients to understand their pain points and identify areas for improvement.

We invest in research and development to explore new technologies and innovative solutions to enhance our platform’s capabilities and provide our clients with an exceptional user experience.

For instance, Solar Staff aggregates financial solutions that have gained popular use. When new solutions appear, we integrate them into our platform.

Recently, settlements in USDT, a stablecoin, have been gaining popularity. We are already considering integration with various systems that provide payouts in USDT.

However, we don’t require our clients to make payments in USDT. Instead, we implement it through payment intermediaries to make it more convenient for our customers and give them the choice.

How do you acquire and retain customers, and what strategies have been most effective for your company so far?

Pavel Shynkarenko: One of the most effective acquisition strategies besides performance marketing is word-of-mouth recommendation.

We have great success with brand ambassadors, who are some of our best-performing clients. We offer these “stars” exclusive access to new features and provide PR support, such as mentioning them in articles or featuring them on social media in exchange for them providing honest recommendations and thoughts about us. 

We also participate in thematic discussions on social media and other online platforms, providing helpful insights wherever our expertise might be useful.

Adding value to relevant conversations helps build trust and credibility, which is important for attracting new clients.

Solar Staff also supports relevant micro-influencers who can (or do) benefit from our service. We establish a connection with them, offering a small fee or something comparable in exchange for mentioning our product or service in their posts. Through them, we’ve reached a much wider audience.

How do you balance the needs and expectations of your clients with the need to scale and grow your business?

Pavel Shynkarenko: Clients often need different things to feel they’re getting the best possible experience. Over our nine years of operation, we’ve realized that there are some things a customer may ask for beyond what we typically offer. This happened frequently enough that we now have a ready-made list of customizations they can request.

Solar Staff also has a system for evaluating client proposals. Our client department and development team work together to review customer requests, decide how they fit into our product development plan and give an estimated implementation timeline. When necessary, they’ll pull in other departments.

On top of this, when we have clients based in regions that interest us, we proactively offer them access to new features or customizations.

However, we are always happy to take requests and suggestions from all our customers. Some people have developed cool innovations that helped us add value to our platform. We’re always extremely grateful to those who take the time to help us be better!

Overall, we balance strategic development and customer development. We have implemented a customer support system divided into two parts for our B2C and B2B clients.

Both parties can access the development system and input their goals alongside our strategic plan. We lead the strategic side of development but leave room for customers to express their desires through our support system.

We collect and review feedback, and when a critical mass of requests is reached, we include them in our development plan.

What advice would you give to aspiring fintech entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own companies in this space?

Pavel Shynkarenko: It’s time for niche solutions. Focus on a specific audience. When you try to cater to everyone, you do something in between that’s less effective.

The competition among general solutions is very high. Find a difficult audience for classic global fintech companies to work with.

For instance, consider making fintech solutions for musicians. For most neo-banks, the structure and income of musicians are complex, and they don’t understand their unique needs.

Their income structure is very different, too, involving sound recording, streaming, concerts, and more. You need to have a deep understanding of how their industry works.

This approach applies to every industry, but choosing a sufficiently large niche without being too broad is crucial. If it’s too narrow, you’ll also lose out.

The niche of musicians is very diverse, with bands and DJs being just two examples. Should you aim for a larger or narrower audience?

Don’t worry about capturing 50% of the industry – instead, focus on whether 2% is enough for you. Start small, with an audience that’s easy to reach and decide later if you need or want to attract a larger segment.

Facebook is a good example of this approach: It started with the college student niche and evolved to meet the needs of its users. 

Website: Solar Staff

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