Embarking on a career transition in the digital tech landscape is a bold step — one that demands resilience and a pioneering spirit. Here, strategic insights serve as the compass in uncharted terrain, and learning from talented digital technology leaders becomes a pivotal element for this transformative career odyssey. In this article, we navigate the intricate journey from established roles to the realm of aspiring entrepreneurs, drawing inspiration from the experiences of , the co-founder, along with , of the fintech startup . Georgy Babilashvili Max Faldin Silverbird As a trailblazer who transitioned from the structured environment of the Big Four to the entrepreneurial heights of a high-flying startup, Georgy shares invaluable lessons and illuminating insights for those aspiring to carve their own path in the dynamic world of digital tech entrepreneurship. What inspired your transition from being a partner at Big Four to becoming a co-founder at Silverbird? I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Being a partner in a Big Four firm is a lot like being an entrepreneur. You have to figure out what your clients need, do business development, build teams, and, in the end, it's all on you to make a profit. Your choices define your success. Silverbird became one of those big choices – our vision to assist cross-border small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could be a game-changer, potentially reaching unicorn status. It's a sizable market often ignored by larger banks that typically concentrate on consumers and big corporations. Beyond its business potential, this idea also has a strong element of making a positive impact on the world. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often face extra compliance hurdles, leading to the unfortunate rejection of many legitimate SMEs by larger banks. The cost of comprehensive compliance checks has hindered their growth. However, we've developed an innovative approach, utilizing global datasets and cutting-edge ML and AI technologies, to reliably verify these small businesses at a lower cost. In doing so, we aim to enhance the accessibility of SMEs to financial services with a focus on promoting their growth. How has your previous career background contributed to your role as a co-founder at Silverbird? What unique perspectives do you bring from there? During my consulting career, I was enjoying the opportunity to work with banks and various financial firms. On the functional side, I was working a lot with data and technology. I implemented data-driven customer profiling, unified datasets across multiple IT platform to enhance business analytics, built compliance engines, processing large volume of data and documents about counterparties to meet regulatory requirements, etc. Starting a cross-border payments business, with its huge potential, was something very interesting to me. Moreover, my extensive client interactions provided me with a deep understanding of what works and what doesn't work. This knowledge extends beyond just the technological aspects; it encompasses working effectively with customers, managing large sales and operations teams, creating well-balanced organizations, motivating people, understanding investor expectations, and various other facets of business strategy. This wealth of experience has proven invaluable when embarking on entrepreneurial ventures — it has helped avoid many mistakes and grow faster. With your extensive background as a startup co-founder, could you share the most significant challenges you've faced and how did you overcome them? In any organization, your team is your most valuable asset. In a startup, where you have a small team initially, each team member has a much larger impact than in corporations with thousands of people. So, you really need to invest a lot of time to try and find the right contributor who would also fit into your team culturally. As your startup grows and you bring in junior team members, you also have to invest a significant amount of time in training and developing their skills. At Silverbird, where innovative compliance technologies are at the center of what we do, I was lucky enough to attract top-caliber senior talent and build a team comprising over 20 AML professionals and enthusiasts who not only align with our vision but also consistently contribute to enhancing our data sources and refining our KYC/AML tools. Another significant challenge for a startup is the constraint of limited budgets, especially when you have a lot to accomplish. To succeed, it's crucial to maintain laser focus on initiatives that yield rapid results. In our case, we concentrated on three to four key initiatives: identifying the right payment rails, establishing robust compliance processes, and forming sales and customer excellence teams. With these foundations, we began serving clients just nine months after our launch despite operating in a regulated space that required approval by authorities. As we started onboarding new customers daily, we gained real-time feedback that guided our next priorities. Early revenue generation also garnered recognition from investors, and within three years, our valuation approached $70 million. Can you share any specific achievements from your journey as a co-founder at Silverbird that you are particularly proud of? Initially, I was very hands-on in building our data-driven KYC/AML analytics and multi-factor risk scoring model. This involved leveraging Trade Atlas datasets to analyze an extensive volume of shipments from 27,000,000 merchants across 230 countries. Immediate access to more than 300 corporate registries and a comprehensive dataset of more than 120 million primary source corporate records further fortified our foundation. Additionally, I crafted algorithms for the integration of data from social media, marketplaces, and client marketing activities. The synergy of these initiatives resulted in swift and accurate data-driven profiling, enhancing our ability to combat financial crime while simultaneously improving customer acceptance rates and reducing friction for legitimate clients. While our compliance technology advancements laid the concealed groundwork for our product, I concurrently led the establishment of our payment infrastructure, shaping the visible aspect of our offering. Through meticulous selection of payment rails and rapid integration, we achieved notable success. Within less than one year of conceptualizing our business, we successfully served clients from over 40 countries, granting them access to more than 200 payment corridors and support for more than 35 currencies. Our expansion efforts continued, encompassing an additional 60 geographies in the subsequent year. What motivated you to venture into the fintech industry, and how do you see the future of digital banking evolving? As I mentioned earlier, our driving force had a dual nature – the promising business potential and an opportunity to contribute positively to the world, even if in a modest way. We're not just another fintech company; we're a fintech company with a specific focus – empowering SMEs engaged in cross-border trade to trade freely. The international trade space is witnessing the entry of millions of SMEs, and this segment is not only substantial but also poised for further growth. However, Silverbird's mission is not just a set of business objectives but an essence that defines our existence. We are fueled by a profound aspiration to reshape the banking landscape into a realm where understanding knows no borders. Our goal is to create an environment where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the globe can access the financial support and services they require for sustained growth and prosperity. It's not merely a mission statement for us; it's the very essence of what we believe in and strive to achieve in every facet of our operations. As a co-founder with a diverse background, how do you balance the financial aspects of your role with the innovative and entrepreneurial aspects? The most exciting aspects of running a business undoubtedly revolve around innovation and entrepreneurship. I thoroughly enjoy engaging with clients to understand their needs because sometimes, a seemingly small detail that arises in a conversation can lead to significant business opportunities. Similarly, when I explore the capabilities of various banking partners and discover complementary elements that enhance the appeal of our product, it fills me with excitement. If it was feasible, I would dedicate 100% of my time to the creative side of the business. Nonetheless, effective financial management is a fundamental pillar of any successful enterprise. Prioritizing resources and ensuring the highest return on investments is a vital task, and I allocate approximately 20% of my time to get it right. With your extensive experience, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals looking to make a significant career transition in digital technology? You need several elements to succeed. Think big and have passion for what you are trying to build. Ideally, you should know the market needs first-hand and have experience in the field. Your idea should be robust and not over-engineered. If possible, think of your team upfront, and then don’t be afraid to jump!