Steve Apostolopoulos is the Managing Partner of Triple Group of Companies and Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of Triple Properties, a privately-owned real estate investment, development, asset management and leasing company. Steve also co-founded Caary, alongside business partner Jason Sawyer. We had a chance to sit down with the successful entrepreneur to hear what inspired his new venture and collect some advice for fellow owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).
Q: Steve, you have a vast set of interests and portfolios, from real estate to technology and now small business credit! Tell me what inspired this new venture for you.
Being in business is difficult and starting a business in Canada…even more so. There are so many roadblocks along the way, including credit and banking.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs and we have always looked at things outside the box. We try to solve problems with anything we do and the credit challenge facing small and medium-sized businesses in Canada is a major obstacle. As an entrepreneur, I had experienced that myself.
When we approached our bank for a credit card for Caary, we were turned down – even though we had $1.6 million in the bank and we were asking for $5,000 worth of credit. We were too new and we didn’t fit the established criteria. We ended up getting access to a card – eight weeks later – but only because we had contacts within the system. Most small businesses don’t have that.
Without this access, SMEs either continue to use their own personal credit – which means they have to offer a personal guarantee – or they continue scrambling, sometimes even selling equity in the business just to continue to do business. It’s unsustainable.
Q: Why do you think SMEs have traditionally been left behind in the system?
It’s a risk profile that doesn’t fit between the pre-existing goal posts.
The model that’s currently used by legacy players to assess an SME looks at credit history. When you are a new business, you don’t have a credit history – so that’s kind of challenging! That’s why nearly half of SMEs still use the business owners’ personal credit card to pay for business expenses.
Caary’s approach meets SMEs where they are. We look at cash-flow and assets – not credit history. We know more about our customers within 90 seconds than their financial institution will learn in five years. That’s what makes us different – we actually want to know our customers and help them. We don’t create bottlenecks. As a result, SMEs are brought into the fold and they have a much better chance at accessing the credit and financial tools they need.
Q: As you gear up for the official launch of Caary, what keeps you up at night?
We know there is huge demand for this product. All signs point to it going fast and hard. We have an incredible team that has completely de-risked the business, developed an intelligent and efficient adjudication process, and planned an amazing go-to-market strategy through partnerships. I mostly worry about being able to keep up with the demand. When we launch, I just know it’s going to rip. But I have incredible confidence in the team that we will be ready.
Q: You are a successful entrepreneur. What’s one piece of advice you would give to other entrepreneurs / small and medium-sized business owners in Canada?
You will get 1000 defeats in business. Every time you get defeated, it will make you stronger. Stay with it. Keep rolling. Don’t give up. Oh, and don’t do bad deals.
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