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Primer co-founder hits out at "brazen" copying in fintech

Paul Anthony says seeing your ideas stolen takes a mental toll on staff.

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Paul Anthony/Primer.

The co-founder of payment automation platform Primer has hit out at the “brazen” copying of ideas in fintech.

In a blog post, Paul Anthony writes about some of his experiences and learnings since he co-founded the firm, with Gabriel Le Roux, who are both ex-Paypal and Braintree employees, in early 2020.

London-based Primer has now raised $75m and is valued at $425m.

In the post entitled, ”Reflections on growing to Series B in under 18 months”, Anthony says a “dozen clones” appeared in the months after Primer was founded.

He added: “Well, yeh. If you come up with a great idea, it must get copied. But… even we were surprised at just how brazen this was. One company even copy/pasted our website, including the Notion site we used to advertise roles.

“The part few talk about, though is the toll it can take to see your team’s ideas ripped off time and time again, the simple wording you spent hours thinking up replicated wholesale, even down to the product names you debated over and ran polls to decide on.

“It takes many hours of discussion, mocking, experimentation, trial and error and endless creativity to solve complex problems and define elegant solutions. It takes a fraction of that to replicate something.”

Also in the post, the co-founder talks about the challenge of hiring the right staff for a startup.

He said: “I personally hired somewhere in the region of our first 30–40 employees in that first year, and this required serious recalibration around what it meant to do a startup. It was mostly hiring.”

He adds: "You realise very quickly that fundraising is the tiniest of first steps towards actually building a company, and you cannot throw money at the problem. Ambition and drive can’t be purchased. You can only build great products, and companies with great people, after all."

Anthony also questions why so much startup advice comes from VCs.

He added: “Nowadays, we get put on lists of Primer clones, for a category we created, by VCs that turned us down. VCs don’t build companies, they react to them. Everyone knows this, and yet 90 per cent of the startup advice you’ll read comes from investors. Beats me.

“As a founder, you should know more than investors do about your problem space. That’s your whole USP in the first place. Smart investors know this. Take feedback, but don’t compromise on what you know.”

In October last year, Primer closed a $50m Series B fundraise pushing its valuation to $425m.

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