Hristo Borisov (‘10), Co-founder and CEO at Payhawk.io: “Nothing Has Impacted my Life More Than AUBG”
AUBG alumnus Hristo Borisov (‘10) co-founded fintech startup Payhawk.io in 2018. Less than a year later, the company already has paying customers, was selected among the five finalists in the international Pitch and Power Competition of Visa and Wirecard, and has closed a seed round of €500 000.
Still a computer science and business administration student at AUBG, Borisov began his career as a software developer for alumni-led company Telerik. He helped develop some of the award-winning products of the company that was acquired by U.S. giant Progress Software for $263 million in 2014. Borisov is also a founding member of the Citizens App, a mobile application that, in his words, “empowers polite and responsible citizenship through technology and mutual accountability.”
How would you describe what Payhawk does in a few words?
Payhawk streamlines expense management for small businesses. With Payhawk, businesses can issue company cards to employees and receive real-time information on where and how money is being spent. The product collects and reads expenses saving the need for employees to deal with expense reports.
How did you first come up with the idea for your business?
All of my work experience has been with fast-growing software companies, and I was always amused at the manual and lengthy process accountants follow to expense your business travel. To be honest, when we set up the company, we didn’t know that this will be the exact product we will be developing. We decided to establish the company and perform a series of Design Sprints and iterations to identify a big problem for a big market. It was one of the ideas that really picked up and quickly resonated during our initial customer interviews.
What has the company achieved since its launch in 2018? What are the plans for the future?
We got from an idea to a working product with paying customers in just six months. This was a feat of itself, as most companies in the financial services market need a much longer runway and capital before they reach to paying customers. Also, Payhawk.io was recognized as one of the most innovative fintech companies in Europe at the prestigious Paris Fintech Forum on Jan. 29. We won a startup event organized by Wirecard and Visa in a competition with 50 companies from 18 countries across Europe. The award is a strategic partnership with Wirecard and Visa which will help us innovate in the small business market across Europe. You are also a founding member of the Citizens app.
What is the purpose of the app and what has it achieved so far?
The Citizens app is a quick way to report local issues from your phone. We started with road violations and the team expanded the product to include any type of violations and community issues. It encourages and empowers polite and responsible citizenship through technology and mutual accountability. To me, the biggest achievement for the Citizens app is that it solves real-problems for thousands of people every day.
Prior to starting your own business, you worked at Progress for over 10 years. What were some of the highlights of your experience there?
I started working as a software developer for Telerik back in my sophomore year. After graduating from AUBG in 2010, I had the chance to become a product manager and help build some of the award-winning products of the company. The acquisition by Progress in 2014 was the highlight for all of us. Being able to experience the growth of a company, growing from 70 people when I joined to more than 800 employees during the acquisition, was the best experience one could ask for.
Tell us a bit about your student years. What role did AUBG play in your career development? What impact did the academics at AUBG and your friendships with members of the university community had on your personal and professional life?
There is nothing that has impacted my life more than AUBG. The university changed my perspective on absolutely everything. I studied both Computer Science and Business Administration and the diversity you can get at AUBG is second to none. I created lifelong friendships and wherever I go and meet with fellow AUBG alumni, you always know what to expect – great energy and synergy.
What extracurricular activities/exchange programs/student clubs did you participate in while at AUBG? How did they affect your university experience and who you are today?
I attended Nottingham Trent University during my junior year for six months, and that comparison helped me appreciate even more the environment and community we have at AUBG. Apart from CSSU, and a few other clubs, the evening soccer nights where friends become competitors for a short period of time where always great. What advice would you give to a recent university graduate about building a fulfilling life and career? Always be positive and enjoy every step of your journey. Some of the best rewards I have received had been during the journey itself rather than the destination. Find a place where you and your skills will be appreciated and enjoy the ride.