Skip to main content

We caught up with Paulina Sygulska Tenner, Director & CoFounder of GrantTree, to talk FinTech, scaling and the future of funding.

Finding appropriate funding is usually the hardest step most startups face. That’s why Paulina set up GrantTree: they help UK-based companies gain access to funding without having to give up equity. GrantTree have already helped many startups scaleup with grants ranging from thousands to millions of pounds. Paulina told us about her inspirations and offered some funding tips for startups.

grant tree grant tree

Q: What’s your background?

A: I used to work on the commercial side for large tech companies, developing international markets. At the same time, I started networking with startup founders, mostly bearded geeks talking about product market fit over pints of Stella, and one day realised I wanted to be one of them.

Q: So you started up GrantTree, can you tell us a bit about what it is?

A: GrantTree is a scaleup of 30 people that helped over 500 tech companies to date, for example, Duedil, GoCardless and MarketInvoice, raise over £30m worth of equity free funding from the government. We use R&D tax credits, InnovateUK funding and EU grants. We’re also launching a debt product.

Q: What inspired you to create GrantTree?

A: I realised there’s a large knowledge gap about government grants amongst startups and later stage tech companies. Most founders are either very sceptical about government funding in general, or aren't prepared to put in the work to acquire it. 

Q: Can you explain the technology behind it?

A: We have an innovative workflow management system we call Guardian. We recently launched Guardian 2 which is written using Python and Angular.js. What sets us apart is that our process reflects our flat organisational structure where people manage their own workflow while collaborating with others. For example, each task can be assigned to one or more people, whereas project management tools like Asana allow for only one assignee. Workflow dependency tailored to our own delivery process allows for a standard flow of work but users can enable and skip specific tasks and have the flexibility to cater to a client's specific case.

Q: What’s the most important bit of advice you would pass on to startups when it comes to funding?

  1. Do some thinking around whether you actually need it. Are you able to develop your product or a service in such a way that your clients will pay you early on allowing for organic growth?
  2. Research different types of funding to decide which is best suited and which - realistically - you are able to obtain.
  3. Be prepared to put in the leg work - just like researching your equity investor, and their interests, you need to be familiar with, and realistic about what types of grants are applicable to your company.

Q: What about crowdfunding? Do you think that grants are as valuable as crowdfunding?

A: Grants are simply different to crowdfunding and they can work well alongside each other. In general, grants, at least on the R&D side, are better suited to companies with complex IP while I tend to recommend crowdfunding for B2C solutions that are easier to market to a mass audience.

Q: You’re working on another startup spin off at the moment, can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on?

A: We've noticed that for quite a lot of our clients the timing of when they receive their R&D tax credit is really important, particularly if they are in the middle of a funding round. Because of this, we introduced a service called Advance Funding which allows us to advance up to £25k worth of a client's claim within days of filing it. We’re hoping to see enough demand to be able to spin it off as its own venture - effectively a marketplace where any company claiming R&D tax credits could factor their claim in a similar way they can factor their invoices.

Q: FinTech was and continues to be a hot topic in the tech space, can you tell us a bit about the innovations you’ve seen since starting GrantTree?

A: The alternative financing scene is definitely in its prime these days. A few other companies we work closely with, like Crowdcube or MarketInvoice, have proven the model and I look forward to seeing what else happens in this space. I'm also excited by innovations on the mobile payments and online banking side of things.

Q: What do you think the future holds for FinTech?

A: Definitely more disruption and possibly, with time, replacing traditional high street banks with much more transparent, user friendly and fairer products and services.

Q: Finally, what does 2016 hold for GrantTree?

A: Regional expansion, scaling of Advance Funding and other products we’re working on and more focus on consulting around large innovation grants. Also, some cool Pimms on the terrace parties at our new home - and also a coworking space launched by us - once the summer hits.

We use cookies to improve your experience of the site only. Any data we record we do so anonymously, and no personal data is stored. By continuing to browse you agree to our cookie policy, full details of which you can read here.