- Meet Mohammed Ridwan – co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Pluto – a corporate card and expense management platform.
- Mohammed and his friends Mo Aziz, and Nayeem noticed that Dubai’s payment landscape had an immense refinement opportunity.
- And Pluto was born, a Fintech product that provides assistance to companies in the MENA region to digitize cash spending.
- Here is how they are helping CFOs and the finance team.
My love for programming led me to the fintech world
I was raised in Dubai and have lived there most of my life.
A techie by heart, I started my career doing a lot of creative design work, such as product design, UI/UX design, etc.
I started by programming and developing video games, mostly 2D games. It really got me interested in programming, thus I decided to pursue my studies and build my career in Software Engineering.
With that in mind, I went to Canada and enrolled in Computer & Electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo.
Fast forward, 2016 I joined Shopify, a Canadian multinational e-commerce company, as a software engineer.
While in Shopify, I became well-versed in programming and decided that it was time for me to pursue the entrepreneurial route. It turned out to be a significant move for me.
I didn’t have any entrepreneurial background, so I thought, the best way to grasp the intricacies of startups would be to work closely with one.
An opportunity came for me, from DESSA – a small startup in Toronto.
DESSA was a machine learning consulting firm, and they needed help turning it into a product-led business. It was such an insightful experience.
At Dessa, we built Machine Learning & platform products that eventually led us to be acquired by Cash App. It’s one of the fastest-growing consumer Fintech products in the USA, with over 80M people having transacted through a Cash App account.
It was here that I first dipped my toes in the FinTech ecosystem and learned a lot about finance.
After spending about two years working at Cash App, I joined hands with my friends Mo Aziz, whom I have known for almost 13 years now, and my friend Nayeem whom I know from my time at Shopify.
Together we decided to explore a few problems that we have personally faced before.
Building for the finance function
Because my heart is in the UAE, it was always my passion to solve problems for emerging markets.
One of the things that we particularly found through our research and talking to people who owned and ran businesses in UAE and all over the Middle East, was that there is a strong need for improvement in B2B payments.
And given that UAE is a very ambitious ecosystem, the payment landscape in the region and how people manage their corporate finances offered greater opportunities to set up something like Pluto.
We spent tons of time deeply (and I mean very deeply) understanding the problem and talked to over a few hundred companies in The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, whom we thought of as our initial potential customers.
As a part of our customer discovery journey, we dived deep to understand how the organizations and their respective finance teams were structured, and the bottleneck they faced at every step of the process.
We learned the ins and outs of how everyone from a small company to a large company in the MENA region functions today.
This was truly helpful to gather some great insights.
Although there were a couple of areas to work on, we had to narrow it down to the core problems. For us, they were payables, corporate cards, and deep accounting integrations.
Our mission became to free up the finance team’s time so that they can focus on the things that cannot be automated, which are things like strategy.
After spending a good amount of time on customer discovery, identifying the problem, and finding a solution, our investors saw that Pluto was solving a real problem in the market.
Even they themselves have gone through the pain of corporate payment issues, particularly the expense management and payables side of the business. We were able to raise a seed round of $6M.
Pluto was born.
A progressive finance management platform
Pluto helps finance teams take control of their company’s finances by allowing companies to create unlimited corporate cards with controlled spending.
By integrating major accounting platforms into the Pluto platform, the transactions automatically sync up with your GL accounts.
Today with Pluto, every time an expense is made, it’s fully, automatically categorized for you, and synced with your GL code (general ledger code).
There is complete transparency and visibility through expense reports of your company and business expenses in real-time. We are adding additional smart automation very soon.
We have a Foundation plan which is 100% free. No hidden fees whatsoever! Or you can opt-in for our Premium or Enterprise plans by visiting our pricing page on our website.
Automation of Finance Functions is imperative
Finance Professionals need to keep an open mind when it comes to automation and they need to have a clear understanding of it.
Some people may think that automation means losing jobs. No, that is not true.
Automation redirects you to the job that you were meant to do, and not all the rotework that you know you don’t want to do. That’s what the purpose of automation is.
Most people see accounting or finance as backend work or think it’s boring. What people don’t realize is that finance is an incredibly creative field.
We must let the creativity and the strategy be done by humans, and automate everything else.
Everyone stepping into the finance sector will have to be tech-savvy moving forward. Finance is moving more toward digital transformation and automation.
That’s why I highly encourage all finance professionals to invest time in learning about technology and operational excellence, as it will help them excel and progress in their careers.