Established two years ago, Binderr uses innovative software in technology in its drive to help corporate service providers digitalise their business and become more efficient. At the start-up’s helm, CEO Jacob Appel is ready to position Binderr at the sector’s forefront.

Jacob Appel’s story is one of persistence. Having dropped out of university in Denmark 15 years ago, where he had been studying law, Jacob moved to Malta with his sights set on the iGaming industry. He swiftly found a position heading a fledgling poker business with “high ambitions” – as he puts it – which, perhaps due to its overreach, folded soon thereafter.

“That was a huge learning curve, on a personal level,” Jacob admits. Yet, despite finding himself at a loose end, Jacob had no intention of returning home. He had fallen in love with Malta and everything the island has to offer. Armed with nothing but steadfast intent, Jacob, together with a compatriot, decided to import a much-loved concept from back home. Thus, the popular food delivery app, Time To Eat, was born in Malta.

“It was pretty successful here because we had no competitors at the time, so we even tried expanding to neighbouring countries, such as Cyprus,” he says. However, in doing so, teething problems started to appear and Jacob admits that the technology was not up to par.

“It had taken me between five and six years to set up Time To Eat in Malta, and I soon realised I’d need the same amount of time in Cyprus – a market where we were playing catch-up with other competitors,” he explains. Faced with these challenges, and with money having run out in Cyprus, Jacob decided to sell the Malta outfit when the opportunity arose.

In the meantime, Vambo Laud, the founder of Taxify in Malta, a ride-hailing service first established in Estonia in 2013, approached Jacob to invest in the company. Those were the business’ early days and it would later become known as Bolt. Initially, Jacob turned down the offer. However, over the years, he witnessed the company go from strength to strength. Realising its potential, he partnered with Vambo, and, together, they built the Cypriot and Tunisian arm of Bolt from the ground up, which became very profitable.

“There was then the opportunity to acquire the licence for Malta,” he recalls, “which led us to launching Bolt Food in January 2020. From the get-go, the demand was overwhelming. In fact, it took us less than a week to reach 1,000 orders per day – a milestone that took five years to achieve with Time To Eat!”

Bolt Food in Malta was the international firm’s most successful franchise. And, like many ambitious leaders before him, Jacob was geared towards expansion. He wanted to spread the brand to as many countries as possible. Unfortunately, though, head office was not on the same page, which meant that the only route available was to “maintain the status quo and continue cruising”. Brimming with ambition, this option did not interest Jacob – so, when the option to get out for an undisclosed figure arose, he did so.

At the same time, Jacob had already embarked on a parallel endeavour. While leading Bolt, he had also founded Binderr, a software app that was created in 2020 to help self-employed workers calculate and submit their taxes. “To begin with, Binderr was an accounting platform, so we invested €1.5 million to develop it further. However, we soon realised that we’d need hundreds of thousands of subscribers to turn a profit, which would require scaling to a level that is simply impossible in Europe due to our diverse taxation systems.”

Jacob and his team realised from conversations with dozens of accounting firms, that were also corporate service providers (CSPs), that the greater opportunity was in building a solution that would streamline and consolidate corporate transactions. They teamed up with a well-known CSP locally, who then helped build what Binderr is today. “Since then, we’ve created a unique platform that centralises all corporate functions, such as shareholder changes or company name amendments. Simply put, we’ve automated the entire system and laid the foundation for an emerging industry – Corptech. We’ve integrated our platform with the Malta Business Registry; all data is present and up to date. Rather than needing to consult an auditor or CSP to set up a company, change involved parties, or make other business alterations, our app transforms this process into one that takes seconds,” Jacob explains.

“Our goal is to help corporate service providers across Europe to become more efficient,” the CEO continues. “Usually, tech firms focus on anti-money laundering and Know-Your-Client (KYC) processes. However, we’re narrowly focused on changes in the registry. For example, completing a share transfer should be as easy as sending money from bank to bank. Yet, traditionally, it’s been really complex and time-consuming, with paperwork having to be drafted, sent for signatures, then returned, scanned, and so on. That takes time. On the contrary, Binderr saves time.”

In this regard, the firm also works closely with CSPs to understand their operational and business pain points, and to comprehend the most common tasks they complete on behalf of their clients. “Then, we automate those processes,” Jacob says. Citing the example of a company annual return, he explains that the paperwork usually “needs to be filled out manually, then signed and filed with the MBR. This costs the client a lot of money, takes time away from the CSP, and yet brings no value to anyone. So, these are precisely the kinds of processes we aim to simplify.”

The team at Binderr, so far, is small: a crew of 15, with 10 working remotely and five in Malta. Jacob believes the timing is right, which, more than anything else, determines whether an enterprise can be successful or not. “It feels as if it’s the right time for us,” he smiles. “I’m really proud of our team. We’ve managed to do a good job keeping everyone excited and motivated, and we believe in the direction we’re heading. Above all, I’m incredibly proud of our staff’s tenacity.”

Jacob’s ability to pivot and not get waylaid by setbacks has been his driving force and will continue to spur the company to further growth. “Something amazing always emerges through failure,” he laughs. “You need to feel comfortable changing the goalposts and continuously trying the next thing.” Indeed, this steadfast sense of creativity and optimism motivates Jacob to keep trying. “Creating something out of nothing – that’s what I love! I hope that, with Binderr, we can continue to go from strength to strength.”

Looking ahead, the CEO is driven by two main goals. “We want to become the leading voice in corporate technology (Corptech) by continuing to develop innovative solutions for our customers. The second aim is to lead the company to become profitable by the end of 2023. We are self-funded, so I want to witness a visible trajectory towards profitability.”

Jacob believes that these objectives are achievable. “If you look at the companies that need our solutions, they’re going to require increased digital capabilities, and they will embrace automation to a greater degree over the next few years. There is also the move, on behalf of the authorities, towards greater compliance and governance. That’s not going to change. So, the winds are definitely blowing in our favour. This will continue to be the case as more and more CSPs understand that they can shift operations towards attracting more business instead of wasting time on processes that can be automated by our platform,” Jacob insists.

On a personal level, Jacob is determined to help evolve the business into an organism that can thrive on its own. “I hope to remain a big part of it, drive its direction and have influence over Binderr’s vision well into the future,” he smiles.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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