How Reach CEO Sam Ranieri Tore Down the Borders of E-Commerce
Sam Ranieri is the founder and CEO of Reach, the cross-border payments provider. Ranieri has amounted more than two decades of experience in the fintech, foreign exchange, and international treasury management industries. Before his role with Reach, Sam led the corporate division of foreign exchange provider Calforex, setting up the business in 2002 before steering it to an annual volume generation of $3B.
Below, we interviewed Ranieri to gain his insights into the blueprint behind his long-term entrepreneurial success, the challenges of running a business amidst a pandemic, advice to young entrepreneurs, and more.
What was your overarching mission when you first set out to launch Reach?
Sam Ranieri: My mission was a simple one: tearing down entry barriers for businesses that want to go global and connecting them to new markets and customer bases. Our platform and solutions have been designed to solve the pain points facing retailers that want to grow and give them the springboard to launch into new markets. We want to empower businesses to enter the cross-border e-commerce space with the same advantages and capabilities of industry giants such as Amazon. Our goal is to remove the obstacles in front of merchants and break down global boundaries, and we’ve been successful in doing those.
What were the holes in the e-commerce space that you were looking to fill?
Sam Ranieri: There are so many challenges for businesses wanting to expand. How can small retailers compete with their larger, multinational rivals when they don’t have the same deep resources to draw upon? How can they access the best foreign currency conversion rates, accept more transactions, and remove risk?
There are so many logistical, legal, and operational processes that aren’t immediately obvious, like the difference between processing transactions locally compared to processing them on a cross-border basis. Then there’s compliance with regulations, which differ from country to country. These challenges can stop a retailer’s growth before it’s had a chance to really start.
We knew that we had a viable solution, and the technology to get businesses where they want to be. As we peeled back the layers of global e-commerce, we saw just how many problems there were, but also, how we could solve them. It was an exhilarating process, breaking through these issues and watching the product come together.
How has COVID-19 affected the company?
Sam Ranieri: In many ways, it has been surprisingly positive. With so many people working from home, you realise how much can be achieved when you remove the time-consuming commutes and “water cooler conversations” that you find in an office. However, when working in an isolated environment, it can be easy to lose track of time and forget to take breaks. Everyone needs to be able to take time out to recharge so they can come back invigorated to solve the next challenge in front of them. It’s important to me that the team knows that they can take time out, and that truly is a company-wide message. You can’t work effectively and give 100 per cent if you’re not looking after yourself.
What lessons have you learned about growing a tech start-up since launching?
Sam Ranieri: The biggest lesson is to never lose sight of your goal. Resolving the challenges, lining up the next one, and hitting them out of the park is what continues to drive us. It has been a great deal of fun designing and building solutions, and of course, seeing them perform exactly as we envisioned they would. We’re restless in our vision to help businesses succeed, and I’ve learned that the people around you are just as important as the product.
Having a diverse team really brings out the game-changing insights that can power even more growth. When you give people the freedom to play to their unique strengths, the organisation can harness that to become even more competitive and innovative.
What skills were you able to bring from your previous professional experience into your role as CEO?
Sam Ranieri: I brought the in-depth market insight and experience to empower our customers with game-changing strengths. Having dealt with the companies that process online payments on behalf of e-commerce businesses, Reach goes much deeper than surface-level customer service. We understand the obstacles in front of our clients, we know how much they appreciate responsive support, and our team is there to help them whenever they need us.
What are Reach’s objective goals through 2022?
Sam Ranieri: Scaling and retaining our culture as we grow and getting in front of the market are our key goals. We’re really at an inflexion point. With more customers looking beyond their own localities for goods and services, the appetite for cross-border e-commerce has never been greater.
Our networks and solutions now encompass over 20 local acquirers, 80 payment methods, and over 100 currencies, and that is something we fully intend to grow on – enabling access to localized payment methods and the best wholesale FX rates means that businesses can pass on the lowest possible local pricing to their digital customers.
What were some of the unforeseen challenges in launching a tech start-up?
Sam Ranieri: The hardest time was certainly the start-up phase, figuring out what retailers want and the difficulties they encountered going global – such as how to accept cross-border payments and access the best foreign exchange rates.
We knew had something that could disrupt the market, and that we were ready for the challenge, but anytime you’re doing something disruptive, filling in the gaps to bring it all together is always going to be difficult. We innovated the Merchant of Record (MOR) model to be much more than just a typical payment services provider, allowing businesses to go global without having to open an office in their chosen country. Alongside forging an extensive network of international banking partners and in-depth local market expertise, that meant building a dynamic platform to offer the best foreign exchange pricing strategies.
Trying to manage the product, its architecture and the developers was definitely a challenge, as we were coming from financial backgrounds mostly, not tech ones. That was a huge adjustment.
How have you grown as a leader since the outset of the company?
Sam Ranieri: I’ve learned not to get sucked into comparisons with what everyone else is doing. While it’s important to cast an eye over the competitive landscape, it’s vital that we trust in our own products and ideas, and have the confidence to run with them. We know we’re the best at what we do, and we’re all about encouraging our teams to explore and develop new ideas and services.
How do you predict the company might evolve over the next five years?
Sam Ranieri: I’m confident Reach will be able to adapt to whatever the next five years throw at us. E-commerce is only going to get bigger, there’s no doubt about that. We’re fiercely ambitious and want to achieve even more than we’ve done already in such a short space of time. We embody a spirit of collaboration with each other, so we can outperform the rest of the competition. Even as we scale with a quality product, we’re nimble enough to keep racing ahead of much larger companies. I’m of course biased, but I believe we’re doing an excellent job, and will continue to do an excellent job, for many, many years to come.
If you could offer young entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?
Sam Ranieri: Have the patience to understand and appreciate the inevitable highs and lows that come with any business. It’s about staying consistent when confronted with extremes. How you navigate those extremes will determine your success. It’s all about keeping balanced, even when times are turbulent.
There is always a bottom, and at some point, you will start rising again. But at the same time, when You’re riding high and everything is going great, be mindful that things can change just as quickly.