Radek Jezbera, Kilde: “You need to deliver a solution that’s ten times more effective than what’s currently on offer”

Welcome to a brand-new series of TechFinitive TakeOff interviews that investigates the world of tech startups. Over the coming weeks, we will uncover the stories behind the companies that started with one idea. An idea that solved a problem. And we start with Radek Jezbera, Co-Founder and CEO of investment platform Kilde.

Of course, going from idea to viable business is never simple. To quote Radek: “Don’t get too attached to your ideas or the product you’ve created. Instead, become obsessed with your customers and the challenges they’re grappling with.”

Through his answers, you will discover the steps that took Kilde from an idea, launched in February 2021, to a company that is on course to manage $40 million of assets by the end of this year. You can see why it has grown so quickly when you read its homepage promise:

Kilde homepage: We make it easy for institutions and individuals to invest in private debt. Sign up today and start earning up to 13.5% per year.

Who is Radek? In short, a Singapore-based “seasoned” financial industry practitioner with over 17 years of experience in payments, credit risk and consumer lending. He has spent time as a Consulting Director at PwC and later a partner in a boutique credit risk consultancy.

For the rest, we’ll leave you to read Radek’s own words.

What’s your elevator pitch?

I’m Radek, co-founder and CEO of Kilde. We’re a private credit investment platform based in Singapore. Here at Kilde, our mission is to make it simple for individuals and institutional investors to find and invest in alternative assets. Whether you’re looking to diversify your investment portfolio or venture into unique investment opportunities, our platform offers access to a diverse selection of income-generating alternative assets.

We also partner with large, profitable companies, helping them raise debt capital on our platform. This not only facilitates liquidity but also helps them fully realise their business potential. For the last three years, we’ve been delivering consistent double-digit returns to our investors at Kilde, all while ensuring their capital remains secure.

What made you launch a startup?

Radek Jezbera Co-founder and CEO, Kilde
Radek Jezbera Co-Founder and CEO, Kilde

I am from Prague, Czech Republic, a place I hold dear to my heart. However, since 2006, I’ve made my home abroad. I’ve spent over 20 years in IT transformation and management consulting, working across the telecom, banking and consulting sectors in Europe and Asia.

My path to Singapore started during my tenure with a consulting firm in London. A client introduced me to Singapore, and I was immediately taken by its vibrant business landscape. This spurred me to set up a startup in this bustling city.

We launched a consulting company that generated USD million in annual revenue, building credit risk analytics for large entities like banks and payment companies, and helping them refine their operational processes.

After my stint in consulting, I was itching to delve into the product business world, with its vast potential for scalability. That’s when Oleg Kryukovskiy and I co-founded Kilde, a company that harnesses our know-how in credit analytics and big data to make smart calls in the private credit sector. This latest venture has given me the chance to use my expertise and experience in a way that’s both more scalable and more impactful.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Kilde is shaking things up in private credit investment by levelling the playing field for individuals and institutions. We’re doing away with hefty fees, liquidity issues and lack of clarity, making it a breeze for investors to find and invest in alternative assets.

Our investments don’t move in sync with public markets, so recent market ups and downs haven’t affected our investors. This kind of stability has won over a lot of investors, especially family offices and private credit funds, who’ve been putting more money into private credit this year. Kilde offers a steady fixed income at a cost that’s just a fraction of what these institutions would have to expense if they tried investing directly into our borrowers.

Can you talk us through your major milestones?

We’re pretty proud of the success we’ve had so far. We’re currently delivering a 12% annual return to our investors year-to-date, which is impressive compared to similar risk investments that offer around 8%.

We work with big, cash-rich companies in Europe, Central and Southeast Asia’s emerging markets. These firms provide collateral for the loans we give out. They include consumer finance companies, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) firms and SME lending firms. All these align perfectly with my expertise in credit risk.

Since we kicked off in February 2021, we’ve kept our delinquency rate at a neat 0.0%. Right now, we’re managing about $14 million in assets, and we’re shooting to end the year with over $40 million.

One of the main reasons we’re seeing this growth is our rock-solid commitment to keeping investor funds safe. We’re licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and DBS Bank, one of Asia’s top financial institutions, safeguards our customer funds. Plus, our bonds are secured by cash-generating collateral through pledged receivables from the underlying loans.

Who are your main competitors and what distinguishes your startup from them?

Competition isn’t just good — it’s fantastic. It gives both investors and borrowers a range of options to choose from. Plus, having competitors just proves that the market we’re targeting is legitimate.

One of our major strengths is our firm roots in Singapore — Asia’s equivalent of Switzerland — where a hefty chunk of South East Asian private wealth is managed.

But that’s not all. We also have a scalable tech stack that lets us automate credit analysis for our borrowers and distribute investments among our investors without breaking a sweat.

And the cherry on top? Our investors can access their investment positions and account statements anytime, anywhere.

Don’t get too attached to your ideas or the product you’ve created. Instead, become obsessed with your customers and the challenges they’re grappling with.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time?

You know, there isn’t some magic trick to being more successful. Sure, if I could go back in time with all the knowledge and skills I’ve picked up from building ventures over the years, I’d probably do way better in my past jobs. But hey, you can’t beat yourself up over past mistakes. They’re just stepping stones to becoming better, both personally and professionally.

If I had to give my younger self a piece of advice though, it’d be to quit jobs or projects quicker when they’re not working out. Looking back, there’s no need to feel bad about leaving a job, even if you’re only a month in, if you can tell it’s not right for you.

What are the key factors contributing to the success of startups in Singapore?

The main ingredients for your success are the market you target, the crew you collaborate with, and the abilities and know-how you cultivate to cater to that market. Ideally, you’d want to pick a market that’s massive and expanding rapidly. Those are the kinds of markets that produce unicorn companies.

The squad you assemble, particularly your co-founders, will dictate whether you can tackle the challenges you aim to solve and the speed at which you progress.

Lastly, you need to create something that provides you with a unique edge over existing competitors and deliver a solution that’s ten times more effective than what’s currently on offer.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone looking to launch their startup?

First off, I’d suggest figuring out what’s really driving you to start a business. Next, remember that launching a startup is tough, and going solo can make it even tougher. So, I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a co-founder or two.

Finally, don’t get too attached to your ideas or the product you’ve created. Instead, become obsessed with your customers and the challenges they’re grappling with.

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Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.