Interview Questions for Solar Staff CEO Pavel Shynkarenko
Fintech startups define the new age of how businesses are evolving everyday. With fintech, companies can employ thousands from different parts of the world, breaking the norm of how industries offer services traditionally. Among the fastest and most adopted ideas fintech startups are picking up are crypto payments.
We had an exclusive interview with Pavel Shynkarenko, the dynamic co-founder and CEO of Solar Staff. This innovative fintech payroll company has made significant strides in the global market by seamlessly connecting over 760,000 freelancers with 2800 businesses.
With two decades of experience in financial and legal technologies, Pavel has been instrumental in automating workflows and payments for businesses, thereby fostering a more flexible and effective remote work environment.
Pavel, please share a little about your background and how you started in the financial and legal technologies industries.
I started my business journey as a lawyer, after receiving by law degree in Ukraine in Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv
In 2005, I opened a private law practice, specializing in internet law, and in 2007 co-founded a company, providing legal services to internet companies, social media networks, and brands which then went global. I initiated several other ventures, focusing on copyright protection and tax counseling.
Soon I sought to create a product that was not entirely dependent on how much time I spent at work. It was also a convenient time to exit the legal field because launching legal entities was becoming increasingly difficult due to new restrictions.
In 2014, I co-founded Solar Staff, a fintech payroll company that enables businesses to work with freelancers from different regions. Today it is operating in New York, Limassol, Dubai, Yerevan, and Amsterdam, processing over 1.5 million tasks annually with a 2022 revenue of $12M.
Today I have over 20 years of experience in financial and legal technologies, business development, and client-contractor relationship automation, and I've lived in eight different countries, gaining valuable insights into diverse cultures and local business environments.
Aside from my legal and financial background, I also have a passion for photography and art. My works have been featured in galleries in Chicago, Hong Kong, San Diego, Vietnam, Barcelona, and Melbourne. Recently, I made an AI art collection that was exhibited in Cyprus and New York and selected art pieces from the collection have been chosen for presentation at the Burning Man festival.
How did the idea for Solar Staff come about, and what was the journey like to get it off the ground?
The concept for Solar Staff actually emerged from the combination of several factors.
While working in private legal practice, my focus involved supporting online businesses in their endeavors to expand into new markets, notably with a strong center of attention on international taxation regulations. During this period, I noticed the difficulties many companies faced when dealing with contractors and freelancers in different nations.
Moreover, I have already had an extensive background in international law firms and the history of establishing companies in different nations, such as Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and the USA. There I have gained valuable insights into the intricate business landscapes of various countries. This knowledge fueled the belief that a global service with substantial potential could be created.
Furthermore, I was seeking a departure from the agency business model, which demanded constant effort and involvement. Despite Solar Staff facing a financial setback in its initial four years, while the agency business generated millions of dollars, I was resolute in my desire to create a product that could eventually operate independently of the founder's daily involvement—a feat unattainable in the agency world.
Additionally, I possessed an extensive network of marketing agencies, CPAs, CTAs, and internet companies that were in need of such a localized product.
All these factors made Solar Staff as good, as it is today, being more than a localized product, but something really big.
Can you tell us more about Solar Staff's mission and vision? What sets it apart from other contractor management services?
Solar Staff is a fintech company with international reach that specializes in managing payroll for businesses that work with freelance contractors. Our services include talent onboarding, task management, security checks, payments to over 190 countries and territories, copyright transactions and tax payments for freelancers from different legal domains. We reduce bureautic burden by handling taxes, processing payments, transferring copyright privileges, verifying contractor background checks, providing reports and submitting task results. We cater especially to those who engage specialists from developing regions - introducing cryptocurrency withdrawals is one of the many things we do to make their life easier.
In comparison to other similar platforms, such as Deel or Remote, which are primarily focused on remote team management, Solar Staff is deeply involved in the deal, working closely with both parties to solve any problems that may arise. We maintain our focus on bridging the gap between freelancers from developing nations and companies in developed countries, which is a very important mission, which sets us apart from other traditional payroll platforms.
Also, we have separate customer support teams for companies and freelancers to mediate conflicts and provide personalized support. This approach helps reduce misunderstandings and emotional responses and creates a more calm and safe environment for all parties involved.
Can you explain the decision behind introducing cryptocurrency as a withdrawal method in Solar Staff?
For us, the emergence of cryptocurrency is another significant step in the global development of the service. We have noticed the ongoing freelancers’ challenge of withdrawing their funds, mainly because traditional banking systems and digital payment platforms frequently impose at least 3-4% of commission and may not be accessible to freelancers in all parts of the world.
So we have decided to conduct internal research, asking freelancers from all over the world about their payment and withdrawal methods, and it revealed that 34% of respondents named cryptocurrency as one of the preferred options.
Such an opportunity not only provides flexibility in withdrawing payments but also lets users use cryptocurrency for the investment purposes that particularly.
Additionally, the addition of cryptocurrency will help us to promote in those regions where this problem is most acute and it is a popular alternative to banks. Freelancers, particularly digital nomads, the number of which has tripled since 2020, are actively using cryptocurrency with a 27% increase in 2023 in comparison to the last year, and now they can seamlessly withdraw earnings through our platform.
It will expand the base of freelancers our clients can work with several times over. Ultimately, so we are a B2C2B and B2B2C service, we benefit from this anyway
How does the process of cryptocurrency withdrawal work for your contractors?
The process is seamlessly easy. To access this feature, contractors will only need to link their wallets to USDT (TRC 20); USDT (ERC20) or TRON (ETH). When a contractor receives the money from the customer, they can withdraw it to the connected wallet.
How has the partnership with Coinspaid facilitated this move towards crypto payments?
Coinspaid is a prominent crypto-financial ecosystem with over 41M transactions processed by April 2023, which make it a big player in the crypto industry. Such partnership provides an opportunity to offer the withdrawal fee of just 1%, which is 3 times less than the traditional banks offer. This means more savings for our contractors and more chances for us to explore new areas and bring in new clients. We're really happy we took this opportunity.
How have your contractors responded to being paid in cryptocurrencies like USDT and TRON?
As we have just added crypto, we don't have full statistics on the contractors’ opinion. Based on preliminary internal research we know, that:
34% of respondents mentioned cryptocurrency as a desired withdrawal method
52.4% of respondents are not ready to pay a commission
34.8% of respondents are prepared to pay 1-2% withdrawal fee
7.7% of respondents are prepared to pay 2-5%.
We are planning to have the first implementation results in a week.
In the near future, will paying employees in cryptocurrency become a standard practice in the gig economy?
The Interest in cryptocurrency will continue to grow, but mainly in terms of one of the payment methods. Most likely the gig workers won’t want to earn exclusively in cryptocurrency, as digital currencies are volatile, with their values fluctuating more dramatically than traditional currencies on a daily basis.
Employees prefer stability and the assurance of knowing exactly how much they will earn. Nevertheless, offering cryptocurrency as a withdrawal option is a different matter, as it allows individuals to choose whether they wish to receive their earnings in cryptocurrency or opt for a more conventional currency like USD.
How do you see cryptocurrencies, specifically USDT, transforming businesses in the future?
Cryptocurrencies, especially Stablecoins, have a massive chance of winning against centralized digital money. The nature of this winning lies in competing for the speed and security of transactions, especially international ones.
Because banking systems are getting more complex, especially international ones, businesses can turn around and use crypto instead of fiat money.
What potential challenges do you foresee in adopting crypto in business transactions? As a leader in this space, how is Solar Staff planning to navigate these challenges and continue innovating?
As I mentioned before, my vision is that shortly, crypto will be used as a replacement for the weak banking infrastructure in developing economies like Africa and the APAC region.
We will deliver opportunities to the freelancers in these regions and allow them to use crypto as a fast and reliable withdrawal method.
Can you share some of Solar Staff's future plans? Are there any new features or services in the pipeline that you're particularly excited about?
Solar Staff has some exciting future plans in the pipeline. We are gearing up to transform Solar Staff into three different products made to suit distinct sectors of business activities. Furthermore, we're enthusiastic about introducing several new features and services. This includes mass payment services, the integration of additional payment methods such as PayPal, and the provision of expert consultancy on nomad visas for freelancers. While I can't divulge all the details at this moment, rest assured that we have substantial ambitions for the company's growth and development.
How does Solar Staff plan to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving gig economy landscape?
We are relying heavily on our mass payout solution. Drawing from Solar Staff's extensive experience in the field, we have developed a product that expedites the establishment of a marketplace infrastructure, reducing the timeline from the typical six months to just one month.
Let's consider Bolt's, for example, potential entry into the Brazilian marketplace. For Bolt to succeed, they would require a range of critical component:
- a substantial onboarding system
- seamless integration with various payment gateways to facilitate mass payments to drivers in different currencies and via different cards
- a sophisticated billing system with comprehensive transaction reports
- and other essential features.
Solar Staff is able to deliver all these crucial elements, thereby equipping companies like Bolt with the necessary tools to thrive in the gig economy landscape.
Finally, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who want to integrate crypto into their businesses?
I advise using proven crypto transaction solutions and not taking the additional risk of starting with something utterly untested by practice. By unproven solutions, I mean those that belong to licensed players who still need a proven track record of success.
The crypto market is full of ups and downs. Scandals like FTX crush significantly impact reliability, so you need to find suitable partners while implementing such solutions as we do.