Alumni Q&A: Taavi, Salv co-founder and CEO

ComplianceTallinn

I’ve taken a lot of learnings from my time at TransferWise into my business, things like customer-focus, setting KPIs and planning deliverables, to mention a few. But one of the most valuable takeaways has been the people I met. My co-workers from TransferWise have helped me by offering invaluable chats, mentoring and cross-validation of my thoughts. Towards the end of my time at TransferWise I also had a chat with Kristo, the CEO, to hear his thoughts on my business idea.

Current role: CEO and co-founder of Salv

When did you join TransferWise and how long did you work here?

I joined TransferWise in 2013 and was there for almost 4 years.

Why did you join TransferWise?

I used to work for Skype and knew that a lot of talented people from there had joined TransferWise. I’d heard a lot of good things about the culture and that it was a place where you can really do something big and have an impact. On top of that, I had a tech background from Skype and a financial background from previously working in the banking industry, so joining a FinTech seemed natural to me. 

What did you do at TransferWise?

I started as a Compliance Lead, reconstructing our Anti-Money Laundering (AML) policy for the UK, US, Canada and Australia. After this, I did lots of hiring, building our Fraud, AML and Chargeback teams. I learned a lot about building and managing teams and planning appropriately, as well as setting KPIs and goals.

After a bit over 2 years, I moved to the Product side. I was managing the build of our Verification and AML tools to scale our systems for our growing user base. My job was to ensure we’re compliant to regulatory requirements all over the world.

What did you like the most about working here?

The culture – people take full responsibility for their areas and are trusted to make decisions on their own. The trust given to employees is unique, and people are hired for this culture fit, rather than ticking boxes. I was hired without any background in compliance. What still amazes me about TransferWise is how the culture has remained despite scaling so quickly. 

What does your business do?

Salv is an anti-money laundering, crime-fighting platform for financial institutions. We’re helping companies to automatically monitor and control Anti-Money Laundering (AML) risk while assessing customer behaviour quickly and accurately. Salv is creating the product institutions’ need to move from mere compliance to proactively detecting and stopping financial crime. Today, only around 1-2% of money laundering is detected. At Salv, we want to change that and help the good guys finally get ahead.

What has it been like kick-starting your own business?

Starting my own company had been a lifelong dream of mine. Being an entrepreneur is exciting as you’ve got all the opportunities in your hands, but it’s a huge responsibility. 

The biggest challenge is to juggle it all and prioritise. You need to hire, develop the product and make sure your current customers are happy, all while trying to find new customers. So it’s a big balancing act to understand what’s possible to promise and deliver, to keep your business running and customers happy, while not overworking yourself.

Any tips for those thinking about starting their own business?

Build your network and get connected with people who’ve worked in fast-growing companies in their early stages to learn as much as possible — sponge in all the learnings and skills you can from your job. You’ll need them all when setting up your own business.