Shane Happach, CEO, Mollie

Season 2, Episode 42,   Sep 13, 2022, 02:14 PM

We chat with Mollie’s CEO Shane Happach about the strategic business value of payment services companies and how to effectively communicate and lead a corporation.

Our guest in this 29th interview episode with a unicorn start-up leader is the CEO of Mollie, Shane Happach
Founded in 2004, Mollie makes it easier for small businesses and start-ups across Europe when it comes to connecting payment systems, banks and other providers of payment services. As one of Europe's fastest-growing payment service providers, Mollie reached unicorn status in September 2020 and is now valued at $6.5 billion. 

Shane Happach started his leadership journey in a quite un-entrepreneurial way, as he likes to point out. He joined as an early employee for Global Collect when the company only had 35 workers. By the time he left, the business had a staff of 500 people. When he arrived at Mollie, the job wasn’t about optimising, but rather building the business from top to bottom. 

Unlike other successful startups where the CEO is also one of the founders, Shane came to Mollie after the company was already established as a unicorn. He had to find a way to complement with his skills the work that the founder and the rest of the leadership team had done for the company. Now both work efficiently to leverage each other's expectation, having in their best interests the growth of the company. With Mollie being one of the most valuable start-ups in Europe, Shane says that this is a huge validation of their business model, but it is not the top measure of success that they look at.  Happach has big plans for Mollie, he wants to expand their financial services and fit their product into the Western Europe market, and finally go pan-European. But ultimately, he says: "We don't see any reason why this couldn't be a global category business as well.”  

There is not a book that can teach you as much as experience does. Happach mentions that a lot of what he has learned comes from making mistakes and figuring out what you don’t want to become and how you don’t want to lead. For him, most of the achievements feel like team accomplishments, rather than taking and giving individual credit. Living in different countries allowed him to draw on from the American leadership style, Dutch style and even Latin American style: “I would say I'm a mutt, but only the best of breed.” 

Understanding the complexity of their product as a payment service provider is key to getting it right for their clients, says Happach. There is no merit in pronouncing yourself as an expert and closing your mind to new ideas. “It's finding people that are really good at that and are willing to work at it incessantly in spite of personality differences, cultural differences, geographic and time zone differences that's always, I think, every leader's greatest challenge”, he points out.  

“Be bold, be loved, be authentic” are Mollie’s values. Shane Happach says that the company wants to make sure people can express themselves in their work environment and feel there are opportunities to progress. The fact that the industry has developed over time does not mean that there will not continue to be disruptive developments, even if they have not yet occurred. “And those are likely to come from companies that allow people that kind of intellectual freedom”, says Mollie's CEO.  

Shane says that to successfully communicate your views you have to respect that people consume information differently and you also need to make the leadership team more approachable. You will find Happach walking around the hallways at Mollie and having a casual coffee with workers. He explains that he’s not hard to find because “there's one coffee machine that serves at least 150 people”, and he drinks a lot of coffee.  

The interview, as usual, was co-hosted with Russell Goldsmith of the csuite podcast

We have distilled the most valuable, actionable insights from our first 15 interviews with leaders of unicorn companies and bottled them in our book ‘Growing without borders: The unicorn CEO guide to communication and culture’. You can download it here