Having raised its largest round of funding yet amidst the pandemic, TAINA is now ramping up its international expansion plans.
Maria Scott knows a thing or two about the pain points that TAINA is solving for its clients. After working as a tax lawyer for almost two decades for one of the world’s largest financial institutions and law firms, she understands the costs and complexity of regulatory compliance for financial institutions. It is not just the cost of talented professionals doing manual jobs, build and maintenance of multiple systems that don’t speak to each other, regulatory fines but it is also causing frustration and onboarding delays for customers.
“It is so painful,” she says. ”That’s what gave me an understanding of the real gap, the real pain, the real need, for a solution,” she remembers”.
The realisation prompted her to found TAINA in 2016. The name stands for “Tax Artificial Intelligence Network Agent”
The area of regulatory compliance that TAINA focused on first is FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and CRS (Common Reporting Standards) which apply in 100+ countries on financial institutions of all types. This area of regulation has proven to be an effective revenue source for tax authorities and continues to become more complex, with new laws on the horizon and tougher enforcement expected.
Since the foundation of the business, TAINA has expanded from its UK headquarters to the US.
The latest round of funding round raised in2020 has also given the startup the opportunity to grow and to eye new markets. “We are about to go live in Switzerland with one of the world’s largest institutions,” Scott hints, adding that the TAINA’s Platform is actually applicable across the globe.”
Nevertheless, getting to this stage in the company’s journey has not been without its challenges. For starters, Scott was initially unsure that she could actually do it. “I was confident of what the solution needed to be,” Scott says. “But what I wasn’t confident of, at that time, was that I could actually build a sustainable business that people would join, invest in and that I could build a product people would buy.”
To get the skills needed to make TAINA a success, Scott enrolled in the University of Chicago Booth School of Business to do an MBA on top of launching the startup. “Those were very, very intense two years of my life and I’m really glad I did it that way,” she says.
By joining Chicago Booth, Scott learned how to run a business through her studies and by getting feedback from other students and the faculty. “That gave me confidence, frankly, and I knew the concept was validated,” she says.
She also tapped into the university’s extensive network, which empowered her to assemble a talented founding team to help her grow the RegTech startup. One of the mentors she met whilst at Booth was Chris Gladwin, whose last business was sold to IBM for USD 1.4bn. Gladwin helped Scott make the decision on her first hire, Richard Kent, who now serves as TAINA’s CTO. “That first hire was incredibly important because Rich was able to build this amazing technology team. I could not have done it without him,” Scott says.
Her Chicago Booth network also put her in touch with her earliest investors.
Another important mentor for Scott was a computer scientist at a Swiss specializing in reading documents, which was basically what TAINA’s artificial intelligence-powered solution was designed to do: to read forms and to fill them in quickly and accurately, saving talented professionals days of frustration and enabling them to do the work they’d trained for.
“That was a really important relationship for us because he helped me to essentially build the framework for the readers and now we work with his University on a continuous basis where they do their research which underpins our OCR technology,” she says.
Having assembled her founding team, Scott got to work developing the minimum viable product of TAINA’s solution in 2016. “It was a very crude MVP, it was very basic, but it allowed us to take feedback,” she says.
The feedback enabled the company to continue to develop a solution that reduces the risk, pain and costs of going through FATCA and CRS forms manually whilst, simultaneously, helping regulated companies provide a better customer experiences.
The TAINA team was also able to sign up their first client on the back of it in 2017. And the stellar feedback has continued since. “One of our clients, the global head of their tax operation essentially said that it’s like seeing an airplane fly for the first time,” Scott says. In the years since, TAINA has grown it has signed up some of the world’s largest financial institutions, Big 4, fund administrators and online trading platforms.
Then 2020 arrived, which proved a pivotal year for the business. Just like the rest of the world,
Covid-19 affected TAINA. “The pandemic is obviously a tragic thing,” she says. “We have had customers, team and families get sick and unfortunately even pass away and that was devastating.
Focusing on the positives, Scott has seen the appreciation of the TAINA’s Platform skyrocket over the course of the coronavirus crisis. “People now realise [that they] cannot rely on legacy systems,” she says. “What used to be good enough, it’s no longer sufficient. Now, it’s absolutely essential to bring in best in class systems that remove dependency on paper, empower global distributed teams, facilitate customer onboarding with a beautiful experience from whatever device they use .”
In June 2020, despite the raging pandemic, TAINA its largest funding round yet, backed by Six FinTech Ventures, Anthemis, Tribeca ESP and Reciprocal Ventures as well as its existing investors. “That particular round wasn’t really money driven for us,” Scott says. “It was all about finding the right partners for us to grow for the next stage for what we needed to do.”
The enterprise was particularly looking for strong partners in Switzerland, which had a very big market for TAINA to tap into. Six FinTech Ventures proved to be just the partner the startup was looking for. “SIXis an ecosystem of 140+ global and Swiss financial institutions,” Scott explains. “So they’re a wonderful partner for us, for many reasons, particularly for the Swiss market. Anthemis is also fantastic FinTech investor. We are genuinely, love working with each of our investors, as each of them brings a lot of experience and network necessary for growing a very large and sustainable RegTech business.”
TAINA has also been busy developing the product further and adding more functionality to it as well as running several global industry forums tackling key industry pain points. We get to industry consensus and then we build for it, following industry feedback” Scott says.
With the 2021 having just begun and the demand for RegTech solutions having shot through the roof, TAINA is ready to grow considerably in the years to come.