Address: Ballysheedy, Gort, Galway                  Email:                          Phone: 085 197 5326

Former Ireland rugby captain Jamie Heaslip discusses why he was drawn to a career with a fintech start-up and how he plans to strengthen Flender’s brand in the coming months.

At the end of January, former Ireland and Leinster rugby captain Jamie Heaslip announced that he was set to join Dublin-based fintech start-up Flender in a full-time role as head of brand marketing.

Prior to taking on the role, Flender was one of a number of start-ups that Heaslip had invested in, along with Kitman Labs and Pointy, which was acquired by Google at the start of this year. recently caught up with Heaslip to chat about what drew him to Flender as an investor, his objectives in the new role, and how he’s transferring his skills from a hugely successful career in professional rugby to the world of business.

‘There has to be an alternative’

Launched in 2016, Flender offers flexible, multi-purpose loans to Irish SMEs. In 2019, the company funded more than €13m in SME loans and secured an additional €75m funding line to provide loans to Irish businesses in 2020.

When we asked Heaslip why Flender, of all the fintech companies in Dublin, stood out as an attractive investment prospect, he said that the move was inspired by his own experience setting up businesses in Ireland.

In particular, it was related to the opening of Lemon & Duke in Dublin 2 and The Bridge 1859 in Dublin 4 – the two pubs he set up with former teammates Seán O’Brien and Rob and Dave Kearney.

Heaslip said that at the time of applying for a loan, it would have been hugely helpful if a service like Flender could have let them know within a day whether or not the loan was approved. Shortly after he opened the pubs, Heaslip met the team from Flender and realised that he may have found a solution to that problem.

‘We punch above our weight in general, but when you look at Ireland you see that SMEs are the beating heart of this economy’

“When we opened the pubs we were lucky with the banks, but they took their time and this could have potentially caused us a lot of problems. I thought, there has to be an alternative to this.

“Speed is often of the essence for SMEs, in terms of capturing the opportunity. You can’t wait six to eight weeks just to hear that the banks are going to say no in the end. At the core of it, that’s what really interested me in Flender as an investor.”

Besides seeing this kind of value for individual businesses, Heaslip also saw the potential benefits for the start-up and scale-up community.

“I looked at Flender and realised that their main aim is to empower business in Ireland. With any investments I’ve made, those investments have been in companies that solve a problem at scale or enabled someone at scale,” he said.

“It’s kind of like sports. In Ireland, we’ve always punched above our weight in terms of how we’ve done as a sporting body and as a business body. All around the world there’s Irish people peppered throughout the C-rooms of companies across all kinds of verticals. We punch above our weight in general, but when you look at Ireland you see that SMEs are the beating heart of this economy.”

The former rugby captain said that with Flender, he wants to make SMEs “fit and healthy” while enabling future growth.

A man in a grey suit in front of a green wall.

Jamie Heaslip. Image: Flender

Heaslip’s role at Flender

After learning more about the start-up, Heaslip began working as a brand ambassador while still playing rugby. “I couldn’t really spend much time on it while I was playing, but I was trying to help them with campaign ideas that they had, while working as the face of the business. It was quite light-touch,” he said.

But after retiring from rugby, and spending a stint working at Google, Heaslip decided it was time to move into Flender full time.

“They’ve grown the business. We’re about to hit €20m in business loans given out since our inception in 2017 and in Q4 of last year, we secured a €75m credit line from an asset finance company, so that kind of changed the game a little bit.

“Flender needed someone to come in and look after their brand, helping it to become more well known in the marketplace and to curate it a little bit. That really interested me, as well as the appeal of being part of a team that’s growing and scaling. We have about 20 people now, so it’s really exciting.”

SME Finance

If you are an SME or Sole-trader looking for finance to expand you business get in touch today.

We have the finance solution to meet your requirements.

Contact Us

Our Address

SME Finance Solutions
Ballybane Enterprise Centre

Phone Contacts

Contact Sean: 089 955 3464

Email Us Now

We'll respond within 24h.