Building an e-commerce empire: Una Brands’ CFO reveals the secret to growing 20 Brands across 6 Countries in less than 3 years

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Content Team
Last Modified on
December 19, 2023

In our fourth episode of the #CFOTalks Podcast, we sat down with Cho Weihao, CFO of an e-commerce startup that is taking over Southeast Asia - Una Brands.

We deep dive into Una Brands’ unique business model, Cho’s journey from investment banking to leading finance at startups, and his advice on striking the perfect balance between growth and profitability.

The most crucial part of a modern CFO’s role 

“As a CFO, you have the best overall picture of the financial health of the company, encompassing monthly financials, cash flow, budgeting and projections. These all tie together - forming your overall strategy. CFOs have an integral role in communicating this information to other key stakeholders within the firm. You play a role in demonstrating the ROI of being data-driven, boosting productivity and how these can be beneficial for the company. 

By enabling digital transformation, you can play a more value-adding role. For example in the finance department, automating certain functions allows your team to contribute to more value-adding positions, rather than solely dedicating time to balancing books. Making things more efficient frees up time for the finance team to team up with leaders and function heads, allowing them to interpret the data and numbers.”

How Cho balances the trade-off between growth and profitability to raise their Pre-Series C 

It’s a difficult issue and involves a lot of stakeholder management and getting buy-ins. There are many different demands with regard to how people are incentivised. As a senior executive, you really have to weigh and assess the overall condition of the business and the microclimate given everything you know about the stakeholders. You have to manage them appropriately and be an effective leader in terms of communication - making different parties understand why you are making certain decisions. Today, I’d say in general we are a lot more focused on profitability, cash flow and cash burn.

Navigating the entrepreneurial journey: Advice to aspiring CFOs 

“Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster journey with different fires to fight every day, but it is also extremely impactful and rewarding. You can uplift lives and improve financial inclusion. If you take a step back and think about how our lives have changed through tools like Zoom and delivery platforms, these are largely driven by entrepreneurs who thought of the impossible. 

There are two things to note. Firstly, you have to be mentally and emotionally ready - have the determination and understanding before you dive in. Secondly, you need to be adaptable and be flexible in your approach. Startup life is never one straight linear line. Your company and the macroenvironment are evolving and you have to potentially change or pivot.” 

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