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From founders’ idealism to flourishing startup

Velocity company founders of Float named on Forbes 30 under 30 Toronto list


As computer science students, Ruslan Nikolaev (BCS ‘20) and Griffin Keglevich just wanted to build cool things.

They are the co-founders of Float, a startup specializing in corporate expense management. Their accomplishments include raising $31.7 million in funding and bringing on a third co-founder and CEO, Rob Khazzam — the former general manager at Uber Canada.

Now they have been recognized in the first ever Forbes 30 Under 30 Local 2023: Toronto list.

Nikolaev and Keglevich joined Velocity in 2019 to work on a company related to computer vision. Soon after, however, they abandoned their original business idea.

“At Velocity, we went through a good number of ideas until landing on Float,” says Keglevich. “Many have that idealism and cool ideas to work on, but a startup has to give tangible value to the world and that’s what we learned from Velocity — how to validate a problem, figure out how you’re actually going to solve it and then solve it.”

Both say it was difficult to set aside the passion for coding and focus on talking to customers. But it was necessary and ultimately how Float was born.

“Expense reporting is not something we thought we were going to be working on,” Nikolaev says. “But we knew the software would make a difference to finance teams and wanted to create an intuitive and powerful experience that scales with businesses.”

Following months of pure discovery, Float incorporated in 2020, and it was time for the two computer scientists to build a product. After raising a pre-seed round, Float spent two years building the first version of their product, a corporate expense card for small businesses.

Today, the full suite of software can serve businesses of up to 500 people, helping finance teams manage the intricacies of expense accounting. Some of Float’s 3,000-plus corporate clients include Neo Financial, Knix, Clutch and Nerva Energy.

Keglevich says founders are faced with many difficult decisions. For Float to scale effectively and fast they decided to recruit a third co-founder, Khazzam.

“Standing in front of a problem you have to ask yourself: ‘are you the right people to solve it?’” he says. “We knew customers want this product, but we needed the right team — that took humility and in the end was a great decision.”

Nikolaev says having conviction to solve a problem is important but, in the long term, insufficient to grow the business — it is essential to hire the right people and establish company culture.

“From day one we never doubted the scale of this problem and wanted to achieve the potential but there are many difficult things you have to do aside from building a product and we wanted to bring in the right leader to help do that.”

He adds that Float’s future is bright.

“We’ve created an intuitive and powerful experience that scales with the business and helps companies save time and money — the future is huge for Float because every company needs to spend money.”

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