My books in 2019

The year is coming to an end and like last year (My books in 2018), I am blogging about the books I have read this year. Initially, my goal was to read 52 books (one per week), however, I changed my mindset already in the first half of the year. I decided not to focus on the outcome (number of books) but rather make sure to read the right books and make reading a continuous daily routine. I am not extremely satisfied with all the books I have selected in 2019 but are satisfied with the number of hours I invested in reading.

My book selection in 2019 was mostly through recommendations from friends and Twitter. In comparison to last year, I have split all the books into different categories since I realised it is hard to compare books with a very different style. Also, I did not rank them against each other anymore but put them in three different categories for each segment: Books I recommend, maybe-recommend and books I don’t recommend. Additionally, I have added a small star (*) to my most favourite books of the year.

These were my books in 2019:

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My Vipassana experience: Ten days in noble silence

A few weeks ago I got back to Berlin from a nearly six week trip to India. I stayed most of the time with my family-in-law in Mumbai but at the very beginning of my trip, I went for a ten days Vipassana (kind of meditation retreat) in Mumbai. In this blog post, I am describing my experience and answers a few questions I have received. So there is no FinTech in this blog post this time 😉

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A new law makes it mandatory to issue receipts in Germany. Blessing or curse for merchants?

Starting next year, most merchants in Germany have to provide a receipt for their customers after a purchase. If you have travelled or lived in other countries, this might be very normal to you. I know quite well the signs in cafes and restaurants in India that say “If you don’t receive a receipt, consider your meal free”.

Providing a receipt is not a legal requirement in India, but it was implemented by merchants themselves in order to avoid stealing from employees, but in Germany, it is a legal requirement. The legislator wants to prevent tax fraud and is hoping that more merchants will record accurate sales numbers, and thus, tax payments will increase.

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The Open Bank Project in India

A few months ago I broke up with my cofounder and stopped working on our idea to build a digital credit card service for SMEs in Europe (see my blog post). Even though I find the idea still fascinating I decided to take some time off and started freelancing instead. Freelancing is a great way of working with different teams on different problems and that has many benefits, nevertheless, I see this as an intermediate step before jumping into my next startup.

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The art of (not) picking the right cofounder

They say picking your cofounder is like picking your spouse and I guess one of the parallels is that many don’t marry their high school love…

I mentioned in my last blog post that I am working on my own FinTech venture. The idea was an online service for SMEs to obtain and manage corporate credit cards. An acquaintance had contacted me a few months before and discussed the problem his company was having with corporate credit cards. We delved into the problem, checked available solutions and decided early this year to build such a service. We made good progress and at the end of April I left figo to focus full time on this idea.

Last week I informed my cofounder-to-be that I will drop out of partnership and not pursue the idea with him together. What happened? I came to the realisation that both of us are not the perfect match required to build a successful startup. Continue reading

A personal update

“It could be over in three months from now”. I was sitting in the house of figo co-founder André Bajorat and we were chatting about the potential of turning figo from a B2C banking app into a banking API provider. I had just returned from my master studies in the US a few months before and was eager to pitch André my crowdfunding business idea. I was hoping to get some introduction to people that were working in the space and perhaps find a cofounder. Instead André presented me the opportunity of figo and Open Banking. I wasn’t sure where this could lead to, but that uncertainty made it even more excited. Fortunately, I decided to pause the work on my own idea and joined figo in January 2014. During my master studies, I have spent a lot of time with people with an entrepreneurial mindset, back home in Germany my friends and network were in investment banking or consulting. I remember a few reactions but one in particular: “You are selling access to bank accounts to accounting tool providers? How will that ever be a successful company?”.

Bye bye figo

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B2B FinTech fundings

This week was predominated by the funding announcement of three FinTech companies: Iwoca (150m GBP debt and equity), GoCardless (75m USD equity) and Mambu (30m EUR equity). What makes these three announcements a bit special is – beside the fact that all of them announced them on the same day – that all providers are offering B2B solutions. Iwoca and GoCardless addressing the needs of SMEs in their respective markets and Mambu offering services to banks, financial institutions and similar providers.

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Report: Open Banking around the world

Nearly a year ago I had written a blog post about the development of open banking around the world. The blog post was focused on the development in Asia and Oceania, mostly driven by the development in Australia.

This week I have read the Open Banking report by PwC (The future of banking is open How to seize the Open Banking opportunity) highlighting the development around Open Banking. Of course with a strong focus on the development in Europe and mostly UK, however, the report also covered briefly the development in other countries.

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Learnings from Unified Payments Interface in India

Nearly one year ago I have written about the beta launch of WhatsApp payments in India (Blog post). The service allows any payments-activated user of WhatsApp in India to send money to other WhatsApp users. However, the service is not yet available nationwide, due to regulatory problems. The Indian regulator requires WhatsApp to process the payment data purely on Indian servers but it is currently being processed on Facebook servers in the US. WhatsApp is in discussion with the regulators to find a solution. Most likely WhatsApp will comply with the request from Indian authorities and might also set up a payments team in India (another request from the regulator). It would probably be a worthwhile move since WhatsApp has more than 200 million monthly active users in India making it’s the biggest market for WhatsApp. Apparently there are already one million WhatsApp user activated for the payment feature (Source). Payment services are on a rise in India and due to the success of other providers definitely not an opportunity WhatsApp wants to miss out.

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Commerzbank revealed its API Hub

This week another German bank has revealed their Developer Centre or API Hub in this case. This time it was Commerzbank.

As we are approaching the deadline in most European countries to release test APIs in March and the release of production APIs in September this year, we will probably see more and more of these Developer Centres being revealed. Generally, this is a good sign as it is an indicator that banks see PSD2 as a chance to provide a little more to developers than just access to accounts. Since Commerzbank is not really known to be a leader in API banking so far, it is pretty good to see the launch of their portal, nevertheless, so far the portal is nothing more than a landing page which is indicating certain APIs and the chance to register.

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