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
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s the beginning of a new year. I hope all of you had a good start into the new year and are excited about 2019. What does the new year have in store for us? In the banking / FinTech space the release of APIs by banks will probably have the biggest impact in 2019. The RTS will finally force banks to provide APIs for their payment accounts.
The year 2018 is coming to an end and it’s time for me to pick up my weekly blogging again. My last blog post is actually from May and a busy summer season gave me enough excuses to not start again. And once the habit is broken it’s easy to ignore it for a longer time. But now with the new year ahead and thinking about some new year resolutions, it’s a good moment to start this again.
Even though I have not been blogging in the second half of 2018 I have increased my reading time. Usually I am aiming to read one book per month which results o twelve books per year. In 2018 I have read in total twenty books and most of them in the second half of the year. Even though twenty is a lot more than twelve, there’s still plenty of room to increase this. Thus, my reading goal for 2019 is more like 40-50 books – and definitely plus weekly blogging as well!
I speak with early stage FinTech founders and project owners on a daily basis. FinTech wasn’t sexy when I started at figo in 2014 but is surily now for many people. The movement of digital transformation has arrived with a slight delay in the banking industry. This has many reasons, and personally, I believe PSD2 is one of the crucial ones. PSD2 and Open Banking in general is providing a complete new level playing field that attracts many industry outsiders. This is beneficial and supportive for FinTech, as banking has been an industry where most of the people have a long track record inside the industry. This is not negative in general, but it surely limits innovative efforts overall.
This week I haven’t found the time to write a proper fintech focused blog post. Easter is usually a good time to refocus and recharge. And that’s exactly what I’m doing these days. Mostly while enjoying the good weather in Berlin and finish reading “Principles” by Ray Dalio. Even though I haven’t finished the book yet, I can already highly recommend it.
I hope you’re enjoying your Easter days too and making the most out of it.