Exactly twelve months ago I left figo, the startup I have been working for more than five years. I left with the perfect plan: to found my own Fintech startup. But, as I have described painfully in a previous blog post, I broke up with the co-founder and idea before it got really serious.
As I was not sure what to do next, I decided to take time with my decision and not rush into anything. Therefore, I switched into a freelance role and I started working with FinTech companies in my network. It started with small projects around Open Banking but quickly increased to supplier selection and integration, early product development, go-to-market strategy and strategic partnerships. Working with different teams on different problems (including some in different countries) enabled me to learn a lot about different FinTech areas but also about my personal interest. For a brief time, I was even working with one bigger FinTech startup full-time in order to spin a new venture out. However, this did not work out for multiple reasons.
Next to all of this, I kept looking for my „next thing“. I was ideally looking for a problem that I wanted to solve by founding my own startup or join another early stage team on their mission to solve a big problem. I have spoken to many different founders and teams and together we looked at many different problems and areas. Without being very specific, the areas I focused on were:
- SME credit cards
- SME digital banking
- SME lending
- SME accounting
- B2B payment
- Machine-to-machine payments
- Consumer digital banking
- Consumer lending
- Digital purchase receipt
- … and probably a few more
As you can see, I can get excited about new ideas quite easily and have looked at various areas. While I am still interested and curious about most of these topics, I have not been able to convince myself that a single one of them is an area that I want to focus on for the next 5 – 8 years. I came to the conclusion that either I have a lack of focus or I just enjoy working in different FinTech areas at the same time. That made me realize that also during my time at figo, I had the rare opportunity to work with FinTech startups from various areas on a daily basis. Yes, I was selling our API to them and thus had a strong focus on Open Banking. Nevertheless, most of these players acted in different industries, had different needs and product requirements. This put me in the position to learn and understand different FinTech areas quickly. Actually, it was always my plan to leave figo after just a few years in order to start my own startup. Perhaps the reason I stayed for more than five years was this unique chance to learn so much about different FinTech areas.
This realization led me to two things:
Firstly, I am less stressed about my freelance work. Even though I am enjoying this kind of work, I often had a subconscious feeling that I am wasting my time: „You are just helping others but are not building your own startup. You are not getting any younger!“ I told myself. I was able to break out of this and I am enjoying my role as a supporter of various FinTech projects.
Secondly, I am focusing a lot on FinTech infrastructure topics these last months. I still have the goal to start my own startup but I know I do not want to start a venture just for the sake of it. My startup should enable others to build new FinTech products (preferably from industry outsiders). I have been doing research around potential „Open Banking 2.0“, „Banking-as-a-service 2.0“ and other infrastructure ideas and discussed this with Fintech founders. It is not an easy space (what is an easy space?) and thus right timing and setup will be crucial. I will keep searching for this, and until then, helping others build their FinTech products will be my pure focus.
Call to action: If you are a FinTech founder or building FinTech products and have encountered a specific problem that you found hard to solve, I would love to chat and learn. Please reach out!