Q&A- Startups

7 Questions with Alex Mifsud of Weavr.io

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure. 

I’m an entrepreneur, so no surprise that I’m intensely curious about why things are the way they are, and what would happen if we can change how they are.  That’s true for me in business and everything else I do – it drives my family a bit crazy, but someone has to do it.  Otherwise we’d still be in the Stone Age.  I basically like to tinker – doing little experiments, whether I’m cooking a meal or building a business. It’s fun, experiencing old things in new ways, although it can sometimes be disastrous too. Not everyone likes my cooking.

2. Which product or service do you offer, and who are your competitors? 

Weavr is making it possible, easy even, for non-financial applications to integrate financial services into them.  Examples, in online retail for instance, include enabling customers to split the payment for an order across multiple people, or providing a way for customers to save up for an expensive item, or for them to ask somebody else to contribute to the cost of it.  The concept of integrating financial services into non-financial applications is called embedded finance, and Weavr and its competitors like Railsbank in the UK and Solarisbank in Germany are finally making it possible.  What makes Weavr different from its competitors is that it is far easier, far quicker and far less expensive for innovators to use; this is because Weavr’s technology automates the hardest thing about providing embedded finance: ensuring security and compliance with regulation in the context of the non-financial application.

3. How did you get the business idea and take it from launch to the first customers? 

My co-founder Adrian and I spent many years dealing with this problem of ‘contextual security and compliance’ in our previous businesses.  An application to pay for parking has a completely different risk from an application to buy a car.  So there isn’t a single solution that works for every situation.  Our big idea is that we discovered a way to describe financial solutions that makes it easy to understand the risks and to create a way to manage those risks.  We could then automate this approach and save many man-years by avoiding all the specialist effort that goes into designing embedded financial solutions, legal drafting, and building custom risk management that are normally needed.

Our first customers were innovators who found it too complex, too slow and too expensive to achieve what they wanted from embedded finance.  These included digital disrupters shaping the future of work, education, healthcare, and real estate.  In every case, they were excited to discover that Weavr’s approach provided a simple, fast and affordable solution for them to integrate financial services in their mobile apps and SaaS platforms.

4. How have you financed your startup? Any lessons would you like to share from the fund-raising journey? 

We financed Weavr in stages. The original financing to build our unique technology came mostly from the EU Horizon2020 programme which finances Deep Tech projects across Europe.  To commercialize the technology we developed, we started by winning competitions to get grants, as well as using our own money of course, and then getting angel investment and later VC funding. At every step of the way, we’ve engaged closely with real customers – talking to them constantly, and – more importantly – really listening to them: our customer told our investors directly how much they value what Weavr is doing, and that’s been a real help in raising money.  One other lesson from fundraising is that it is worth considering investors as a kind of customer – they are buying parts of your business with the expectation that it will be successful and deliver a financial return.  So in the same way, it’s important to listen to investors when pitching – in that way you can take feedback to create a better investment product for them to buy.

5. What’s your ask/ how could our network help you in the next 6-12 months? 

Our biggest need is to drive awareness of what Embedded Finance can do for all types of digital businesses, and how our unique approach makes Embedded Finance accessible to all serious innovators.  Our network is already sending this message out to the market, and we want more and more of this – we want to reach every single innovator in Europe who can benefit from adding Embedded Finance to their business.

6. Which key trends and opportunities should we be watching in (European) finance? 

Embedded finance of course – this is a powerful new distribution channel for banking.  If the 2010s was the decade of mobile and web banking, the 2020s are looking to be the decade of embedded banking.  I would also add Decentralised Finance (DeFi) which is a powerful approach to creating new more efficient financial services without central owners and mostly without the need for expensive intermediaries.  Another big theme, driven by the Covid19 pandemic, is the emergence of the ‘low touch economy’ where traditional human interactions such as paying with cash, or ordering food from a physical menu are being replaced with digital alternatives.  New forms of payments and commercials are being adopted at a very rapid rate to capture this change in human interaction.

7. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list, and what’s your favorite place for a coffee or a drink?

I read all kinds of things.  Just picking a couple at random: Platform Revolution by Geoffrey Parker and his colleagues, is a great business book to surgically analysis how platform business work, Product-Led Growth by Wes Bush is a thin but useful guide to building products that are sold by customers experiencing their value rather than being told by a salesperson, and – if anyone like obscure quirky novels, I can recommend Novel Explosives, written by a self-confessed Marxist Venture Capitalist.  As for that drink, right now I’m thinking of the Bridge Bar in Valletta, Malta.  It’s open air and sprawling on to the stairs leading down to the Grand Harbour, great view and a relaxing welcoming vibe.