1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
My name is Bernadette Wijnings and I am co-founder of Blanco Services. My background is in strategy consulting, but I’m an entrepreneur at heart, having started multiple companies. At Blanco I am responsible for finance & investors, HR & culture and strategic projects (read: everything that is either difficult or important and needs a deep dive). I’m super proud of the team that I built. In a bit less than 5 years, we have grown Blanco together to a company with over 125 clients in The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. And it’s just the start :). I live in Amsterdam, am the proud mother of 5 kids, I love cooking, eating, good wines, magazines, books, art house movies, documentaries, yoga, walking, cities and beaches. And of course building companies.
2. Which product or service do you offer, and who are your competitors?
We offer a KYC platform for financial Institutions and a banking platform for wealth and asset managers. Our clients are banks, (independent) wealth and asset managers, funds and payment service providers. A competitor in the KYC space is Pega, Fenergo or Fourthline. Competitors for the banking platform are Advent, Objectway (Exemius), Temenos, FIS and Avaloq.
3. How did you get the business idea and take it from launch to the first customers?
We used to work at BinckBank, a Dutch online broker, where our team already served the market of wealth and asset managers. We knew very well where and how this group was underserved in the market, so after a failed management buy-out, we decided that we could do it better ourselves, tailoring to the needs and wishes of clients, while using the newest technology so we would be able to also decrease costs. As we already had an extensive network and people trusted us, we had some very loyal and enthusiastic early movers that supported us a great lot.
4. How have you financed your startup? Any lessons would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?
The first year was financed by me and my co-founder, after which a number of angel investors joined. We also didn’t have any salary for the first 2 years. Furthermore, our trusting clients financed us by prepaying our products for a long period of time. In the beginning of 2018, our first VC’s invested in us. Currently we are backed by Volta Ventures, KBC Focus Fund and Dutch Founders Fund. We plan to raise a round A in the beginning of 2021 for further international expansion.
The fund-raising journey is always an interesting one. It’s essential to choose an investor who understands what you do, supports the direction you want to steer your company into, who has the ability to (jointly) re-invest in next rounds and who you have a personal click with. I personally prefer the approach when an investor invests in the entrepreneur and the team, as that gives a better ground for future cooperation, also in times when things work out differently then originally planned. Another important lesson is that the process always takes longer than you predict, especially in the last parts of your process when all documentation seems to be finished but suddenly small issues pop up. And it’s always easier to negotiate from a strong position, so don’t wait for too long when you want to start fundraising.
7. What’s your ask/ how could our network help you in the next 6-12 months?
Introductions to good round A investors would definitely help! I would love to get acquainted, tell more about Blanco and hear more about the investor and it’s investment strategies.
6. Which key trends and opportunities should we be watching in (European) finance?
It’s all about cooperation. The fintech landscape sometimes looks scattered because of the many niches and specialisations, but when all best of breed providers work together and connect their products an invincible offer is created. The same goes for cooperation with and between customers: we’re stronger together. What Blanco has done recently is set up a cooperation (as a legal entity) together with and for 18 independent wealth and asset managers, to join their forces and give them an opportunity to access institutional services for a fair price that would otherwise not even have been available to them alone. Old and new worlds, customers and supplier, all combined and empowered.
7. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list, and what’s your favorite place for a coffee or a drink?
I love “Solve for happy” of Mo Gawdat as he points out the true sources of happiness in life. Furthermore I’m really into the podcasts of Esther Perel nowadays, they teach me on systemic psychology, which I find vastly interesting. Then I have some pulp novel on my bedside table for easy reading before I go to sleep (something with 7 sisters haha). And I’m really into reading magazines.
My favourite place for a tea is just my own couch or garden; for wine I would recommend GlouGlou, for champagne with a nice view the bar of the W hotel, or Het Blauwe Theehuis in the Vondelpark for a (special) beer. All in Amsterdam of course.