Cynthia is among the investors on stage at the FinTech Forum event on 18th Nov. 2021 at the Airport Club, Frankfurt: check out the line-up and register here.
1.Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
My name is Cynthia, I am a Partner at Seed X Liechtenstein. I am an operator turned investor and I have previously worked with different accelerators including Techstars, King’s College and Founders Factory in London. Prior to being an investor I have worked for 11+ years at the fintech unicorn Markit (Now IHS markit, being bought by S&P). I learned there everything I know about great product development, corporate innovation and the hurdles of fast growth (IPO on the NASDAQ in 2014 at $5bn valuation, merger with IHS in 2016, now worth more than $40bn).
Work-wise I like connecting the dots and people, understanding the big problems needing solving and who we can learn from. Having the right network also helps to support founders in their growth.
Some of my spare time is also spent on tech boards that I sit on, and supporting female entrepreneurs across Europe.
2.What are your focus areas, overall and within the FinTech space?
At Seed X we focus on FinTech, InsurTech, PropTech and LegalTech. We enter between pre-Seed and Series A. After joining the company, we intend to do follow-on investments.
While we look at the sector as a whole, we will deploy more capital of our fund towards impact startups (in the Fintech sector) as well as female founders.
We invest in companies that are solving real clients’ problems (saving costs, increasing revenue, improving effectiveness) in growing and changing markets, with a 5+ year perspective. Are they doing that in a sustainable way and growing fast? Like our investors we tend to have a longer-term horizon than an average VC. As it may take some time for early-stage startups to find their market-fit, we do not run only after trends, but also sticky customers and robust business models that can support growth.
3.Any recent deals or partnerships that you would like to share with us?
We like to get surprised about the significance of the problem solved by our startups. Dabbel is reducing energy costs in commercial buildings by 20% and more, even with new buildings. That fact impressed us massively!
Zelf is providing “banking solutions of the future” to Generation Z. It’s more than inspiring to rethink banking and offer that to the next banking generation.
On the other hand, Elucidate is quantifying the risk of exposure to financial crime for financial institutions. The team is working towards benchmarking a whole sector and establishing a standard, like Moody’s or S&P in other fields – we support that ambition.
4. Which are the trends to watch out for in the next 6-18 months?
There is a lot happening in payments, whether it is across borders or Buy-Now/Pay-Later, and it will be interesting to see how regulators react in each geography.
It’s too early to tell where Europe will be heading with the Digital Euro, but obviously we will be keeping an eye on what’s happening in China as they are moving much faster there and that will influence how European FinTechs in that space react.
We have seen many deals in Sustainable Finance, especially around carbon footprint calculations and how to offset, standards have not been defined yet, so it’s fascinating speaking with founders on how they are thinking about it, how they are building their algorithms and where they source their data.
With interest rates so low, lending is also a very interesting space, we see fast movers on mortgages, but also in CRE.
In InsurTech, embedded insurance and parametrics is where I expect the fastest growth in the next 18 months.
5.Your advice to European founders looking to scale up and raise funds?
Startup founders do have 3 main groups of people they’re interacting with:
Clients: Don’t skip the phase of making assumptions and taking the time to validate them. There is a temptation to start coding, thinking you’ll just figure things out as you go. You’ll have all the time in the world to be agile and to move fast once you have validated some assumptions.
Investors: Engage with investors early, it usually takes longer than you think to fundraise. If you know what KPIs and metrics are expected, it will save you time too down the line. Valuations are starting to go up again and there is more money coming from the US, so this is a good environment for startups to raise.
Employees: There is no excuse not to be building a diverse team anymore, now that founders can hire talent from almost anywhere. Diversity of point of views and backgrounds is very important to ensure that you’re looking at problems from many angles and coming up with the best solutions.
No matter which stage you’re at, never stop talking to your customers.
6.What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?
- Why Startups Fail by Tom Eisenmann
- A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough
- My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
7.Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?
Outside preferably and always with the best founders in town.