Q&A- Startups

7 Questions with Frank Ackermann, Co-Founder of SDG Investments

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

My name is Frank Ackermann. I am the co-founder of SDG INVESTMENTS GmbH and AHP Capital Management GmbH, a financial service provider based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. We are an experienced team with roots in investment banking, corporate finance and credit risk management. Leisure? if there is time, I play golf or drive a British Roadster around the countryside.

2. Which services do you sell and who are your competitors?

SDG INVESTMENTS® is a matching platform for financial instruments and investment products which contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Professional and institutional investors are able to find sustainable investments on the platform which meet their individual selection criteria. Registration on the platform allows project initiators and issuers of such investments to obtain access to relevant investors. SDG INVESTMENTS®, therefore, increases both the transparency and efficiency during the selection and investment process for the growing asset class of sustainable investments.

We are very much at the forefront of combining FinTech technology with sustainable investments. If at all, competition comes from traditional placement agents.

3. How did you get your startup idea and how did you go about launching it?

With our first company, AHP Capital Management GmbH, we arrange bond issues for companies with cash flow positive business cases. In 2016, we came across the SDGs and realised, that there is a huge demand for sustainable investments and very interesting projects looking for funding. But there was no systematic way for investors and project initiators to find each other. With our automated matching platform, we solve that problem in a very efficient way.

So, in our case, the business was already existing at AHP. The spin-off of SDG INVESTMENTS and the launch of the platform allowed us to standardise and scale our business.

4. How did you finance your startup, and what learnings would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?

Very unusual for a start-up: we already have a cash-generating business right from the start and so far, we do not require external financing. Advice: try to stay independent as long as possible and try to implement cash-producing services as soon as possible.

5. What areas within FinTech do you personally find most interesting and why?

We have one but that is our secret. Just watch us.

6. What opportunities do you see for FinTech startups in Continental Europe, and how can we help?

OK. You don’t give up. Here is a hint: It is not the automatization of the execution of transactions and it is not the automatization of investment advice.

I think you are already doing a good job by arranging events and getting people together. A question we would like to see addressed more is what do institutional investors expect from the Fintech ecosystem?

7. What tip would you like to give FinTech entrepreneurs?

Find a new problem that needs to be solved by talking to the market participants who have that problem. Don’t create a solution and look for the problem afterward.