Q&A, Q&A- Startups

7 Questions with Gabriel Levie of Wequity

Wequity is among the startups selected to present at the FinTech Forum 2021 – 18th Nov. 2021 at the Airport Club, Frankfurt Airport/ hybrid. Check out the agenda and apply / register here: http://ftf2021.eventbrite.com 

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

I was born and raised in Belgium and was lucky to have a Dutch-speaking mother and French-speaking father, which means I speak both languages fluently. Before starting Wequity I completed my undergraduate studies in Economics and Philosophy in the UK. Since 2019 I have been back in Belgium.

With my cofounder Franck we launched Wequity in February 2021, and we have been working full time with a team of 5 people. On the side I run, climb, and play the piano.

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

Wequity monitors social media and news to provide real-time ESG insights on companies. We differentiate ourselves by including social media, providing real-time ESG data feeds, and orienting our coverage on small- and mid-cap companies in order to satisfy the unmet needs.

There are many incumbent players on the market,  but we are convinced that there is room for innovation and new players to enter by finding their niche.

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

Driven by societal impact, we spent the past 18 months trying to understand how investors and companies were evaluating sustainability by meeting people, reading, and educating ourselves. We started realizing that this type of data is generally based on what companies disclose themselves, which means that it is accessible on an annual basis. More and more we see that investors would like to have information regarding smaller companies, on a more frequent basis, and based on alternative data sources (i.e. not solely based on company disclosure). We hope that we’ll be able to help investors and companies gain a more comprehensive view of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) activities with the data we gather. We have just launched the beta and have been testing with a variety of potential clients to get their feedback and improve our data insights.

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

We first set up a side-business through which we built websites and mobile apps for companies. Even though this had nothing to do with our core business, this enabled us to raise the first funds to get going. We then quickly moved to a pre-seed round with business angels and a public subsidy which has given us the first real funding round to set up the team and have a runway for 12+ months. One crucial question we considered was: “what type of expertise and contribution do we want to have around the table?” This enabled us to have a very targeted and relevant fundraising strategy since we knew what type of people we wanted to join our adventure.

5. Which are the key trends and opportunities in (European) financial services?

A few that I have in mind:

  1. European regulation keeps tightening, bringing lots of opportunities to help for the compliance.
  2. The digitalisation of banks is happening massively, you see it with Revolut, N26, Monzo, and many others.
  3. There is an immense need to finance sustainable transition projects to decarbonise our economies.

6. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?

Right now I’m reading “Essays on Liberty” by Isaiah Berlin. It brings me back to my philosophy classes during my bachelor’s in the UK since he addresses famous questions such as: “do we have free will ?”

I just finished “The Plague” by Albert Camus. This latter book was very strong, and I could relate to it in many ways from our pandemic experience the last two years.

Next will probably be “Silence is my mother tongue” by Sulaiman Addonia. I just went to the book presentation in Brussels with the author himself, and I’m looking forward to getting immersed in his work.

7. Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?

There is a very nice café in the centre of Brussels, on the Place Sainte Catherine: Café De Markten. You can go inside to be quieter and work or read, or you can go outside on the terrace for a drink in the sun.