Q&A- Startups

7 Questions with Jörg Sandrock, Co-Founder Neon

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

Jörg Sandrock, one of the four founders of neon.

Started my career at Deutsche Bank (2 yrs. venture capital, 2 yrs. think thank), before I got into consulting, where I worked 12 years at Strategy& (PWC)

Besides neon, I’m a father first, music lover and football fan second

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

neon is a digital banking app focusing on the Swiss market designed to combine state of the art financial services and convenience in an open banking ecosystem. neon charges no base fees offers transparent products & prices and gives our clients full control over their personal finance. As a bank-backed banking app, we have traditional banks as well as other neo-banks as potential competitors. But former are more expensive and still mostly non-digital and latter experience regulatory entry barriers for Switzerland.

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

We, the founders, all worked at the same consulting company for many years and worked together on several projects in the area of digitalization in financial services. During this time, we recognized the big opportunity there is in Switzerland and started to realize the strong potential of digital and mobile banking. After some intense discussions, we decided to leave our current careers and start our own company in this field – neon.

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

This year we closed our seed round of 1.5 mn CHF with both family and friends as well as business angels and a lead investor (Innovationsstiftung Schwyz). In fundraising, it was key to actively build new and strengthen existing relationships. It’s crucial to understand that a strong network not only provides you with funding but most importantly it helped as to improve our idea by constantly being challenged and gave us access to new business opportunities. Never underestimate the learning effect you and your team can experience during the funding process.

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

Personally, I find the usages of data, data protection/privacy most interesting. Of course, the concept of open banking like neon uses is very interesting as well but I think this might only be a first step for the industry. Right now, we are doing the obvious – embedded in an ecosystem, providing banking services in a more efficient and better way excelling the existing incumbents. But banks could provide so many more service – incl. the privacy protection etc. This also creates totally new markets.

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

Probably the biggest opportunity for FinTech startups in Europe is the increasing collaboration firstly between FinTechs and traditional financial services and secondly among FinTechs. There are a lot of FinTechs solving very specific problems – for example within peer-to-peer payment – which need platforms and partners to spread. That’s also where we as neon see our chance, as we’re constantly implementing new, great FinTech solutions in our products. FinTech Forum’s role as a Hub organizing sector-specific events is what pushes this sector. On one hand, it helps startups to connect with other startups and on the other hand to connect with investors and partners with deep sector-knowledge and experience as well as broad networks.

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

You don’t have to plan everything upfront, but do it with your business case; state of the art technology is fundamental but not everything – don’t forget your (future) clients needs; don’t let the first “no” demotivate you – keep on creating!