Q&A- Startups

7 Questions with Max Lautenschläger of Iconic Holding

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

Born and raised in Heidelberg I started my professional career in consulting and after a few years, I transitioned more towards finance. In particular, the alternative investment space has always been very attractive to me. This is why I decided to do the MBA program at the Frankfurt School of Finance and in parallel, I did the CAIA designation. After a few years in Private Equity, Venture Capital and FinTech Company Building, I decided to found my own business Iconic, of which I’m still one of the main shareholders and managing partners.

I’ve never been this 5-hour-startup guy, who begins his business on the side while still working full-time on something else. As soon as Pat (Co-Founder, Managing Partner) and I had the idea for Iconic we went “all-in”, quit our jobs, moved to Berlin and bootstrapped our startup. And so far, it seems as if it has been the right approach. If you love something and are convinced of its potential, just do it! The worst result could be failing and even this will give you more joy, experience, and learnings than any corporate job could.

When it comes to leisure time, I love sports, spending time with good friends and traveling. Since I think relationships are one of the most important things in life, I try to see all of my friends on a weekly basis. Independently from how busy I am, I try to fit sports into my schedule 5 times a week since this refreshes not only my body but also my mind.

2. What are your focus areas, overall and within the FinTech space?

Blockchain and crypto assets. Iconic envisions a tokenized economy where blockchain and cryptographic technology enable inclusive, transparent and secure financial markets. We are the bridge enabling enterprise-grade crypto asset investment opportunities as the tokenization of financial and real-world assets enhance financial institutional markets. With Iconic Lab we invest into the most exciting Blockchain Startups and so far, our track record has been really good. Leading to a success rate of 90 percent. With Iconic Funds, we want to drive crypto asset adoption by issuing enterprise-grade, traditionally regulated financial vehicles, which have crypto assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum as an underlying. With our third brand, AMaaS (Asset Management as a Service) we offer banks and other asset managers all the tools they need to launch their own crypto investment product through a single, holistic platform which takes care of things like best execution, custody, and governance.

3. Could you share a couple of your startup investments or partnerships?

So far, we invested into 11 startups with Iconic Lab and they all of one thing in common: they want to disrupt their respective industry through the use of blockchain technology. Topl solves the two of the main issues in developing economies through their blockchain protocol: investing efficiently and transparently as well as creating trust in the supply chain. Braincities is putting all your data on blockchain, from your identity to your health and professional data everything will be stored in the so-called data wallet. This way you have full control of your own data and have a single source of trust. Captain Bitcoin, our most recent investment, incentives people to learn about blockchain by giving away Bitcoin in a daily raffle. The more you interact with the platform, the more likely it is you will win.

When it comes to partnerships, we view ourselves as thought leaders in the space and want to educate people. This is why we often partner up with banks, asset managers, insurers and other corporates to host events in which their clients get valuable insights into crypto and blockchain and which impact this young technology has on the respective industry.

 4. Which areas of FinTech innovation do you find overhyped and which ones are worth watching out for?

I believe that there is still room for improvement in any field of finance., but currently I feel like there are too many lending startups out there and robo advisors have proved that they are still limited in what they can offer.

I would watch out for everything related to crypto and blockchain. I think what people don’t realize is how much this technology will change the financial system. All financial instruments and real-world assets will be tokenized and trading against each other in a 100 percent fungible market. You’ll be able to trade your favorite world of warcraft sword with 0.001 % of a Picasso Painting or 2.3 Amazon shares or you’ll sell your Tesla for 25.6634 ounces of Gold. There is no need to go back to Euro or USD.

Data, data, data. If you look at Zillow Offers I seems like they make money by buying and selling houses but no, they don’t. In reality, they’re the biggest collector of real estate related data and can monetize on selling this.

Open Banking. This is really a game-changer and will change the landscape of banking, in particular from a user’s point of view. We’re living in a platform world and are moving away from knowledge silos. You can see this at Goldman Sachs when they opened up their online platform SIMON to competitors.

Hybrid Robo Advisors. Respect for what Wealthfront and Scalable have achieved in their respective markets with 1 and 8 Billion assets under management respectively. But when vanguard launched their Hybrid Advisor they immediately had 30 Billion AuM. More and more capital is passively managed and I think it will continue with the rise of customized indices, but some personalization is probably still needed.

5. Which way do you see the (European) financial sector going and who would be the likely winners?

I think the ones which are aware of the trends mentioned above. Additionally, you need a very strong UI and UX in your product. This is for me one of the main reasons why N26 and Revolut are succeeding in the banking sector.

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

Most likely, you won’t beat the giants in the long run. Be aware that your competitors are both, large financial institutions that monitor the market and margins constantly and huge tech firms like Google, Apple and Amazon which have seemingly unlimited resources to do what you’re trying to achieve. Still, you can be the first mover and ahead of the competition and this will be worth a lot if those giants are trying to get into your market.

Secondly, don’t compete, rather collaborate. View all people as your friends and try to find a way how both parties can benefit from working together.

UI and UX, people love simple and beautiful products.

7. What’s on your bookshelf/holiday reading list?

I don’t have any as I prefer to read scientific articles about the stuff, I’m interested in. The only book I can recommend is “Stealing Fire”.