1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
I grew up internationally in Czech Republic, Germany, near the French border, spent time in the US and China. I started a smart-card company on my 18th birthday, the sale of the firm brought me natively closer to investment topics, initially as a fintech user. I look at things, compare and think. I ask myself, why is this different here over other places ? It might be there is no need, its politics, its regulation or it might be a market opportunity.
My most precious time is family time, teaching my kids to play piano, tennis & skiing.
2. Which services do you sell and who are your competitors?
We are providing Data & Software Solutions to Capital Markets participants. That’s a 28 billion $ industry and we do see the rather “classical” players within subareas of our offering as competitors, e.g. data vendors as ThomsonReuters in the data segment, EDM (enterprise data management) vendors like Bloomberg Polarlake in the Data Management space or Smartstream within the data utility space. There are some newer kids on the block in alternative data space as Quandl.
3. How did you get your startup idea and how did you go about launching it?
I wanted to trade a few digital assets on my own. Trying to do so, became surprisingly difficult, due to the lack of reliable data and technology solutions I would / could trust. Overlapping codes of assets between DEXs and rather simple virtual wallets, is what I found besides a few malware infected wallet & mining software downloads. Having over two decades of derivatives cross-asset class trading, risk management and processing experience – it became clear to me, that there will be a need for standards, higher quality data and smarter virtual wallets to bridge the new asset class towards institutional adoption. Realizing that there is a relatively new technology – with blockchain – and a new asset class being in its baby steps from professional perspective – this is a coincidence most of us will likely see only once in our careers: new tech with game-changing potential and a new asset class.
4. How did you finance your startup, and what learnings would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?
Our firm is to date financed by the founding partners. Talking to VCs feels a little like a chicken-egg situation. VC professionals buy right into our thesis, especially fintech VCs, but most of them require a proof of concept confirming the thesis by adding existing clients – you need to bridge this initial phase by yourself or early stage VC. Its in a certain way similar to finding the right partner for life, some VC would already like to invest, but we are looking for more, not just the cash, were looking for leveraging value-add for our business, so it’s a complex matching exercise.
5. What areas within FinTech do you personally find most interesting and why?
While there are many interesting areas in FinTech, as a former DTB / Eurex trader I love to be close to noisy trading desks. The often less seen, but still very hard work happens in the front-to-back office processes supporting the desks, and that’s where the true heavy lifting is happening: data management, new asset onboarding, risk control, risk management, collateral optimization, corporate actions management, accounting etc. Fintech is changing this space and tokenization of assets is my favorite area, because it will enable to trade pairs never seen before, e,g, short a token of a London prime apartment / long a token of a 1957 Aston Martin in California, a nice Brexit type event hedge;-) and this on a 7/24 basis, settled in neartime. That’s part of our vision.
6. What opportunities do you see for FinTech startups in Continental Europe, and how can we help?
Continental Europe is the most fragmented business universe I have experienced in 2 decades in fintech sales. This is both an opportunity and a risk for those who ignore this fact. Country specifics are important, they offer large potential, while ignoring them kills deals and startups. For most Fintechs this is even more true, as new technology can be adopted fast, while there are country specifics to be covered and startups don’t have the war chest to make mistakes. If theyre wrong, there out. I do believe that’s where you can help, besides the financing.
7. What tip would you like to give FinTech entrepreneurs?
- Fintech shoudnt be just new technology, it needs to be business efficient to be successful – it needs to generate money, save money in operations or both.
- The team is key, I have learned my lessons.
- Save before starting up, the burn rate on own money is higher as initially planned and it hurts.
- Talk to prospects & market participants early – re-adjust your offering based on constant feedback sessions.
- Don’t stay in one place, be everywhere – yes it’s a global market, but still its very diversified. New York isn’t London isn’t Zurich isn’t Frankfurt isn’t Shanghai.