1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
Imburse is a motivated team of 5 from Zurich, Switzerland. Apart from our HQ in Zurich, we have our development team out in London doing an amazing job of delivering on our vision and empowering our clients. We are a very close team with some of the co-founders being friends from school days and others getting to know each other through other friends. We have a diverse background with South Africans, Portuguese and English making up the team and for a very open-minded and “get it done” attitude and approach.
2. Which services do you sell and who are your competitors?
Imburse has one focus “Empower our clients to transact with clients with minimal IT integration work”. We provide a single integration point for corporates to connect with to be able to collect and pay out money in any market, any currency, via any technology with any partner. We are an orchestrator of transaction instructions. We are thus a middleware that we license to companies. Our closest competitor (in terms of approach) is SafeCharge and not Stripe, as many people will immediately think. Yes, we have an aggregation of services focus (i.e. we bring all payment technologies together in one place) but we are fundamentally different in that we also include vouchers, partnerships, reporting simplification and the easiest integration. This is critical to succeed with corporates that are not e-commerce. Our competitors are nearly purely e-commerce focusses, only collection focussed and don’t have a partnership connection model.
3. How did you get your startup idea and how did you go about launching it?
Our startup is less of an idea and more of a pivot. We had a different product in the market where it was critical that we can do real-time payments and no insurer could support us with that. Without that functionality customers were no longer willing to buy the product we were selling so we built the real-time payment component ourselves. That elicited great interest form insurers to use in other parts of the business and that is how Imburse was created as a pivot that was a response to a different pain point. We spent about 15 months refining our understanding of these pain points and enhancing our solution to better address that pain point. We then officially launched the product in October 2017m raised angel financing in Jan 2018 and are now pushing it into the market.
4. How did you finance your startup, and what learnings would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?
First, we as cofounders financed the startup and its running costs. When we know what our pipeline looked like and the requirement this meant in terms of resources (employees and financial) we raised an angel round. At this point, the founders put more money into the company (around 25% of what angel investors put in). We leverage angel investors because for our start-up having the right mentors and network form our target markets and verticals was more important than more money. We chose our angel investors for what they can bring to Imburse and this has proven very successful for us. Our learning was that knowing the problem you are solving really well should help you identify the need you have (i.e. resources, finances, network, etc.). Then you develop your fund-raising strategy accordingly (in terms of amount and setup) and then go into the market and execute that. We said no to basically all VC meetings and discussion because we would not take VC money at that point, making it very high-quality discussions with interested parties (for the meetings we had) and allowed us to turn around the round very quickly and with a high quality of investors.
5. What areas within FinTech do you personally find most interesting and why?
I am particularly interested in the AI/Ml aspects. This area is still evolving but has a massive potential to contribute to better customer value and automation. We are also looking at the right applications of AI/ML in our product in as far as it makes it easier for companies to connect to our platform and drive value to its customers.
6. What opportunities do you see for FinTech startups in Continental Europe, and how can we help?
I believe that Continental European startups are generally much further developed on the product side that American counterparts. They also generally understand the problem a bit better and how they will grow the company to best serve that need. Thus I believe Continental European startups provide a great selection quality of companies with great products. The problem is that I feel that Continental European startups have nearly no ambition. They all want to be the best in their market (single country) or maybe the best in Europe. No one wants to be the best in the world and really disrupt things. This is something European startups can use some support to see the problem on a global scale and aim to develop truly scalable solutions.
7. What tip would you like to give FinTech entrepreneurs?
Make absolutely sure, and be totally honest with yourself, that you are passionate about what you are doing. The time and energy it takes to build a startup cannot be done with a “employee” or “sell in 3 years for billions” approach. If you are not passionate about what you do or 100% believe in it, no one will believe in you and you will have a tough time convincing people to back you. Rather pivot or look for that special thing and execute that than think your idea is good enough and someone will buy it. Also be clear, from the beginning, whether you will build to scale or to sell.