Q&A- Startups

7 Questions with Prof. Dr. Ralf Beck , co-founder of Geldwerk1 GmbH

1. Who are you?

I am Ralf Beck, founder and CEO of Geldwerk1 and professor at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Dortmund, Germany.

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

We are a Crowdinvesting (Equity Crowdfunding) platform that offers everybody the opportunity participating in and sharing the success of innovative companies by investing small amounts of money via the Internet. Moreover it helps start-ups and innovative growth companies, to finance their business with „smart money“, i.e. money with added benefit (publicity, support and feedback from the crowd and so on). Geldwerk1 is the intermediary. In Germany our main competitors are Seematch and Companisto, in Europe it is Crowdcube.

3. How did you get your startup idea and how did you finance your startup?

The idea developed in an international project of my University, in which a Dutch Equity Crowdfunding platform called Symbid was involved. After the project I started to write a book about Crowdinvesting with the title “Crowdinvesting – Die Investition der Vielen” and finished it in December 2012. The book project requested an intensive engagement and triggered a lot of response and contacts. So it was a question of time to open an own internet platform. Geldwerk1 is financed by 4 founders and by 3 early investors.

4. What were the biggest challenges in starting?

The biggest challenge for me was to form the team. I had to find team members which bring the required qualifications to the table, i.e. having different experiences and characters, but sharing my basic attitude to belong to the good ones in the financial market without any compromises.

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

This is very difficult to answer for me. I wrote a book called “Wer braucht noch Banken?” and therefore I analysed nearly every kind of FinTech category. There are so many interesting new ideas and innovative companies in the financial sector. I am particularly interested in the power of the crowd when it comes to finance any kind of project. This means Crowdfunding, Crowdinvesting and Crowdlending. I think we are at the beginning of a new age of financing, with more influence by masses of people and less importance of banks and other big market players.

6. What opportunities do you see for FinTech startups in the DACH region, and how can we help to accelerate it?

I think people in the DACH region are more conservative, more afraid and careful than in many other countries when money is involved. Good and steady information about what FinTechs can provide and which advantages they may have is very important.

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

First: To prepare a FinTech company often requires particularly high demands for an adequate legal structuring. This is time-consuming. I got to know some FinTechs which underestimated the length of the preparation period completely. Some of them lost too much money in the meantime and had not enough funds left for launching a powerful campaign. Others found new investors filling the financial gap but losing a part of their independence.

Second: In the early stage, it is very important to establish a strong network. It might be a good idea to build the network first and then start with the company.