This interview is part of Scaling Enterprise FinTech | The Handbook, launched in partnership with SixThirty Ventures.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.
At the age of 17 I founded my first company – reBuy.com. Today, Germany ́s leading re-commerce platform employing over 500 great people and exceeding $ 200 million in annual turnover .
My entrepreneurial spirit and passion for combining customer-oriented products with data eventually led to the foundation of OptioPay. OptioPay provides Open Banking white label services that empower customers to benefit from value-add campaigns based on their bank account data. As a B2B2C-provider we serve clients from various industries, such as banking, insurance, telco & retail. Comdirect Bank, DZ Bank, HDI or 1&1 are some of our clients that understand the huge potential of open banking for their business and customers. Going forward, any company missing out on the open banking opportunity will struggle with severe strategic disadvantages.
Next to OptioPay, I am a passionate business angel, and have invested in over 50 companies. I love supporting young entrepreneurs who dare to make an impact. I also advise the Federal Ministry of Finance in Germany as part of the “FinTechRat”.
2. Give us the backstory- how did you get the founding idea, and how did the first sale come about?
I have always been fascinated by advertisement technology. Observing how tech giants such as Facebook and Google revolutionized advertisement by incorporating data, has been a great inspiration for our work. Banking data takes this approach to a totally new dimension. OptioPay’s goal is to take advertisement technology to the next level by generating significant value for customers based on their bank data. Our campaign portfolio is comprised of account linked cashbacks, vouchers, sustainability offers, contract optimization & more.
Our first open banking customer was – and still is – one of the largest German banks (DZ Bank), in 2018, which was an exciting milestone given the fact that PSD2 only officially started in that year.
3. Could you summarize your journey to scale from a sales, go- to-market and business development perspective, perhaps split into 2-3 key phases?
Three major product developments were decisive in realizing a scalable open banking platform
1) A network of higher-valued vouchers from +2.000 advertisers (e.g. Adidas, Amazon, IKEA, Zalando etc.) offering up to 100% voucher uplift, that are for example directly targeted to customers purchasing at a competitor or to customers that received a dispensable income.
2) Reward campaigns based on bank account data: “x % cashback or y t rees planted for your nextpurchaseover50€atmerchantz; or“receive20€sign-upbonusforacheaperenergy supplier and we take care of the cancellation.”
3) Campaign manager: as an advertiser you can set up highly targeted campaigns based on bank data: e.g. “Send x % cashback to customers who purchased at company y w ithin the past 2 weeks and have a Netflix account.”
4. Which was the most challenging phase, and what would you have done differently?
We started off with a different business model in the beginning. Our transition phase to open banking technology was for sure a great team challenge to master. But there is nothing we would do differently. Plan, do, check, act. Over and over.
5. When did you decide to expand to the international/ US market, and how?
Our expansion is especially driven by international clients and their strong interest into what
We are building. Our technology is very unique, but it works in any geography. After
investments from NN Group (NL) and Avaloq (CH) in 2019 and 2020 respectively, we experienced additional support in expanding towards these countries in particular.
6. When did you first decide to raise venture capital, and what has been your approach to financing growth over the years?
We raised venture capital from day one. We are highly focused on capital efficiency and are therefore in the rather comfortable position of raising far less money than other players in our market did.
7. How is building an Enterprise FinTech firm different from a “regular” SaaS / Enterprise Tech company, and what three things should founders get right?
Many things are similar, but our enterprise clients demand a high level of consulting, quality, security, and professional processes. The way to get that right is to cooperate with regulators, backed by a highly talented and professional team.
Three things I always suggest to founders are 1) a product that creates real value; 2) a big vision where to head and 3) the courage to rethink and iterate constantly.
8. What’s on the priority list for you and your team for the next year?
Our core goal is to deliver value for customers from their data. Most tech giants just use customer data for their own benefit and rarely give anything in return. We are on a mission to change that! People own their data and should be rewarded when used. Another focus topic of OptioPay is to use financial data to create a more sustainable future. To scale this, we are looking into increasing our business client portfolio, expand internationally and continuously grow our customer base.
9. Where is the financial services sector headed in the next 12-18 months, and what should we be watching out for?
Customers will more and more demand personalized, value adding, and actionable offers based on their data. We expect the market to move towards such products and services rapidly. Traditional PFM that typically banks serve will not be enough to keep customers engaged!
Particularly the open banking industry is currently facing rather “boring” commodity services (e.g. KYC, SCA, multi-banking, API connect etc.) which has – to our excitement – started shifting towards more innovative customer-centric offerings that actually deliver tangible value.
10. Your favorite place(s) for a meal, coffee or drink (pre- COVID19)?
“Il Nuovo Primo” is my favourite Italian restaurant in Berlin-Kreuzberg and its owner Renato is an amazing guy!
Also, my dear friend Heiko from “Wild & Raw” serves & delivers the best poke bowl in town!