Ivo, you were the representative of SIX who helped Veezoo to form a company. Had you ever done anything like that before?
Yes, I have already worked in and with start-ups during various different development phases. In the case of Veezoo, I was involved in the key discussions on what company structure was best: GmbH or AG. I also helped with fundraising. We focused on the three Fs: family, friends and other fools. I sensibly left the formalities of setting up a company and legal issues to the experts: our start-up program works with a law firm. Services like the startup.ch platform can also be useful.
What do you think it takes to found a successful company in the fintech segment?
In the financial sector, people looking to found a company encounter a lot of regulatory obstacles. SIX is a strong partner: we have lots of expertise in this sector and a direct line to authorities like FINMA. The team is another factor in a successful start-up – you want a broad spectrum of complementary skills. That's not to say that technical people can't acquire basic business skills and vice versa. But usually there isn't a lot of time. Having a mix of people with industry experience and newbies also works well. Some contribute specialist knowledge, while the others find it easier to question processes and turn things upside down. Where there is no internal industry experience, it is useful to have a partner like SIX, who can provide access to experts. Last but not least, a start-up obviously needs a good product to succeed.
How do you find the right product idea?
There has to be a clear problem or demand in the market for a product or service. Ideas that only offer minor improvements to existing processes may appeal to large companies, but are unlikely to succeed on the market as an original brand. Financial market solutions are also highly dependent on the confidence of multiple partners. Building confidence is tough for start-ups and takes a long time. Established financial market participants like SIX can help to build that confidence by working with start-ups to develop product ideas and produce a proof of concept (feasibility study). They serve as the first mover, contributing their expertise and adapting new technologies.
How important is money?
The four founders of Veezoo initially said that they didn't need any financing. But by the time they had to form a company, they had to face that very challenge. A start-up always needs a lot of money in the various development phases in order to fund the undertaking. Especially if they want to achieve rapid growth and succeed internationally. Only a tiny number of companies are entirely self-financed. Venture capital is often smart money too, which means that the investor or venture capital company can contribute their own resources, knowledge and network of contacts as well as money. That massively increases a young company's chances of success.
Has working with Veezoo changed the way you approach other tasks?
I focus on the differences between big companies and start-ups. For example, when I work in or with the business areas at SIX, I try to keep things as simple, flexible and open-ended as possible, and to combat the culture of process and project management and hierarchical structures. All large company have these structures, it's not a criticism. By contrast, when I work with start-ups, I try to introduce certain structures, processes and project management in order to achieve a specific goal without losing momentum.