The first FinTech Week held in Hamburg ends Friday after five days, dozens of events and over 40 speakers. The theme of the so-called “FuckUp Night” on Thursday, organised by the 1337MATE founders Claudius Holler and Daniel Plötz attracted keen interest in betahaus. Young players in the vibrant scene described mistakes made and lessons learned. Holler told around 100 invited guests: “The financial sector is notorious for fuck-ups. But the focus in the next hours is on mistakes made by young FinTech pioneers and not on big banking crashes.”
“We were greenhorns at first”
The first speaker, Jonas Piela, co-founder and manager of Avuba, asked: “Which one of our mistakes should I describe?” prompting laughter. A PowerPoint presentation followed to reflect the company’s “courage curve” and the team’s highs and lows as well as that of the accompanying press reports. “We were greenhorns at first,” he commented drily. Founded in 2013, Piela and his colleagues at Avuba hit on the idea of developing a totally digitalised account.
After the initial take-off, the “courage curve” fell below zero. “We had underestimated many points,” said Piela. The FinTech sector is riddled with stumbling blocks like money laundering and other types of fraud, he noted. Finding a suitable partner bank proved tougher than anticipated. In 2015, Avuba eventually took off, but only after finding a reliable partner. Now, the start-up is on the right track with its same-named app. Piela has already stirred up the sector and in 2015, Forbes business magazine rated him one of the 30 most important FinTech entrepreneurs under 30 years of age.
A chicken-and-egg problem
Finmar is an example of a company that does not find it’s footing after making a mistake. Founded by Clas Beese in 2011, he and his team hit on the idea of setting up a crowd- lending platform modelled on a U.S. online platform that lets several people invest in a start-up simultaneously. But finmar faced a typical chicken-and-egg problem as soon as it went online, Beese said. Neither investors nor companies wanted to use the platform forcing finmar to go offline in late 2015.
In retrospect, Beese commented: “We were not flexible enough to react to changes.” Yet, the “fuck-up” has not dented his entrepreneurial will. Today, he is putting his knowledge of the sector to good use as publisher of the finletter email newsletter. However, as “I am totally healed from this market,” he has no wish to try setting up another crowd-lending platform.
Calls for greater tolerance of errors in society
Stefan Herbst, founder of the liability insurance Haftpflicht Helden, is now considered a pioneer in the insurance tech sector. Yet, the road has been rocky, Herbst admitted. His first app “schutz2go” offered travel insurance on mobile phones and could be booked in real time and was sensational in 2011 given the level of technology. Yet, he and his colleagues could not find any takers and “schutz2go” fell through. That proved a “terrible experience” for everyone involved. However, they learned from their mistakes and Haftpflicht Helden, founded in 2015 is proving successful. Herbst called for “greater tolerance” of mistakes in society, which is still on a low level in Germany. Founders should be unafraid to tread their own paths, he urged.
The FinTech Week ends Friday evening with a keynote by André M. Bajorat, CEO of figo. The next FuckUp Night is scheduled for November 10, 2016 in the Mercedes me Store. Then “very normal “start-ups across various sectors will tell of their trials and errors, Plötz said. The date of the 2017 event week in Hamburg has yet to be set.