Today on FinTech Profile, we talk to CEO and Co-founder of Holvi; the Finnish online banking platform for small businesses, freelancers and sole traders. As well as providing a pan-European business platform for the digital age, Holvi provides a full replacement for the traditional bank account. The accounts are a simple one-stop-shop to manage your business and finances and they can be opened online in minutes across Europe!
Our questions are in bold.
Let’s get started — over to Johan.
1. Who are you and what’s your background?
I’m Johan Lorenzen, the CEO of Holvi. I’m a former startup executive, angel investor and a VC. I have over a decade’s experience of both founding and investing in high growth internet companies. I joined Holvi from the venture capital firm Sunstone, to change the future of banking first hand. Prior to that I also worked on both the technology and infrastructure sides of traditional banking, as well as advising and investing in #fintech companies.
2. Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
Holvi was founded to solve the complex issue of managing the finances of your event, your project or your passion. Shortly after, we noticed that there was a huge need for a service like Holvi. This was not just for event organisers but for a complete segment of small businesses, freelancers and sole traders – we nowadays call them Makers and Doers.
3. Who are your target customers?
Holvi is primarily targeted at these 40 million European people who sell skills, hours and services; Europe’s largest underserved sector. Currently around 85 % of net new jobs in the EU are created by SME’s and they all deserve better banking.
One of Holvi’s first customers was the Helsinki based technology conference Slush which has grown to a size of over 14,000 participants. As our customers have grown, so has Holvi’s vision. From a local platform for event organisers we have now built a full replacement for banks – completely free from traditional banks and on our own.
4. What’s in store for Holvi going forward?
Holvi aims to change managing finances to something you look forward to. Money management is often seen as complicated, boring and the financial side of any project is often seen as a necessary evil. By making financial information easier to access and understand, there’s no hidden fees and no hidden agendas. We are extremely transparent about how we do things and what is it we want to do.
In 2014 we received the payment institution licence from FIN-FSA and are now set to expand our services to 19 European countries. It’s a pretty bold vision but we are on a good path to make it happen. Our mission has gotten stronger: we are determined to shape the future of banking and build the world’s very first pan-european financial hub. A unified platform for all small businesses across Europe, with all banking and money management related features connected to one singular platform – Holvi. For us, the future of banking means that it does not limit your freedom or independence but enables it.
Holvi customer video / TEDx event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kExmMoAVyig
Holvi customer video / Slush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJuiK6Sm9ec
More background to our story: http://blog.holvi.com/2014/12/11/heart-business/
5. Tell us how you are funded.
Holvi is privately funded by industry insiders and angel investors. In 2014 we also received funding from the Austrian based SpeedInvest.
6. If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
What I would like to change is to move banking as we know it away from our lives and transform it into something that empowers small businesses rather than limits them. Making all the financial tools that are known to larger organizations also accessible to smaller businesses and making it all easy to manage from one platform.
Banking should also interact seamlessly with all other digital services you use in your daily life to run your business and you should be able to connect them into one financial hub.
7. Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
The guys at Number26 have developed an awesome app for mobile banking and they are just launching today at DE and AT – definitely interesting to see their next moves.
Safello – a bitcoin company making bitcoin usable for real people.
I would also recommend you follow:
8. What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
I see a lot of interesting fintech companies in the alternative/challenger position, especially in the UK where the ecosystem seems to be maturing quite fast. It is still fragmented and at some point needs to be unified but there’s a lot of good development happening over the last year. One of the examples that I have been especially excited about is iwoca – a company providing credit for small businesses. They are really tackling the European wide problem of serving a segment that is underserved by the traditional banks.
9. Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
The future of small business banking is that there will be no banks. This is the largest underserved market where the alternative players are moving fastest and the established banks are highly under pressure if they don’t manage to change their offering towards the segment.
Technology and internet scale thinking is the key to reaching an efficient model for the next decade’s small business paradigm.
Newcomers in this space are so efficient on accelerating both the customer acquisition and service cost. In the future everybody will either be a small business or have a secondary business and they need the right kind of financial tools to enable them.
If you’ve any suggestions for other hot FinTech companies (startup, or established ventures) that we should be profiling, I’m all ears. Don’t hesitate to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s more information on this page.