Governance.io is offering a software solution for Investment Fund Professionals to stay in control of complex investment fund structures. Bootstrapped for 3 years, the startup raised funds last year and is now serving banks and funds professionals with its new software solution. The startup has been recently accepted to pitch at the largest FinTech conference in Luxembourg – FinTechStage – and got the chance to meet new potential clients and investors. We asked Bert Boerman, CEO of Governance.io to give us more details about the startup he co-funded with his twin brother Rob. He also accepted to tell us his vision of the – current – Luxembourg’s FinTech ecosystem he’s experiencing every single day.
(Picture: Twins Bert and Rob Boerman, founders of Governance.io)
What is the purpose of Governance?
Governance.io is a software solution for Investment Fund Professionals to stay in control of complex investment fund structures. It is a central repository for all the fund data, a document management system and a workflow management tool. We are also releasing a 3rd party due diligence module. All this helps our clients to have a solid oversight on the structures they are responsible for.
Which services do you propose? How do you implement it?
We deploy our system in-house or through private cloud solutions. Clients can choose from different datacenters that follow the strict Luxembourg standards for data protection and security.
[…] we can literally deploy the system on a client’s infrastructure in 5 minutes.
Since the system is continuously being improved with 2-4 weekly releases, we needed to have a way to make deployment extremely easy. The amazing Docker technology is used to distribute the software. Docker is a methodology that allows you to deploy a system and all required dependencies on a host system in no time. In our case, this means that we can literally deploy the system on a client’s infrastructure in 5 minutes.
How did you come up with this idea?
I worked for 15 years at ABN AMRO. With the approval of the bank, I launched a application development company in 2011 with my twin brother Rob, which I ran next to my “day-job” for almost 3 years.
[…] I noticed that the fund industry had an enormous need for innovation. […] we have the know of how to create cutting edge solutions with simple user interfaces.
In my last role at ABN AMRO I was responsible for the the institutional clients business of the bank, which included Alternative Investment Fund Custody. It was there that I noticed that the fund industry had an enormous need for innovation. On one hand you have this massive increase of regulation and oversight, but on the other side you have depositaries, fund managers and other professional that have absolutely no systems to manage this. The only universal solution is the spreadsheet, which in 2015 is not really an acceptable way of managing your business.
This is where the idea of Governance.io was born. We know what challenges the fund industry is facing, and we have the know of how to create cutting edge solutions with simple user interfaces.
You just raised funds, how long was the process? How will you use it?
We bootstrapped the company for 3 years. During this time we developed our technology, while we also did custom development work for external clients. In 2013 we decided that our main focus would be on the development of Governance.io.
We decided that acceleration was the way to go. […] We raised money from a group of Angel investors and the CD-PME.
We focussed our development team on our product, but that of course meant that we were eating into our reserves quickly. We had 2 choices: slow down Governance.io and retain full ownership, or raise external financing to accelerate the development. We decided that acceleration was the way to go. We wanted to go to market fast, and also give our financial sector clients the comfort that this startup is not going anywhere. We raised money from a group of Angel investors and the CD-PME.
The fundraising took almost 6 months […] I found it quite a complicated process […] it is you that has to sell it to investors!
The fundraising took almost 6 months from the moment that we started talks with the first investors. I found it quite a complicated process, especially since I did everything by myself. If I would have started today, it would probably be easier, as there are now Iots of initiatives to help entrepreneurs in this process. One of these is Nyuko, where you can find lots of advisors and seminars. I still advise entrepreneurs not to underestimate the fund-raising though. Advisors can help you on the process, but it is you that has to sell it to investors!
What do you think about the Luxembourg’s Fintech ecosystem?
In the last year the discussion on Fintech really has taken flight in Luxembourg. It is great to see that all major financial institutions are now getting involved.
The discussion still focusses largely on payments and crypto currencies, but it is starting to widen […]
Luxembourg for Finance, the ALFI and ABBL are also heavily pushing new initiatives around FinTech. Have a look at the number of seminars and conferences around Fintech. The FinTechStage Luxembourg event a few days ago was attended by over 400 people, that’s amazing. The discussion still focusses largely on payments and crypto currencies, but it is starting to widen, and to my delight Governance, Risk management and Compliance is now very much a part of it.
To you, what are Luxembourg’s strengths and weaknesses in the support to entrepreneurs?
There are lots of initiatives that further support the growth such as Nyuko, InnovFin, the Luxembourg seed fund, CD-PME.
Not many other locations give you access to 150 banks and 13.000 funds as your potential clients.
I personally think that Luxembourg is probably a better breeding ground for startups that support the financial sector rather than those that wish to disintermediate it. Not many other locations give you access to 150 banks and 13.000 funds as your potential clients.
I think that the biggest hurdle is the administrative and financial burden of setting up companies
On the other hand, Luxembourg still has it’s challenges. I think that the biggest hurdle is the administrative and financial burden of setting up companies. Setting up a company in Luxembourg is slow and expensive. Notary fees, business license registration, VAT registration etc are all a major headache for startups that simply don’t have the time, money and know-how to deal with this. In this respect Luxembourg still has things to learn from other countries.
[…] the combination of the huge financial sector, and the strong will of the Luxembourg government to support Fintech initiatives make it an exciting time to be in this space right now!
The planned deployment of the various financial aids is also important. Finally, education is another important ingredient for the future success of startups in general, but Fintech in specific. Currently, Luxembourg does not train programmers, which means you need to attract this talent from elsewhere. Luxembourg has to adopt it’s education system to cater for this, and not just in university. I think that secondary and even primary school is where you need to start building the basic skills.
But while there are always improvements to be made, I think that the combination of the huge financial sector, and the strong will of the Luxembourg government to support Fintech initiatives make it an exciting time to be in this space right now!