Two fintechs talk about their geographic choices for establishing offices.
In 2023, Belgian fintech consultants Movify expanded to Luxembourg by acquiring Reborn. Established in Brussels in 2013, the firm develops digital products for banks and insurance firms and its customer base includes Belfius, BNP Paribas and KBC Group.
Founder Louis Cornet set the goal to expand the 70-strong team to 200 people in two years through organic growth and acquisitions. Tenzing, an M&A firm, introduced him to Reborn, a Luxembourg-based startup that designs and builds interfaces. “Reborn has exactly the same expertise: design and development. They also focus on fintech and do several products for the Banque de Luxembourg, including mobile apps,” says Cornet.
With some 124 banks (in 2021) and over 280 companies active in insurance, not to mention geographic proximity and shared language and culture, Luxembourg was always an important stage in the Belgian firm’s roadmap. Cornet also sees the move as an important step for the group to to leverage the complementary knowhow and strengths from the host countries.
“Luxembourg is more advanced on other topics like the sovereign cloud,” said Cornet, adding: “Depending on the topic, […] that’s where we start to feel the benefit of an international network and it’s impressive.”
The addition of Reborn, Movify’s first acquisition, brings total staff numbers to 100. The group plans to double the size of the Luxembourg team to serve local customers. Faced with a critical shortage of tech skills that is no mean feat. Movify has a talent investment strategy, however. “We have built a young potential programme, which helps young graduates to become managers in their field within three years. We give them responsibilities and project rotation so that they can discover different industries, different expertise, different teams, different methodologies, and we have a fast track through that,” says Cornet. Graduates are onboarded by targeting universities found mostly in Belgium.
Movify also adapts its roles to the people it onboards and it offers a growth model programme targeted at senior staff members so they can continue to be experts in their fields. Lastly, staff have a chance to own equity in the company, if they meet certain criteria.
Cornet said: “This allows us to have a partnership that has gone from a single founder and shareholder to six shareholders, which are all employees of the company,” said Cornet.
Movify’s proactive growth strategy means it expects to seize further opportunities in Europe and over the next ten years expects to expand into London, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. But if opportunities should arise elsewhere, Cornet says the firm is ready to switch to a reactive strategy. “If a colleague contacts me and says ‘we should open a Barcelona office.’ If the person is talented and demonstrates there is a market there for us, then I would consider going there to see if we can do something,” said Cornet.
Starting In Berlin
Despite being born and raised in Luxembourg, the grand duchy was not an option for Raphael Steil when he co-created his B2C fintech, getquin.
Having previously worked in London and with his co-founder based in Cologne, the two struck a compromise: Berlin. Not only is the German capital the country’s fintech hub, it boasts an impressive young consumer market as well as the proliferation of VC funds. Ultimately, though, it was Berlin’s pull for tech talent that sealed the deal.
“We have a tech product and 80% of my company works on the tech side. Trying to findthat much talent in a smaller city, it’s possible but not easy,” Steil explained, adding: “Berlin is a city where not only can you attract good talent locally but people are keen to relocate to Berlin, and it’s a city of so many entrepreneurs, so for us it’s useful.”
Steil and his co-founder launched their portfolio tracker and investor peer community network at the start of the covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. It was just the right time to serve a growing market of cash-rich young professionals keen to make their money work for them through savvy investments.
The decision has paid off. Getquin currently employs 53 people and has benefited from being located at a number of coworking spaces before moving into its own private offices in the central Hackescher Markt. It has raised €16m to date, benefiting from early-stage investments from the APX accelerator (backed by Axel Springer and Porsche) and investments from Portage Ventures, which backed Clark and Wealthsimple, and Horizons Ventures, the fund behind N26 and wefox. Its peer learning and investment tracker platform has more than 250,000 active users, mostly German-speaking but not only.
“We’ve started having a lot of organic users from all over the world. Wherever you have access to capital markets, we have value because users really need to get a better overview of their investment,” said Steil.
Getquin is pursuing a revenue model through in-app advertising as well as a fee-paying advanced feature. And it is examining new features that will enable it to scale further.
In the three years since launching, the Berlin environment has changed, for the better. VC meetings have moved online as hybrid working has become a mainstay for most tech sectors. Getquin has also benefited from the Berlin ecosystem, which combines networking events offering easy access to like-minded people, among them investors and knowledgeable players and mentors from Berlin’s unicorns and tech giants.
Steil said: “We’re now in our fourth year and we see it’s an added value that Berlin has given us, this opportunity to meet great people.”
This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Get your copy.