StarTalers, a startup designed to assist women with financial planning and reaching their investment goals, won first place in the Female Empowerment competition at the Arch Summit in Luxembourg. The prize was EUR 50,000.
by: Lianne Gutcher
photo: Olivier Minaire
featured: Gaëlle Haag
StarTalers cofounder and chief executive Gaelle Haag said the prize money will be mostly spent on hiring developers to bring the app to minimum viable product (MVP) stage.
“We [currently] have a low-fidelity prototype and over the coming weeks we will transform that into something we can test,” Ms Haag, who is half Belgian and half Luxembourgish, said in an interview following her win.
Numerous studies show that women are less inclined to invest their money than men due to their lack of confidence, willingness to engage and time. Moreover, investment products have typically been designed by men for other men, and have neglected to address the needs and preferences of women. Startups such as StarTalers and other financial institutions are now starting to wake up to the potential power of female investors.
Prior to founding StarTalers, Ms Haag worked for McKinsey, the management consultancy firm, and then for KBL, the private banking group. She described the “moments of truth” that propelled her into her new incarnation as entrepreneur.
“I am myself a financial professional and I have everything I need to make informed investment decisions but I procrastinate.”
The first was the realization that the wealth management model that has existed for 20 years is coming to an end. The second was that, as evidenced by the 2007/08 financial crisis, the industry is more and more disconnected from reality, and investors – especially female investors – increasingly want to know that their money is being invested in a sustainable and responsible manner.
The “eureka moment” however was when she attended a conference in Luxembourg that raised the questions: what are women investors looking for? And how well are they being served?
“That was the moment of realization,” Ms Haag said. “I am myself a financial professional and I have everything I need to make informed investment decisions but I procrastinate.”
She started asking around and found that it was a problem shared by many of her female friends and colleagues.
“I realized: there is something to be done here,” she recalled.
After a period of research and brainstorming, Ms Haag began working full time on StarTalers in January 2018. Her co-founder is Thierry Smets, a former colleague. Aude Lemogne, the director of Link Management, an art advisory, is also part of the team. The app will initially target French-speaking markets in Luxembourg, Belgium, France and Switzerland.
The name StarTalers, incidentally, comes from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale in which a poor little girl is rewarded for her kindness when falling stars turn to silver coins that make her rich.
“Girls need role models and they need their mothers to show them that everything is possible. I hope I can pave the way for them to be financially aware and autonomous.”
The app, as currently conceived, will have an education component that is free for all users. This is designed to be engaging, fun and devoid of jargon. Through positive feedback it’s also designed to boost users’ confidence in their ability to invest.
When ready, users can pay a monthly membership fee to to access the financial planning and investment portfolio platforms.
In devising a portfolio, investors will be able to choose products that align with their values such as renewable energies or gender diversity. They will also receive feedback on the impact their investments have created.
As well as an entrepreneur, Ms Haag is the mother of two daughters aged six and nine, and she says that has probably also fueled her passion for this project.
“I want to be able to make the world in which they live a better place and be a role model,” she said. “Girls need role models and they need their mothers to show them that everything is possible. I hope I can pave the way for them to be financially aware and autonomous.”