Quick update: Taking on a new challenge in the fintech industry

It has been exciting 2 years at the helm of my startup incubator Stark Founders. Without doubt this has been the most rewarding but also dynamic part of my life. Must admit my previous 3 year tenure at Rocket Internet has prepared me well for this rollercoaster as some of you might know. 🙂

Looking back, I have extended my understanding of technology and business ecosystems, venture capital, business modeling and marketing with focus on B2B/B2C cloud based products, IoT and nearshoring outsourcing. I can say for sure that what I loved the most were the entrepreneurial minded tireless people I met on the way.

Several companies later (including one exit), it was time for a change. Me being me – why not experience a whole new industry? Since few months I am part of the amazing CrossLend team sitting in the futuristic Sony Center at the heart of entrepreneurial Berlin.

So what do we do?

Undoubtedly money is the rocket fuel for business growth. Lending in the form of SME, mortgage or consumer loans is an essential vehicle to maintain consumption of goods and services. CrossLend provides a solution to redefine the lending economy as we know it for both consumers and business. With its unique securitization service it allows to convert loans into bonds and thus gives investors access to asset classes unavailable before while enabling financial institutions to grant more loans.

Unequivocally identified as a truly innovative company, I am really happy to be leading the digital effort at CrossLend. And for those who want to join our amazing technology team feel free to apply through our careers site. We are looking to grow our team of product managers and engineers with financial services background.

VCs spend an average of 3 mins, 44 secs on a pitch deck. What is the perfect deck then?

dollar-1164990_640DocSend recently published their findings from a research on the pitch decks of 200 companies raising funds. The companies raised a total of $360m so I believe this research could be treated as pretty representative.

Respected companies like Sequoia have long published their dream pitch deck.  Yet, DocSend has brought a bunch on insights that should be considered.

Here are the most important take aways in brief:

  • Seed raise takes 3 months on average.
  • Seed firms provide higher rounds with fewer meets than angels.
  • More meetings does not mean more money. 20-30 meetings should be enough.
  • Average time an investor spends on your deck is close to but under 4 minutes.
  • The perfect deck should be 20 pages or less.
  • Your deck should be mobile friendly, 1 out 8 investors views it on mobile.
  • The Sequoia suggested model seems to be ubiquitous in the industry as there were almost no big deviations on the slides required and their order. Check slide 7 for more info.
  • Investors spend most time on Financials, Team and Competition slides. If your financials are not ready yet, better do not include as they will be seriously scrutinized.
  • Do not include your deal terms in the deck.


Not yet another fluff leadership story. What a real leader looks like?

Being far from the idea to narrow down all qualities of a leader in this post, I am a firm believer that real leaders excel in leading by example. A recent story reminded me of that simple truth.

Rowan GormleyRowan Gormley, somebody who I was lucky to meet while studying at Cambridge, has just given up his £7 million share bonus. Not because of weak financial performance or other mishap. On the contrary, Rowan passes on his bonus to his employees if they meet their targets. Thus, incentivising them long-term with his company performance.

“I felt that the shares being allocated to me would mean a lot more to other people (..). And therefore would be a motivation, and therefore would increase the value of my own shares. It’s not an act of philanthropy. It’s an act of good commercial sense.”.

Simple but powerful example of win-win for a CEO and his team aligned with the company goal of turning around its fortunes. It also further strengthens the acceptance of Rowan on top of Majestic wine who is already highly regarded about his leadership qualities from his people.

This should not come as a surprise as he has undisputed in depth knowledge of building businesses and in the wine industry in particular. Rowan has had several high profile positions at Virgin working closely with Richard Branson. He ran Virgin Direct (now Virgin Money) and after leaving set up Orgasmic Wines. The firm became Virgin Wines in 2000 when Richard Branson bought into the business. Rowan left Virgin Wines in 2008 and set up Naked Wines. Last year Naked wines was acquired by Majestic Wine and Gormley was appointed CEO of the enlarged group.

The challenges as CEO are quite a thing – increasing revenue by 25% till 2019 while the British market is pretty much stagnating and facing established competition. And if that is not enough the weaker pound (thank you, Brexit) – which makes imports more expensive – could mean higher prices have to be passed on to customers in the future.

In any case, Godspeed, Rowan!

External sources:

How to build a business that lasts 100 years

Evernote is a company that wants to persevere through the years.  Whether it will achieve this is unclear, and we probably won’t be around to verify the outcome. Yet, it is not the first company with such a goal and even beyond.

Martin Reeves has made a spectacular appearance in Paris not long ago. He like many others has looked into the ways nature solves problems and connected his findings to building long-lasting businesses. I can surely give you his answer but strongly recommend to watch the video first. Believe it or not if you are a business owner you will probably watch it again.

The answer is taken from the human immune system and its core features: Redundancy, Diversity, Modularity, Adaptation, Prudence, Embeddedness. Ironically this is far from efficient but if nature has designed it efficient, we may not have survived our last flu. Plenty of food for thought and little need to chew the video for you. 🙂

Technology Series – The opening of Gigafactory 1 surfaced some impressive facts about this engineering wonder

So what is the Tesla Gigafactory besides clearly being a factory?

As its name implies, Gigafactory is an insanely big factory (actually is going to become a lot bigger), and it will produce batteries for the electric vehicles of Tesla Motors. That is not surprising considering the massive volume of around 500 000 vehicles per year that Tesla wants to produce towards end of the decade. This ambition is steered by Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to achieve that goal, Tesla wants to produce electric vehicles in sufficient volume to force change in the automobile industry. This apparently was not feasible to do using existing battery manufacturers so the true entrepreneur he is, Elon Musk decided to build his own factory. In his own words Elon said: “It has to be big, because the world is big”.

And while the plan was announced in 2014, last month the first part of the factory had its grand opening! The event emerged quickly in the press but then somehow got lost in all that sports events and probably holidays rolling out. For those of you who want to enjoy the video of the grand opening, here you go. Below I have put some interesting facts announced during the event.

  • The Gigafactory will be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy.
  • The factory current size is just 14% of its planned size. This article gives a good idea of construction progress with new sites starting already.
  • When complete, 93 Boeing 747 jets would fit inside, or in other terms 50 billion hamsters. 🙂
  • Design improvements allowed to increase initial battery production capacity per year from 50 GWh to 150 GWh.
  • When the factory is complete it will produce a higher amount of lithium-ion batteries than the world produced in 2014. And Tesla wants to build several of these factories.
  • In order to fit the maximum machinery in the factory and increase production speed, the engineering teams had to reinvent the battery production process.
  • The result: the factory strongly resembles a modular integrated circuit and claims a 5-10x increase in production capability. In Elon’s words: “… revitalising manufacturing”.