Today’s Day in the Life Interview is with founder and CEO of Hamburg startup Kreditech. Kreditech utilises technology to improve financial freedom for the underbanked. Since founding in 2012, the startup has gone from strength to strength and now employs over 300 people and works across five global markets.
1. First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
I am the Founder and CEO of Kreditech. Kreditech is a technology-enabled financial services company that offers digital banking services with a focus on lending to underbanked consumers across the globe. Our core products are consumer loans, which we offer to our customers conveniently through an instant, fully online application process. A loan application takes less than a few minutes and does not require any paperwork, while approvals and payouts happen automatically 24/7.
We have developed a proprietary credit scoring technology which uses big data and machine learning to process up to 20,000 data points per application, allowing us to determine credit risk with a much higher precision than traditional credit-bureau based systems, especially for thin-file customers. Our technology does not only allow us to serve credit to customers which are rejected by banks but also custom-tailor our loan offer to the individual situation of the customer.
We also offer a digital wallet and a personal finance manager to bring modern and convenient banking services to our customers. We will also use our big data capabilities to help customers manage their spendings, create savings and improve their credit score.
Founded in 2012 the Kreditech Group today has a team of over 300 passionate employees from over 40 nationalities. Since its founding, Kreditech has scored more than two million individual loan applications, using up to 20,000 data points per application. Headquartered in Hamburg we currently serve customers in our five core markets, Poland, Spain, Czech Republic, Russia and Mexico. The company is backed by prominent investors like Peter Thiel, JC Flowers, Värde Partners and Blumberg Capital and has raised more than 300m EUR in equity and debt thus far.
2. What brought you to this area?
We noticed that financial services are not available to a large percentage of the world’s population. Banks have failed to account for the individualities of consumers: Those who either do not have access to financial services at all or get unfavorable conditions that do not suit their individual situation.
The reason behind that is the lack of credit history, which banks need to evaluate in order to approve a loan application. Without credit data, there is no rating. And without rating, there is no credit. Paradoxically, we live in a world where every person produces more and more data every day using smartphones and web/ mobile services. Kreditech was started around the idea to use these new data sources as a substitute for credit history.
3. What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
It is hard to describe a “normal” day as – typically for the startup world – most of the times, some unforeseen priorities pop up. I’m usually like to start my day early and often I’m the first in the office as I enjoy a few hours of quiet working time. The rest of my days are usually scheduled back to back with meetings until the evening. I try my best of keeping one day per week free of meetings to fully concentrate on important topics, strategic planning and organisation.
4. What kind of projects are you currently working on?
As CEO, my key focus is to make sure we as a company have the right objectives and don’t get off the path which takes us there. At the moment I put strong focus on organisational development and talent acquisition. We are becoming a larger organisation across multiple locations and building the right company culture is very important. For instance, we have recently introduced company values to make the working atmosphere smooth and aligned in between colleagues and teams. Also, we have launched a development program called “Krediversity” where team leaders and all employees are supported to grow their soft and hard skills.
5. What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
I think the success of Kreditech thus far speaks for itself. We have created a unique value proposition for the underbanked customers in our core markets to receive high quality financial services, fully digital and custom-tailored.
6. What is the one app you could not live without?
Given my background in technology, I love using Notepad ++ and Git for all my personal notes. Using git to manage my personal task-list is great and allows me to be very efficient with a simple and lean system.
7. What’s the best thing about working at your company?
We are probably the only true global fintech company: given our geographic presence, we serve customers between the polar circle and the equator. We understand how to use our core capabilities in data science and engineering and adjust to the needs of each market. Being exposed to so many different countries and cultures is very exciting and there are so many learnings to make. On top of that I think we are working on a really exciting, real-world problem (banking the underbanked), which also just happens to be a very big and attractive market. Overall I think being part of the journey of a fast growing company with an exciting mission and surrounded by a bunch of highly talented people striving together to change the financial industry.
8. Where is the after work hangout?
9. What makes Hamburg a good city for technology and startups?
Hamburg is great when it comes to access: The airport has direct flights to London, Brussels and New York. Also, the city is one hour and 40 minutes from Berlin by train.
Also, the existing infrastructure is a great plus: A shortage of land in the city centre is being tackled by a 157-hectare urban regeneration project
For recruiting talent, it is very convenient, too: Germany offers a three-year entrepreneur visa to those who establish a business and create jobs, with citizenship on offer after five years.
10. Which tech trends are you most excited about?
I like the trend that, thanks to better EU regulation laws, facilitates fintech businesses. One great example is PSD2, thanks to the new Directive on Payment Services banking becomes more open and helps fintech companies like Kreditech to continue improving its services for the consumer.
11. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
Innovative thinking to help us achieve our mission, improving financial freedom.
Being data driven in order to substantiate decisions and results.
Passion for making change happen.
12. And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Focus! It is a curse and blessing at the same time when you found a startup in the digital era, because there are so many opportunities and you might want to try them all at once. So the danger is that you start to fritter the business instead of making one thing right. So I can only recommend to everyone, stay focused on your mission and make that one business idea happen in one market / by one product first until you diversify and expand it.
The most important thing is to just start. You can be really analytical to find the right business model, or listen to your guts and go for the vision you have. You really learn the most when you just start.