Guest Writer
August 17, 2016

Fintech, trust, and being brave enough to do your bookkeeping: An interview with Holvi

Built independently from end to end, and kitted out with tools to keep your bookkeeping paperless and on point, Holvi has been helping small businesses in Finland, Austria and now Germany to ditch big banks and manage their money better. We sat down with Holvi’s country manager for Germany and Austria, Leah Marie Zeppos, to discuss the insights Holvi has gained along their journey: from Helsinki to betahaus Berlin.

Holvi offers bookkeeping services for startups, but what problem exactly does Holvi solve?

“Everyone working at Holvi has a background in entrepreneurship and freelancing, so we’ve all had firsthand experience with the problem that bookkeeping tends to get put off. A lot of startups might start off with a CEO, CTO, and maybe a marketing person. This set-up offers a variety of talents, but what's missing is someone looking after the bookkeeping. Until all of a sudden the Finanzamt comes along after six months and says ‘By the way, you DO have to pay VAT, and you owe this much in income tax’, and then you’ve got a problem with liquidity on your hands."

 

"A lot of startups might start off with a CEO, CTO, and maybe a marketing person. In all this, there isn’t really someone there to look after the bookkeeping."
Photo by Holvi

These kinds of Finanzamt horror stories shouldn’t scare budding entrepreneurs from getting their business up and running. So how does Holvi help?

“When you’re just starting out, just being on top of when an invoice comes in or when an invoice has been paid is totally critical. Holvi makes sure you get an automatic notification on these sorts of things. For people who for instance have a tech background but not necessarily a bookkeeping background, Holvi offers a reassuring product. Going freelance or becoming an entrepreneur can be really frightening, especially from a German perspective. Holvi provides an added level of security.”

Let’s talk about the name: Holvi means 'vault' in Finnish, a word that’s tied to not only security, but also to trust. Can you tell us a bit more about the concept of ‘trust’ for Holvi?

“When you deal with money, you are dealing with one of the most basic levels of trust. This, in particular, is a big hurdle for entering the German market.In order for Holvi to open a business bank account for customers, both European and individual member state laws require that we can confirm that this person is who they say they are, lives where they say they do, and runs the business that they claim to. The customer needs to feel comfortable providing us with their data online, and because of this, providing a safe space for customers is a number one priority.”

 

"When you deal with money, you are dealing with one of the most basic levels of trust. This, in particular, is a big hurdle for entering the German market."

In March of this year, Holvi was acquired by BBVA, a large Spanish bank with demonstrated interest in fintech. How did Holvi decide that this would be the right move?

"Before Holvi, BBVA also partnered with Simple, who offers a very similar product to ours in the U.S. We were able to take this history into account when choosing a Fintech partner who could both mentor us and let us stay essentially independent."

Why do you think it’s important that banks give their fintech partners freedom?

"BBVA bought Holvi because they wanted to be a part of this. BBVA is serious about going digital and their attitude towards innovation is one I've only seen from startups up to now. With BBVA we knew we'd have a partner who could help us grow without stifling the ‘startup’ part of who we are."

How do you see the relationship between banks and fintechs today? Why do some large banks still seem so resistant to the idea of partnering with fintechs?

“One thing that Holvi founder Tuomas often says to explain this is that the banks are like big ships. They take forever to turn, but once they do turn, they have huge momentum. Of course, banks and fintechs are competitors in that they’re fighting for investors' money.And fintechs definitely have the upper hand right now in lots of ways. But this doesn’t mean that big banks and fintechs are natural enemies. There’s a whole spectrum of fintech, from startups with total independence, to traditional banks offering part of the fintech package, to startups offering a fintech package built on the backbone of a bank. A lot of fintech experts like to say that there’s only one true way, but I’ve never heard them say there’s one true way because.”

 

"Banks are like big ships. They take forever to turn, but once they do turn, they have huge momentum."

 

Want to learn more about Holvi’s services? They’re hosting a range of events in betahaus, including seminars for paperless bookkeeping! More info on that here. 

Want to become part of the betahaus community? Find out how !

Well, both. Currently we offer the following two options: shorter publicly available Brand Playlists and long-form private Soundtracks for spaces. For both of them we work closely with the client to understand how sound fits into their brand DNA and what their audience is like.

We believe that the guests’ experience with a particular space doesn’t have to begin and end with their stay. The idea of the Brand Playlist is to be a public brand playlists designed to engage the customers before, during, and after their visit at a space. It’s always accessible for them and serves as a new, dynamic marketing channel.

The Soundtrack is slightly different. It takes sometimes up to weeks of work and is designed by a world-class artist, DJ, or tastemaker. For it we first work with you to develop a deep understanding of your business and style. Then we match you with the perfect artist, DJ, or tastemaker to create unique, always fresh playlists, custom tailored to match your brand. 

In both cases, we update them regularly based on guest habits and clients’ needs. 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound



The way we engage with the music community is something really important for us and honestly, what makes us different than other background music providers. A lot of the background music providers out there have internal teams of maybe five or six DJs that do all of the music for their clients. We aim to connect with the local scene and always work with local DJs. There's some kind of magic in finding the exact right artists for the brand.

And on the flip side of it, when we hire artists, we make sure that the project is also inspiring for them and that they would be interested in participating. We always make sure to pay them well. The whole project creates for them a new income stream that they wouldn't have otherwise.

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound

Yes! This was really fun. The objective with the betahaus "betabeer sounds" playlist was to showcase the community side of betahaus. There are so many cool, interesting people in the betahaus community and we thought a playlist could be a perfect way to not only help bring the community together but also show the diverse funkiness of the communities of Berlin and Neukölln, which is why Hazy Pockets, a longtime local Berlin DJ known for his eclectic mixes, was perfect for this project.

This playlist moves from bluesy 60s rock into surf and tropicalia, picking up momentum into Motown and onwards through some laid back disco tunes. Perfect for the betabeer events betahaus hosts monthly!


YOU’RE CURRENTLY ENJOYING THE SUN FAR FROM BERLIN. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES in berlin that YOU MISS THE MOST?

Oh, there are just so many! Like the Imren Grill for instance where you can find the best homemade Turkish food or Das Gift and Gordon which are both run by great music people. Kohelenquelle in Prenzleuer Berg is my favorite local bar (or rather kneipe). To satisfy my  techno / electronic records needs I always go to Hard Wax and one of my most special places is the Zions Kirche steeple, which has an awesome view of the city and a great Weinerei close by. 


You can see me around betahaus. Online, you can always check out my website and listen to our public playlists on Spotify. We’re also currently working on a collaboration with betahaus, so a special Playlist curated by is will very soon sound around the spaces in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. 

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