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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 !

" People matter! Community was always what we were all about. ‘’

In June we launched #PeopleInbeta - our monthly blog post series in which our Content Manager - Vihra interviewed teams and freelancers from the betahaus community to present the variety of creatives we have in ‘haus, to understand their missions and get some useful advice for our audience. We talked on topics such as sustainability (with PlanA) , decentralized digital identity (with JOLOCOM), curated music experiences (with Bespoke Sounds), freelance photography (with Sara Herrlander), full-stack development (with Obst Digital), design (with LAUDO) and much more.

Interview with LAUDO at betahaus | Neukölln
Interview with Obst.Digital at betahaus | Neukölln

"The Summer is the best time to host Backyard sessions and BBQ’s’’

In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ. 

Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture. 

Freelancers, Unite! at betahaus | Neukölln

Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails. 

The Backyard Sessions at basement.berlin
Movie Screening at basement.berlin

This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.

‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)

''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’
- Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus) 

The Garden at betahaus | Neukölln
My Friend's BBQ at betahaus | Neukölln



"As a coworking space, you have to give stage to important topics.’’

This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.

betaSalon at betahaus | Kreuzberg

"We should fight for a more human-centered tech development’’

Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.

Techfestival. 2019 in Copenhagen


"Startups are transforming European football as we know it.’’

One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.



"You should leave time for the things you love most’’ 

This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.

We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.

Love at The betahaus Holiday Party 2019


Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.

With love,
betahaus

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