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I sit down with Alex Prot, CEO & Co-Founder of Qonto, one of the largest fintechs in Europe that helps small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) simplify their everyday banking and offers a wide range of digital financial services.
Founded in 2017, Qonto now serves 350,000 clients in France, Italy, Spain and Germany, and has over 1,000 employees. The company has also raised €622 million from Valar, DST, Hedosophia, Insight, KKR, and angels like Taavet Hinrikus, Co-Founder of Wise and Guillaume Pousaz, Founder of Checkout.com.
In this episode, we discuss:
Three key areas that unlocked Qonto’s success - Qonto’s growth is the result of thousands of good decisions over the years, but Alex highlighted some especially important fields:
Focus on customer experience: Qonto has always prioritized building a user-friendly platform with a strong emphasis on customer support. To stand out in a competitive field, they’ve ensured clients have access to a seamless and efficient banking experience.
Product innovation: Qonto has one of the most innovative product suites in European SME banking and most of their innovation comes from listening to customer feedback.
Expansion and market penetration: the company initially launched in France, but they built their systems and structure with regional aspirations in mind. This core architecture later allowed them to rapidly venture into Spain, Italy, and Germany.
Challenges of scaling Qonto to 1000 employees and 350k customers and their plan to reach a million clients in three years
“We started very much with startups and tech companies… But we also have a lot of clients in traditional industries like construction and transportation. I mean, we have 350,000 clients now, and unfortunately, there are not 350,000 startups in Europe.”
Qonto is on a mission to reach one million SMEs by 2026 and become profitable even sooner than that. To get there, not only will they double down on existing markets (France, Italy, Spain, and Germany) but they also plan to further expand in Europe and 2x its workforce from 1000 to 2000+ employees.
The power of having a strong Co-Founder and how Alex has reinvented himself and his CEO role multiple times
“Having a strong founding team is very key. And I think two co-founders is a very good number.”
Qonto Co-Founders Alex Prot and Steve Anavi attribute their successful relationship to having a strong and complementary partnership. Not only have they worked together for a decade, but they’ve known each over for over 25 years. They also have different strengths, which contribute to their overall effectiveness. This type of partnership has given them the ability to challenge each other and foster personal growth, making their two-person founding team a powerful combination.
Fundraising lessons, Europe’s fascinating fintech opportunity… and a lot more!
"I think it's funny, because of the last round, we raised with 486 million euro. So pretty, pretty large amounts. And, and the first round we raised was 1.6 million euro. And the level of stress and the level of uncertainty was not much higher for the last round versus, you know, the first round."
When it comes to fundraising, Alex advises founders to only raise money when a company is ready and to have a very clear purpose for the funds. Managing the process and timeline effectively is crucial, and it's best to engage with investors only when you have a detailed plan and specific goals. While the level of investor appetite depends on the company and market conditions, the key takeaway is to maintain control over the fundraising process and timeline, rather than merely reacting to what investors want.
Special thanks to Katlego Maphai and Cecilia Lundborg for your help in making this episode a reality.
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Miguel Armaza is Co-Founder & Managing General Partner of Gilgamesh Ventures, a seed-stage investment fund focused on fintech in the Americas. He also hosts and writes the Fintech Leaders podcast and newsletter.