Berlin Startups in the Spotlight: FinMarie
Publish Date: December 8th, 2022
We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with Leitha Matz, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of the Berlin FinTech startup FinMarie, about FinMarie’s mission to empower women to have control and confidence over their finances, the company’s location in Berlin, and their plans to expand to the U.S.
Hi Leitha, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. First, could you tell us a little about yourself and what you are passionate about?
It’s wonderful to connect with this team!
I’ve developed digital products in the U.S. and Germany with large and small teams for about 20 years, and the thing I love about work in technology is that we’re constantly creating new ways to connect with the people we serve.
If you’re doing it right, that moment of product/market fit is absolutely thrilling. There’s always a new challenge, a new idea, a new method to test. I feel like I’m learning something new every day.
I’m also a real data nerd, so I especially love projects that help people experience their data in ways that inspire and motivate them.
How did the vision to found FinMarie evolve?
Our first discovery was the market opportunity. Karolina Decker is my co-founder and finmarie’s CEO, and we connected in an “ah-ha!” moment at a female founders meetup. Over cocktails, we started chatting about how few women were talking about and taking charge of their finances.
This conversation launched our nonprofit education platform, Mind the Gap e.V., and Karolina established finmarie as a financial coaching business. When the time seemed right to scale and expand, I joined the leadership team along with our Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder Rica Klitzke, and now we’re taking the company to the next level.
Please explain FinMarie’s unique approach to offering financial advice for women.
No one approach is right for everyone, but we focus on giving the user a combination of digital and human touchpoints that make the path to financial independence achievable. Broadly, we’re using education, community and tech to inspire and deliver the right information at the right time, clarify the risks and rewards, and to give a smooth user interface to our robo-advisor and the partner tools.
Where is FinMarie located and can you give us some insights into your team?
Nearly all of our team members live and work in Berlin, although we do use a hybrid workstyle with online tools like Slack, Notion, Figma and Miro. That makes it a lot easier to connect with remote workers and freelancers.
We have very lean internal marketing, engineering and UI/UX teams. To me it seems like a pretty unique setup, because with just 12 people, women are the majority (80%), with a 20-year age range across the team, and we come from 9 different countries, speaking 14 different languages! In our team meetings, it’s fun to compare customs and traditions between the various environments we know.
FinMarie founding team (from left to right): Leitha Matz, Rica Klitzke, Karolina Decker
Why is Berlin your business location of choice?
- Berlin is an attractive international environment to hire personnel. People want to gather here.
- The FinTech scene is made up of people who get things done. From company builders, like FinLeap, to Parity Technologies, which focuses on DeFi and develops the Polkadot and Substrate ecosystem, it’s all about execution.
- The ecosystem is diverse and small enough to feel like a community, but large enough to host really interesting events and tech conferences.
What are your plans when it comes to expanding in the U.S.? What factors influence your location decisions in the U.S.?
The U.S. is such an attractive market, but especially for FinTech companies, it’s more like 50 markets than one, since regulation can be different on a state-by-state basis.
As a small team, we definitely need to consider setup costs, the strength of the local business ecosystem and how our launch location attracts talent.
A lot of companies based in Europe also rely on U.S. capital in their later investment rounds, so access to those relationships and resources is also going to be key to success.
Can you recommend what type of partners are helpful in expanding to the U.S. or any other pertinent advice to Berlin companies exploring U.S. markets?
I think a lot of people underestimate the cost of U.S. expansion in terms of both time and money. It’s not the kind of thing you can operate out of a remote office successfully. An embedded team that’s empowered to steer and adapt the business at the local level makes a huge difference. B2C companies like ours also need to focus on localized language, brand presence and sales/acquisition channels.
As far as partners, it always depends on the company’s business model, but for FinTech, local legal and regulatory expertise are absolutely essential, and aligned Banking/Insurance/FinTech partners for distribution and functionality can make a huge difference.
Is there any advice you can give to aspiring startups in Berlin? Any tips on what they shouldn’t miss when they embark on their journey?
Personally, I get so much from all the networks I belong to, I’d advise anyone starting out to immediately start connecting to some of the existing communities here in Berlin.
Organizations like Impact Hub, DE.Hub, The Grace Accelerator, Google for Startups, Factory Berlin and the Berlin Finance Initiative have all helped us to boost our network, reach and resources.
I can’t imagine building a company in isolation. I always find myself reaching out to one of these groups to check on best practices, get advice, look for personnel and resources, find product testers and see if others have similar experiences to share.