What’s your previous experience of creating companies in Luxembourg?
Former Marketing Manager of a Luxemburgish life insurance company, I created Farvest in June 2000, a financial marketing agency with an initial focus on B2B lead generation and community management. It quickly expanded its services to include HR, media, technology, healthcare, mobility, space communities. I also founded Great Place to Work Luxembourg around 2007. Basically, I’ve always been involved in building ecosystems and understanding how they operate, connect and perform.
By the end of 2018, I had exited these two companies and I wanted to refocus solely on the finance sector, specifically wealth management, an ecosystem of decision makers that I am extremely familiar with. I met with CEOs and business directors from various finance sub-segments, including life insurance, private banking, real estate, private equity, family offices, wealth and asset managers, etc., to discuss their vision and some of their pain points.
What were the main findings from these discussions?
A prevalent issue was the absence of reliable deep data on B2B actors, making it impossible to figure out who does what or how to expand B2B activities in such a large market. Wealth management has a lot of sub-segments that interact together with highly specific matching criteria.
I found out that financial companies had to do a lot of cold calling without knowing whether there was an actual need, or if the targeting and context were appropriate. There was also the issue of a lack of depth in the analysis of the data available and problems with implementing a strategic market watch. We wanted to help companies boost sales while reducing their lead generation time and knowing where they stand in respect to their peers . For example, a company might need to assess in real time its strengths and weaknesses in terms of pricing, digitalisation, performance, customer experience…. In addition, there were huge recruitment needs in finance that we wanted to solve by providing intelligence on dynamic employer brands KPIs, as growth and resilience are clearly talent driven.
After analysing these findings, we decided to create Datapunk S.A. and design Hubfinance.com, a marketing technology (martech) designed to become the preferred partner for this industry. We analyse around 70,000 companies today and serve around 80 main customers on a daily basis.
What services does Hubfinance offer to address these issues?
Hubfinance aims to provide as much insights and business opportunities as possible… just like a CRM preinstalled with dynamic business data on all ecosystem players. We are highly focused and constantly connecting people who are designed to work together in order to emulate distribution channels and build collaborations. We propose new business connections every day based on users matching criteria.
Another insightful aspect is that all users can rate their partners in real time on 16 B2B customer experience criteria. Our dynamic surveys deliver daily scores, rankings, benchmarks. In addition, Hubfinance provides 30 indicators devoted to employer brand, attractivity, employees & candidate experience.
During Datapunk’s R&D and innovation phase, what kind of support did you receive from Luxinnovation?
We faced a lot of R&D and innovation needs at the start and wanted to explore our options. We knew we were quite unique as we were focusing on the front office and enabling businesses, whereas most fintechs focus on the back office – payments, compliance, and soon. Luxembourg is committed to innovations that help other companies grow, and as a martech dedicated to the finance industry, we checked with Luxinnovation, the national innovation agency, to know if this project could benefit from any kind of support.
Luxinnovation is very familiar with all types of projects and is incredibly advanced, informed, and structured, but also always open to listen to start-ups. We were able to make huge progress in various areas thanks to our collaboration with its team. Luxinnovation supports companies to find and apply for funding but it also provides support with structuring the business and market strategy. The agency helped us to quickly advance in our reflections and finetune all aspects of the project. Every single discussion with the team was friendly, pragmatic, and always challenging. We had highly motivating sessions, with a very sharp approach, which is something quite impressive if you consider that all the companies, products and markets the team analyses on a daily basis are all different. Their focus capacity is really amazing.
Our goal was also not to raise excessive capital all at once, especially during the R&D phase, so we avoided pitching to investors for early-stage funding. The funding we received at the time from the Ministry of the Economy helped us make much progress, and we were able to welcome investors once our MVP (minimum viable product) was ready and onboard the first customers. The funding also provided a lot of indirect benefits, such as the power of attraction that it gives you to onboard talents, customers and investors.
Why did you set up your company in Luxembourg?
Luxembourg is an incredible place to live and a beautiful country, but it’s also a very dynamic place for entrepreneurs. The country is not only a leading financial centre that is talented, diverse and trusted. It’s also a very agile, open-minded and innovation driven place and an ideal ecosystem for launching tech companies in a very safe environment, particularly when it comes to data and GDPR (EU law on data protection).
Luxembourg used to have a solid reputation as secure place for financial assets – and still has – but it now also has a reputation for being a secure, trusted destination for data. Every entrepreneur has an easy access to private and public decision makers: public bodies are always reachable, available, and efficient. Things move fast, but this is not new: it’s a heritage from decades of visionary leaders who have made long term choices to create a great place to work, invest, innovate and also live.
What’s next for Datapunk?
We’ve now reached the scale-up stage and are in discussions with Luxinnovation about ways to accelerate our growth because the momentum is strong. There’s a lot of potential as we’re also receiving inbound requests from various segments and markets.
After a decade of free money and comfortable growth, the financial sector – as other industries – is going back to basics: less advertising and more reliance on mastering benchmarks and lead generation. Hubfinance was designed for this paradigm shift. We are clearly aligned with market needs and gaining traction, but it’s just a start: the next three years will be really exciting.
We aim to keep developing as swiftly as possible while getting closer to our customers and are therefore recruiting in various areas: business development, customer care, content & communications, marketing technologies, CRM & surveys. For sure, exciting times ahead!
Photo credit: Datapunk