Splendit co-founder Florian Kübler speaks about his experiences.
There is probably no more meaningful investment than one in the education of a person. And that is exactly what we want to do with our start-up. Splendit is a financing platform where students can apply for a loan to finance their education. Once a student has registered on our website, private Splendit investors choose which students they want to invest in, and they choose how much they want to invest. Through Splendit, we provide a fair market for educational financing for students and investors.
When we created Splendit in 2011, we quickly realized that it was better to be employed at the start of the start-up, so we kept our day jobs. Starting a company always takes longer than you think. Your business is dependent on many factors that are outside of your sphere of influence. It took us one year to get all the permits signed to officially launch our company. Our business model was something new and therefore perplexing to some. We had to check everything from outside companies, which took an extremely long time. Of course, the officials who look at your documents are not as motivated as you are in getting things done quickly. This unfortunate fact led to us having to wait six months for one single decision to be made by an official. It can drive you crazy if you have no income and no reserves during such a long period of inaction.
And so we did our development work on the weekends and at night and worked for Splendit when we weren’t working at our other jobs. Sure, that was a tough time, but if you want to reach your goal, you have to push on through. We were able to survive financially for a long time. But we did plan on leaving our banking jobs as soon as the first version of Splendit was on its feet.
The way to find Investors
We found many of our investors from our own personal environments. They told their friends about us, and soon the word spread. At first this was a very tedious process. Many potential investors had doubts about the business model and thought that there was already something like Splendit, and that it wasn’t working well in Switzerland. However, once we found the first investor for our start-up, the second was followed by the third, and so on. This process goes on for a long time and is sometimes very tiring, but once you have the first investor, the whole thing gathers momentum and moves forward.
We had the biggest problems with the bank. It took so long before we finally got a decision from the bank on how to regulate our work. We had to deal with an enormous amount of bureaucracy and it took a lot of time.
Exchange with other start-ups
We exchanged ideas with other start-ups, but it wasn’t always a positive experience. A former co-worker built a business model similar to ours and we also exchanged information with him. Then he copied some things without our okay, which I thought was a great pity. Sure, you can copy something, but as a friend you would expect to be asked first for permission. The lesson: be careful with whom and with what you exchange.
I would recommend to anyone who wants to begin a start-up: Fill your team with people who have different skills than those you have yourself! This has been one of the most important lessons that I have personally learned. This is definitely the case at Switzerlend AG, the company into which Splendit is now integrated. We have lawyers, economists, IT people and consumer-experts. With different people who have different competencies, a start-up, an idea, can grow and thrive. And as soon as the growth process is well underway, you can hire people who do things the same as you do.
If you want to build a company with a friend, you need to be clear about whether you can be brutally honest with your friend. Everyone must be able to accept positive and negative criticism. It does not work if someone does a lot of work, gets upset, but will not respond to the concerns of others. It’s a lot like being in a family… disputes will happen, but it is important that in the end, everyone contributes their best and everyone enjoys the work you do together.
I knew that if I didn’t try to do something on my own someday, I would regret it. I had always wanted to do something by myself, but I never had the courage to do it until a few years ago. Now my children are older and this line of work has turned out really well. My family always supported me and my plans.
In a start-up, you are always motivated! At my old job, I woke up on Monday morning and was just not motivated. Here, I already start working on Sunday evening, because I’m motivated and love to do it. It’s cool! When it’s your own business, it’s different, because you work with your heart in it. Not like being in a business where you’re one employee of thousands. Perhaps this is also an illusion, but we get good, quick feedback on how we’re doing and that is very motivating. And besides, you can be sure that this praise is directed precisely at you.