Complicated forms, lengthy waiting periods and the requirement that you show up in person every time you lose a credit card/change address/want to shut an account – these are often characteristics of Germany’s rather outdated banking system. The bureaucracy associated with any banking process feels out of touch with the technological state we’ve reached today. That’s why a number of apps and startups, realising the lucrative potential bringing the banking industry into the 21st century offers, have emerged to tap into the market.
Avuba, the yet-to-be launched startup that’s currently in the Berlin Startupbootcamp accelerator programme, is one of them. It wants to take some of the pain out of banking by providing users with a simple and quick online bank account. Although it faces competition from a number of companies (including US-based Simple, Finnish company Holvi and German bank Fidor, along with smart banking apps Mint and Numbrs), founder Jonas Piela tells us in an interview why he thinks Avuba’s extra features will let it stand out from the crowd…
Cofounders Oliver Lukesch and Jonas Piela
Hi Jonas, can you tell me more about what you’re doing?
We are Avuba and we want to fix banking. Our main product is our bank account – it comes with free worldwide cash withdrawals, nicely designed web and mobile apps as well as intelligent expenses analytics. In the future, we will complement this account with P2P payments and online payments.
We are a technology company that aims to build the next generation bank account that not only holds your money but also tells you where you are spending it. We also want people to use it directly to pay online and to transfer money to their friends without having to use something like PayPal.
To provide the service we are partnering with net.m privatbank 1891 – it enables us to issue full stack bank accounts with debit and credit cards as well as deposit insurance. Our banking experience sits on top of those accounts and comprises mobile and web experience, customer care as well as the bank account features.
How did you come across your idea?
We were really annoyed with our bank accounts, we felt there was just no innovation happening. We saw that banks weren’t going to do something about it themselves so we decided to do it ourselves.
Who are the founders and what have you done before?
I previously cofounded an online marketing company called Suxeedo. I have more than ten years experience as a developer and studied business before that. Oliver Lukesch is the CPO of Avuba. He is a designer and frontend developer from his studies but a product guy at heart. He’s also already a StartupBootcamp alumni, he started Weavly and is the winner of the Innovation Award Vienna.
What makes you different from everyone else?
We have a free credit and debit card, plus we waive withdrawal fees so customers can take money out anywhere in the world without fees. Our user interface is super easy to use and we offer advanced analytics of users’ spending behaviour. We’re available in a number of languages already, beyond German and English – from the user interface to support. We also provide a 24-hour hotline if people need help and the new account is set up within 24 hours – so it is super quick and convenient.
Who’s your target market?
We think a number of people would benefit from and enjoy using Avuba, including people who are disappointed by their bank account because it doesn’t serve their needs. It’s also great for digital natives who expect their bank account to have the same ease of use, insights and quality as the rest of the apps and digital devices they have.
Expats living in Germany get a shortcut with Avuba, they often find it hard to deal with banking because interfaces and customer support is often all in German here.
How many users do you have?
It’s in the hundreds.
What is your business model?
We have a revenue model – we will charge a monthly fee for our customers of between nothing and €7 (it’s still being discussed though). We take interest and a cut of credit card transaction fees.
Who is financing you?
We’re a part of Startupbootcamp, we received €10,000 funding from them.
Is there something you’re missing?
We’re hiring, check out our jobs.
Any advice you’d give fellow startups?
Have a big vision, because it is much more fun and it is important for the German startup industry that people have big ideas.
Where will you be in a year’s time?
We will have released our bank account and be busy making people happy with a great banking experience, of course.
How are you getting around users’ privacy concerns?
We do intensive and corporate-level background checks on employees, we are running our servers in a bank-level data centre in Germany, we are working closely with security experts to continuously secure our servers and we are working with a partner bank and the Volksbank data centre to provide fully regulated and licensed bank accounts.
Bank: Flickr user Nationalmuseet
For related posts, check out
“Maybe I’ll make my next startup a bank” – 5 top trends from the future of banking
Video: The Anatomy of an Accelerator – Part One
Startup of the Week – Numbrs, bringing all your bank accounts under the one roof