Philip Kornmann and Stijn Pieper
How did it all start with Advanon?
At the end of August 2014 Phil, Philip and I (Stijn Pieper) met in the lively town of Dublin. I remember that all three of us were full of energy of trying to start a company. Having been surrounded by tons of inspiring people at Google, triggered something within us that made us make a decision against all odds: we were going to build the most successful financial platform ever seen.
Even though we had limited working experience, all of us came from different and complementary backgrounds such as finance, business and technology. This made it super interesting to discuss the business idea, as the different perspectives made it exciting to discuss topics where finance meets technology and people. We planned to discuss it over some lunch breaks and dinners, so we could kick-off the project when we would get back to university.
The idea was to have a prototype within two months and be live on the market within four months. Of course, after having started all the projects it turned out that it took all a little bit longer to figure out what we exactly had to build. Going out and pitch our rough idea to the first investors, gave us a lot of valuable feedback that we needed to make focus more on what was essential to kick of the business.
We officially incorporated the company in March 2015, and decided to go live in the summer following. Based on a basic product – solely built in Ruby – we could start onboarding our first customers and upload the first invoices to be financed in September 2015. By doing so we quickly gained speed in developing the platform and business model as soon as the first users started giving us feedback. This really allowed us to establish ourselves as a start-up and was the basis for where we are now.
How is working in Switzerland?
Arriving in Zürich was a bit of a rollercoaster for me. When I left Dublin in September 2014, I flew over Holland in order to exchange my summer clothes with my winter clothes and get over to Zürich 12 hours later. My semester at ETH was starting the day after, so there was little time to lose. Arriving here, I was welcomed by the Swiss part of my family, who introduced me to the Swiss way of living.
Since then I have been working and living in Switzerland and have been enjoying every moment of it. Prejudice about the Swiss being very formal and closed are only partially true. On the one hand some small things seem to matter more for the Swiss than they do for Dutch people. Especially during the introduction to a new person there is a list of formalities you have to go through, before you have established enough of a relation to create a business deal. But once you are passed that stage, there is also a world of friendliness awaiting you.
As we are having a very international team (currently we are with 11 nationalities), we are able to work with the cultural differences. Even though the country has the reputation to be closed, the way that we were able to attract talents from all over the world shows the attractiveness that the Swiss brand has.
What does your daily work look like?
As CTO of Advanon I focus mainly on the technology and product development. My work ranges from meeting with partners and discussing integration possibilities to discussing technical details with the engineering team. My main role right now to coordinate between the business development, operations and the technological development. This entails discussions about a problem we like to solve, the user experience it should have and specifying this in user stories and technical requirements together with the development team.
At Advanon we are very open for remote work as we have had great experiences ever since we started the company. Even Phil, Philip and I were just with the three of us, it was often the case that one was in Amsterdam, one in Paris and one in Zürich. This meant that remote communication has been one of the main issues we had to solve from the beginning. I believe this led to a certain structure and culture that makes remote work right now really effective and efficient. This also comes in handy now we have opened our second office in Berlin and need to coordinate between them.
As we have a many people in the team working on different locations we coordinate a lot of the work through online tools. Using for example GitHub, Trello, Slack and Google Hangouts we organize our Sprint Planning meetings, our Daily Stand-ups. Based on these tools we also developed integrations and bots that help us with certain tasks. This is then also the means that my daily work very much consists of working in those tools with our awesome development team to create the platform and user experience that we envision and our customers enjoy.
How is it to have a start-up?
Running your own start-up is definitely more impactful than I initially anticipated. It takes over a large part of your life, which also makes it even more important to have such an amazing team of people where you work with. The mean strength of the company are always its people. I am really proud to be able to say that we have established this culture that I feel very motivated to work every single hour of the day on Advanon.
Of course one needs to take care to keep a work-life balance. However, I am of the opinion that you need a good life balance only. I think if you are able to do what you love doing. And do what you are to a certain degree good at, the only real thing you need to take care of is that you’re always able to learn. For me at least, that is what drives me to really push Advanon forward.
Ultimately, having a positive team that really cares about our customers and the product makes it really rewarding to work hard on something. Because customers who are happy with the product and services we offer give an unprecedented reward. I really look forward to continue working on making the life of small companies better by providing a completely revived experience around liquidity management. I’m looking forward to meet you in of our offices!
Phil Lojacono, Philip Kornmann & Stijn Pieper