November 12, 2015

Finnish fintech trio make your everyday life easier

On a global scale, Finland is the country with the highest number of e-invoices sent. During the past three years, the number of small-sized businesses switching to e-invoicing has doubled annually.
On a global scale, Finland is the country with the highest number of e-invoices sent. During the past three years, the number of small-sized businesses switching to e-invoicing has doubled annually.
Teemu Granström

Startup event Slush brings together some of Finland’s most exciting startups in fintech.

How to organise a massive pile of receipts after a trip and then split the costs between friends? Or what if you want to be an entrepreneur, but you don’t have any accounting qualifications? How about when an opportunity to buy your first apartment comes knocking at your door, but you need to pack your bags immediately for a long-awaited trip to California? How to be sure that your personal finances can manage all this?

Thankfully, financial technology has made the leap into digitalisation and a wave of fintech companies emerging from this disruption are now solving our problems.

Scrooge: keeping tabs on who owes who

“Scrooge was born during a skiing trip in Japan in 2011,” recalls the company’s CEO Samu Saastamoinen. There were six of us altogether who went to Hakuba to search for world-class powder and enjoy the food culture and life itself. After the week-long trip it took around two weeks to sort out who had paid what, where the receipts were and who owed what to whom.”

Three of these avid skiers thought that such problems should not exist in the 21st century. They started to search for a suitable application that would save them from any receipt disasters in future.

“We found several apps but none of them were practical enough, so we decided to make our own. The whole project started as a hobby but when we came up with a business concept for it, things got serious.”

Scrooge’s market is global, as tracking costs and settling debts with friends is a cross-cultural issue.

Only a smartphone is required in order to use the Scrooge fair splitting app. Soon you can even link your debit card to the app to settle your debts within a few clicks.

“Our biggest competitor is paper and pen and people’s own memory. People still retain receipts to track costs and the most responsible one of the group is then forced to split them. Scrooge offers an easy way to sort your debts and lets you focus on the essential: having fun,” Saastamoinen summarises.

Scrooge App tracks costs and settles debts with friends. Samu Saastamoinen and Janne Haila came to Slush to meet potential partners, investors and new users.

Scrooge App tracks costs and settles debts with friends. Samu Saastamoinen and Janne Haila came to Slush to meet potential partners, investors and new users.

Teemu Granström

Zervant: born to eliminate paperwork

Financial administration can be a pain for every entrepreneur or startup. Zervant’s founders set out to make running your own business as easy as working for someone else.

“If you have the passion and desire to be an entrepreneur, paperwork and admin should never stand in the way,” says Zervant’s CEO Mattias Hansson.

Zervant’s software is aimed at small businesses in the service sector.

The company has not chosen an easy industry, as the digital financial sector is highly competitive.

“We don’t want to compete with traditional accounting solutions,” Hansson explains. “Existing solutions are so feature-rich that small business owners often feel overwhelmed. We’re focusing on disrupting the old order of things and bringing a new and fresh approach to an age-old problem.”

Zervant is available in five languages, with users spread across 140 countries. Its fastest growing markets are in France and Sweden and the UK is next on the list.

“The UK is a very competitive market, but we also know that there is huge potential,” says John Hills, Zervant’s UK marketing manager. “To establish ourselves in the UK will take a lot of time and effort, and even though we’ve only been actively working in the UK for six months, we’ve seen great growth during that time.”

Zervant’s team contains people from seven different countries and daily communication between colleagues is conducted in five languages. Can this be a disadvantage?

“The cons are largely anecdotal, and mainly come from misunderstandings. Telling the time is a good example. In France and the UK when you say ’half 10’ you mean 10:30 am but in Finland and Germany when you say ’half 10’ you mean 9:30 am. Making sure everyone turns up for a meeting at the right time can be tricky!” Hills states, with a chuckle.

Hansson and Hills are not the only ones who believe that the software has potential: the company has, to date, raised a total of over four million euros in investments.

“We’re still only at the start of our journey, but in the long run we’re aiming to be the biggest and most popular invoicing service for small businesses in Europe,” Hansson says.

Planago sees the whole of Europe as its home market, as it helps users become financially independent.

Planago sees the whole of Europe as its home market, as it helps users become financially independent.

Teemu Granström

Planago: aiming for financial independence

Planago’s founder and CEO Marko Vänskä proposes a question: “Would you like to be financially independent?”

“Planago can calculate that in 2060 you’ll reach financial independence with your current way of handling money,” he explains. “Would you like that day to become sooner?  If so, what should you do to make it happen, and how much do you want to invest in your quality of life at the moment compared to your wealth, which will have an effect on your future? All of this can be calculated beforehand. With Planago you can build your wealth.”

Planago helps people to make smarter choices with their money. Whether you’re buying a car, an apartment or changing a job, which all can have an impact on your budget, Planago calculates what financial decisions are viable to accomplish, and still keep your budget in balance.

The effectiveness of Planago’s planning tool has also been tested unintentionally:

“Our coders are around 25-30 years old. While they have been testing our tools, they have started investing in funds and buying their first apartments as a result,” Vänskä laughs.

Although Planago’s personal finance platform is only one side of the startup, the platform has additionally been used for developing educational financial games. On top of that, Planago has also offered their platform for game studios to develop new kinds of financial games that are based on real market data.

Planago also gives a hand in investing:

“If you’re not investing any money, you are dependent on your monthly income,” Vänskä states. “If you lose your income, you’re left with nothing. But if you have investments, which are bringing you capital and would also cover your monthly costs, you’re financially independent. You wouldn’t have to think about what you’re going to do. You could pick and choose your jobs.”

Several bankers, merchants and real-estate investors have noticed the platform’s worth and have invested in the company.

The personal finance platform can be adapted to banks’ needs to attract their present and future clients.

It makes sense that banks and other financial institutions are Planago’s main clients: with relative newcomers like Bitcoin and Paypal starting to override them in the transaction market, banks need all the help they can get to develop modern financial models for their customers’ demanding needs.

“We have already started working with some of the global banks, even though our product launch is yet to come,” Vänskä reveals.

Text: Sara Vihavainen

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