In conversation with Miriam Wohlfarth, one of the first women to found a fintech in Germany.
“Just go ahead and do it” is the credo of Miriam Wohlfarth, founder of payment provider RatePAY and a pioneer in Germany’s start-up scene. Her successful fintech is expanding across Europe and now employs more than 200 people. We joined her at the company's office in Berlin-Charlottenburg to discuss courage and the Germans’ tendency to complain.
2018 was a record year for the European start-up scene with inflows of 23 billion euros in venture capital.
Yes, large sums were invested in European tech firms, but distinctions must be drawn there. Most of the money comes from the US and Asian countries, but the risk appetite of German and European firms is unfortunately still far too low. In my opinion, we need a fundamental change in attitude.
You founded RatePAY in Germany and you’re now expanding across Europe. How easy or difficult was that?
Fintechs have to play by the rules, and the rules differ from one country to the next. This makes international expansion difficult, of course. Other start-ups have it easier: if you’re building an information portal or an online shop, it’s a great deal easier to expand into neighbouring European countries. However, the first thing I always have to ask myself is: is this country or market even relevant for my product. And especially for RatePAY we started by building a very German product – buying on invoice – and only expanded into Austria and Switzerland in response to client requests, as is also the case in the Netherlands now. But there are still lots of obstacles and too little support for start-ups.
London is seen as the European fintech capital. What does Brexit mean for the industry?
There is already a shift underway: away from London and increasingly towards continental Europe. I believe that the European market will even benefit from it and it will become more difficult for start-ups in the UK. More venture capital will tend to flow towards Paris, Berlin or Ireland while less will make its way to the UK. Nevertheless, I personally think it’s a real shame that the UK is leaving the EU.
Do we take the benefits provided by EU membership far too easily for granted?
Yes, I believe so. You can read you can read that nearly two-thirds of the population are actually pro-Europeans. For many people, however, an everyday, direct line to the EU seems to be very distant, and they enjoy complaining about what goes on in Brussels. That really annoys me. We should actually be focusing far more on the benefits we enjoy thanks to Europe.