[FH]: When did you decide to create Rauva and why? Could you explain more about the problem you’re solving?
[JF]: I decided to start Rauva through my experiences working with entrepreneurs and co-founding other companies in the past. I noticed the growing number of people wanting to become entrepreneurs or self-employed freelancers. For example, when you look at the US market, you’ll notice that 30% of the workforce are freelancers, and this is projected to grow to 60% by as early as 2027 or 2028. This shift highlights the growing preference for independent work and presents significant opportunities for Rauva’s offerings. There is a paradigm shift between “I work the same job at the same company” and “I work on my own. I may not require any employees, but I want to be independent and run my own business.”
Italy takes the lead as the largest market in Europe for SMEs and freelancers, representing 7 million out of a total of 40 million. Portugal also holds a considerable number with 1.6 million, this is an untapped market, with considerable demand. Our customers in Portugal tell us how nothing caters to them. The fact that they wait 2 or 3 months to open a bank account or the trouble finding the right partner for certified invoices, they don’t have the tools to grow.
With this in mind, I took the plunge, and relocated from Amsterdam to Portugal last June, to build a bank dedicated to entrepreneurs to fix the issues that we are all facing as business owners in Europe. It’s been nearly a year since I arrived.
Rauva’s mission is to make entrepreneurship easily accessible to everyone. This means we needed to tackle several primary pain points: payment solutions, certified invoices, and expense management. Recognizing that 90% of our users heavily rely on mobile phones in their personal lives, it became clear that developing a native app was the logical choice allowing our users to manage their business operations from the palm of their hand.
[FH]: Could you explain the customer’s journey on the app?
[JF]: Our user journey begins with the onboarding process, where customers can open a business account and order their physical debit card and virtual cards for Apple Pay and Google Pay. Once they’re onboarded, users can securely deposit their funds, which are stored with our trusted partner, BNP Paribas. Users can effortlessly manage their client relationships by creating a client list to send certified invoices directly to their clients and record them compliantly in the AT portal. We go beyond basic financial management by streamlining expense tracking. Users can conveniently scan or upload expenses and receipts, which are then linked directly to their business transactions. This enables structured invoice management and efficient expense tracking. At the end of each month, we give users insightful data to help them understand their tax obligations. This information assists users in determining the necessary savings required to fulfill their tax requirements, simplifying their financial management. We are also committed to empowering our users with educational resources. We are currently developing a range of materials aimed at enhancing essential business skills, such as creating a business plan and building a website. Our goal is to equip our users with the knowledge and capabilities needed to grow their businesses.
[FH]: As someone who has experienced different cultures and environments, what unique qualities does Lisbon possess that make it a strategic choice for Rauva’s headquarters?
[JF]: I have lived in 20 countries, including Beijing where I started my international M&A career with one of the largest groups in China. Throughout my experiences, I have built, operated, acquired, and sold businesses in many markets around the world. Portugal stands because there is a lot of potential and need. With a population of 10 million people, Portugal has 1.6 million entrepreneurs, and it is an English-friendly market compared to other European countries, making business easier. Choosing Portugal over Italy, which has the largest market, was a strategic decision. Building a team of 500 English-speaking employees in Milan would be challenging, but it’s doable in Portugal. Now, our team consists of 25 members representing 12 nationalities, showcasing the diverse talent pool Portugal has to offer. These are huge advantages Portugal provides in achieving our business goals.
There is a growing need in Portugal, with 500,000 expats and an increasing demand for support. However, there is still room for change in terms of employment and entrepreneurship in the country. It is hard to believe that Portugal’s minimum wage is €700, while in France, it is €1,500. Having lived in France and led numerous M&A activities in Spain, I can say that Portugal has nothing to envy in those markets. If the government won’t take the initiative to raise wages and implement other measures, Rauva can at least provide Portuguese citizens with the tools they need to start their businesses and thrive.
[FH]: Rauva’s team has been growing a lot in this past year. How do you build a team in such a short time and with this unique drive?
[JF]: Our hiring process is quite strict. We start with a first interview, followed by a second interview, a personality test, and an assignment. We’re on the lookout for experts in the market, which is why our team is made up of twelve nationalities. We believe in the power of diversity, as it allows us to tap into different skill sets and perspectives. With our experience working in leading fintech companies like Revolut, Wise, and established banking institutions, our team brings a wealth of industry knowledge. Our previous ventures in various markets across Europe have played a huge role in driving Rauva’s rapid development.
So far, we’ve hired 25 talented team members, although we have experienced some turnover with around 2 to 3 individuals. We place a strong emphasis on performance, and our testing process helps us identify the right fit for each role. In this stage of growth, it’s essential for us to be agile in our hiring approach. We need to act swiftly and have the flexibility to part ways with team members who may not meet expectations. It’s never an easy decision, but it’s crucial for the overall health of the company and our ability to effectively serve our users.
[FH]: With the rapid advancement of technology, the digital banking landscape continues to evolve. How will Rauva work to stay ahead of emerging trends and technologies to provide the best solutions to its clients?
[JF]: First off, we face not only technological challenges but also regulatory hurdles. Our main goal is to have a full-fledged European banking license to cater to our users’ needs in establishing and growing their companies. Before we even dive into the technology aspect, we prioritize navigating and complying with the necessary regulatory framework. It’s a crucial foundation for us. On the technology side, we are a super-app in its early stages. We plan to develop user-driven features within Rauva and collaborate with top-notch third-party providers. This collaborative approach allows us to address our users’ specific business needs and help them scale their ventures.
For instance, we’ve teamed up with BNP Paribas and InvoiceXpress, providing our users with a seamless and convenient experience all within a single app. When we come across a partner who goes above and beyond to exceed their users’ expectations, we’re more than happy to work with them. However, if we find that something is missing or doesn’t meet our high standards, we take the initiative to develop it ourselves. Take expense management software, for example. When we couldn’t find one that offered the features our users required, we decided to build our own. We’re committed to providing the best-in-breed solutions, ensuring that our users have access to top-quality features and a smooth journey within our platform.
[FH]: What value do you derive from being involved in the Fintech House ecosystem?
[JF]: When I moved to Portugal, I visited quite a few offices, and to be honest, most of them left me disappointed. And then I stepped into The Fintech House. The building itself was stunning. But what really sealed the deal for me was when I realized that I could really immerse myself in the fintech ecosystem in Portugal. They have relationships with Fintech Solutions, Portugal Finlab, and more. It became clear that this was the right path for Rauva. That day I joined The Fintech House and have been an active member ever since. The level of organization and quality here is well above average in comparison to what I have encountered in similar programs in other markets. The Fintech House has truly excelled, especially with the integration of resources like the Portugal Fintech Report.
Being a newcomer in Portugal, The Fintech House has played a pivotal role in connecting me with valuable partners and even employees. It’s been an incredible journey so far. The diverse range of partners within this ecosystem truly enhances our capabilities, but also makes our partnership truly invaluable. We’re not only focused on selling to customers but also on driving innovation in the wider fintech landscape at a European level. We aim to create a positive societal impact. It’s refreshing to see that The Fintech House shares the same vision as us.
I’m impressed by the growth that has taken place at the Fintech House. When I joined last year, there were around 50 companies, and now, it’s incredible to see that the number has nearly doubled, approaching 100. It’s a testament to the dynamic and thriving environment that the Fintech House provides. Kudos to the Fintech House for creating such an inspiring space for Fintech companies to flourish.
[FH]: What are your Expansion Plans?
[JF]: Expansion is on the horizon for Rauva as we set our sights on Southern Europe’s thriving markets. With Spain, Italy, Greece, and France on our radar, alongside Portugal we are targeting the home of 20 million SMEs and freelancers, representing a staggering 50% of the entire European landscape. Our commitment is to provide comprehensive support and solutions to entrepreneurs in these countries, paving the way for their success. Once we have made a significant impact and assisted a substantial number of business owners, our ambition is to expand further and establish a pan-European presence. Our shareholders have significant experience in North America, Asia, and the Middle East, and we recognize the global demand for a marketplace without borders. With this vision in mind, we are confident that Rauva will ultimately achieve full international reach, becoming a global fintech leader.
[FH]: What is the biggest advice you would give to a startup that is now taking its first steps into the fintech market?
[JF]: When it comes to starting a fintech startup, my biggest advice is simple: Start. There is a lot of noise surrounding fintech, it’s important to remember that it’s just another type of startup, another industry to explore. While there is specific knowledge and regulations to understand, there is also a ton of room for innovation and growth. Money flows through various channels beyond fintech alone, and that’s where the true potential lies. If you have an idea or believe you can make a difference, don’t hesitate. Take the leap and jump head first. Trust that you’ll find a way. Don’t be afraid of failure, embrace it. Even with my greatest failures, I would do it all again. It’s all part of the journey. And, especially with The Fintech House to support you, I would feel confident to stop everything now and start again.
[FH]: In your opinion, what are the most promising fintech trends that are likely to gain traction in the Portuguese market over the next year?
[JF]: Portugal needs a solid proposition when it comes to banking-as-a-service, it holds the potential to drive innovation not only within the neobank space but also in embedded finance. The lack of buzz around this space in Portugal is a big part of the lack of innovation. Both Rauva and other innovators in Portugal could greatly benefit from a banking-as-a-service partner that fosters innovation.
Last year, we had the honor of winning the Portugal Finlab report program, and now, I would like to work directly with regulators to create innovation and gain a deeper understanding of the market’s possibilities. For example, there is no sandbox in Portugal, this would give space for new fintech or existing fintech to innovate in this market which will serve the end user, it will serve the Portuguese citizen, it will serve Portuguese businesses, and so on.