SMEs and investors, CrescItalia responds to both

CrescItalia is a fintech player constantly evolving and experiencing a moment of acceleration that has also included its entry into the Fintech District community. CEO Mattia Donadeo Spada describes its activities, growth and future objectives.

What CrescItalia does and who it addresses?

CrescItalia is a fintech acting as a hinge between non-bank capital and companies, with the aim of facilitating the meeting between the Italian entrepreneurial fabric and investors. Thanks to our integrated digital servicing platform, we accompany institutional investors in the processes of evaluation and validation of trade receivables, as well as in the management of investment operations. SMEs, in turn, find on the platform an intuitive, user-friendly environment that can be integrated with their existing ERP for access to our solutions, such as financing and invoice assignment. CrescItalia’s activity is therefore aimed at both categories: on the one hand, asset managers and institutional asset managers as well as institutional investors for whom we structure and manage alternative asset funds, guaranteeing compliance and real- time control of operations; on the other hand we find the SMEs to whom we provide these instruments.
At present, our platform manages the entire operation of the solution for the assignment of credits with the non-recourse formula, which makes the risk of insolvency fully borne by the investor. We initially focused on this solution because it is in great demand among companies, that can obtain immediate liquidity without having to be reported to the Central Risk Service and without having to pay an annual fee. CrescItalia thus quickly disburses the fee to the supplier according to the the supplier and according to the agreements reached, usually up to a maximum of 90% in advance and the rest in a subsequent balance, net of the costs of the transfer. We also operate in the field of reverse factoring and medium/long-term financing (minibonds).

How it has grown since its inception and its current numbers?

CrescItalia was founded in 2013 with the aim of offering innovative solutions to support the growth of small and medium-sized Italian companies. After an initial phase of activity in the specialised sector of minibonds with servicing and advisory operations for SGRs, in 2017/2018 we invested heavily in the development of a platform that would manage and monitor alternative asset funds in a streamlined and customised way. Since 2019 we have expanded our operations with the tried and tested and highly effective proprietary dynamic scoring module and the management of assignor and debtor side operations.

CrescItalia is now a lean and agile company, at the forefront of the Italian fintech scene and fintech landscape. It differs from other fintechs because of its decision to validate and build the elements of the business model by always confronting the market, thanks to which it has managed to do so. Thanks to this, it has been able to grow organically, financing capital investments until 2020 with capital increases covered entirely by the initial shareholders. In 2021, in anticipation of a more ambitious growth phase, it listed a fully subscribed bond on the Vienna Stock Exchange.
In terms of traction, CrescItalia has structured and/or serviced six alternative asset funds for over EUR 540 million with prestigious partners, and a further two are planned for 2022, for a further EUR 225 million. On the conveyancing side, in the field of invoice invoices, the volume in 2020 was EUR 17.928 million for 1886 invoices. In the first 8 months of 2021 the volume was EUR 13.738 million for 1065 invoices.

Is CrescItalia interested in open innovation projects? Have you already already done any?

To date, CrescItalia has not participated in any open innovation projects. Rather, at the moment, we are trying to collaborate with other fintechs and corporations to encourage and participate in projects that promote Open Banking for legal entities’ accounts (companies and VAT numbers).

How is your team composed?

We are experiencing a phase of strong acceleration in recent months, with important investments in growth and consolidation of the working team. Thanks to an intense recruiting campaign, the team has grown from seven people in May 2021 to twenty in December of the same year. Not only have new senior figures joined the team, but have an operations structure in the operations area.

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Qonto is increasingly growing, also even in Italy. What is the secret?

Qonto, a French fintech that has already been operating in Italy for some time and with great success, continues to grow. We asked Mariano Spalletti about the next steps in Italy and how the latest capital raised will be used, trying to grasp the secret of the success of this very active and strong company on the market

What were the biggest success factors that led to this round in your opinion?

Since its launch in 2017, Qonto has been committed to building the most loved all-in-one financial solution for SMEs and professionals. We offer a business-friendly digital solution that simplifies business management, from payments to finance and accounting, allowing our customers to focus on what really matters.
We have won the trust of 220,000 businesses in Europe and our investors with our distinctive and winning elements: a glocal and customer-centric approach based on careful listening and analysis of customer needs and the ability to quickly and effectively launch integrations and ad-hoc functionalities dedicated to each local market, a super-intuitive user experience and a high level of customer service.

In which assets will you invest the money raised?

We want to become the financial solution of choice for 1 million SMEs and professionals in Europe by 2025. Thanks to the capital raised, we will further increase our penetration in the markets where in which we are already present – France, Italy, Germany and Spain -, investing more than 100 million euro in each country over the next two years, and entering new markets by 2023.
To do so, Qonto will focus on recruiting new talents until we quadruple the team by 2025, including by creating a new hub for customer service operations, in Barcelona. To strengthen our international talent acquisition strategy and meet the needs of an increasingly agile and mobile team, we will also launch the European “Qonto Campus” programme to enable and encourage international mobility between local offices.
In addition, we will continue to invest in our product offering through in-house development, new strategic partnerships and potential acquisitions to offer customers the best products available on the market

Focus on Italy, 100 million. Why focus on Italy and what is your approach?

Italy is a very important market for Qonto; the second largest after France, which has been was chosen in 2019 as the first stage of its international expansion because of its dense network of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are experiencing an acceleration phase in their digitalisation process. We saw Italy as a mature market, with a large unmet demand for digital financial instruments from both businesses and professionals.
Since our debut, we have demonstrated exponential growth in the Italian market, with a 145% increase in customers by 2021. We have developed more than 30 functionalities for the Italian market and signed 17 partnerships at a local level, to provide Italian SMEs and professionals with solutions tailored to their needs and offer customers a full range of services, from digital business banking to integrated accounting tools and team expense management solutions.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for a fintech operating in Italy today and how do you intend to tackle them?

Compared to other European countries, Italy is lagging behind in its digitalisation process: suffice it to say that in the 2021 edition of the DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index of the European Commission), despite an improvement of five positions year on year, our country is still in the 20th place out of 27 Member States and even, in digital skills, in the 25th place. This scenario certainly represents a challenge for those operating in the digital world, especially at B2B level. As At Qonto, with our business finance management solution and through our communication initiatives, we are doing our best to raise awareness of the opportunities that digital tools offer for doing business, also in Italy, and to help accelerate the digitalisation of SMEs in our country.
As far as the financial sector is concerned, in Italy – as well as in Europe – a further realisation of the potential of ‘Open Banking’ remains desirable, looking towards ‘Open Finance’, with a growing integration of non-banking services and standardisation of API and data access methods.
Furthermore, in the B2B segment there is still a long way to go to bring together expertise from traditional players and innovators. In this sense, we are committed to creating partnerships that not only allow us to offer our clients an increasingly complete solution in a short timeframe, but also contribute to the development and innovation of the sector.

Are you planning to expand your team and if so what kind of profiles are you interested in?

Qonto’s team working for the Italian market now counts more than 40 talents. In order to offer the most personalised experience and to be even closer to local customers and partners, we opened our offices in Milan in May 2021. Expanding our team is one of our priorities for development in the country and we aim to grow expand our team with the best talents, reaching 100 people focused on the Italian market by 2023. At the moment we are mainly looking for marketing and sales profiles, human resources experts, product, customer service and compliance.

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A flight to Australia in the company of KPMG Sydney

We never forget our international vocation and today we go very far geographically but very close in terms of interests and objectives with an interview dedicated to fintech opportunities in Australia with Matteo Musso, Associate Director, KPMG Sydney.

Let’s start by exploring the fintech landscape of this country

The number of fintech companies in Australia has increased from around 100 in 2015 to more than
700 in 2020. In this context, there are some sectors in particular that stand out, in which fintechs in
Australia have succeeded in positioning themselves as world leaders, due to their capacity to
innovate and offer value-added technological solutions to their clients. Within those sectors that
stand out, there is the payments sector, particularly Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), the small business
lending sector, digital banks (also known as neo-banks), as well as the blockchain and cryptocurrency
sectors. With respect to investment, in 2020 Australia attracted 2 billion dollars of investment in the
fintech sector. This means investment in the fintech sector increased by more than 250% compared
to the previous year. In Italy in the same period, there was 150 million euros of investment. These
factors indicate that the Australian fintech sector boasts not only a large variety of players with
cutting edge technological solutions, but is also a sector with strong growth and the capacity to
attract global investment.

What opportunities does Australia offer in the payments industry?

The payments sector is the sector that boasts the greatest number of companies in the Australian
fintech sector. The strong growth we have seen in this sector is primarily due to the fact that in
Australia, most payments are electronic and Australians are used to using advanced payment
options that are also offered by the major banks. This has resulted in the creation of fertile territory
for the proliferation of payment companies within the local ecosystem. There are some data we can
analyse to further understand this phenomenon. For example, it’s possible to observe in Australia
that cash is used in only 27% of cases, and this percentage drops further to only 5% of cases if we
look at the part of the population that ranges from 19-39 years of age. In Italy, cash is used in more
than 80% of cases. For these reasons, we are convinced that Australia has the potential to become a
world leader in the payments sector. Some examples of Australian companies in this sector are Tyro
Payments, Zip and Afterpay. Recently we have also seen the acquisition of an Australian player by
the US global payments giant Square, which acquired the Australian company Afterpay for more
than 39 million dollars, which is not only the largest acquisition in Australian corporate history, but is
also one of the largest deals in the fintech sector.

What opportunities are there in the SME lending sector?

In Australia the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector is represented by more than two million
businesses employing around 5 million Australians. With respect to the sector regarding loans for
small businesses, we can see that one in four businesses are refused credit by the major Australian
banks. This is due to the fact that small businesses are often considered as less profitable and high
risk. This has created a ‘funding gap’ of around 90 billion dollars, which represents the amount of
credit that small businesses are unable to access via the main Australian lenders. This creates fertile territory for fintechs focused on the sector of small business (SME) lending, in that this funding gap is
considered to be a significant opportunity for investment and innovation in a market that at the
moment isn’t covered by the principal players in the sector in Australia. For this reason, in recent
years we have seen a proliferation of fintechs in the small business (SME) lending sector, offering a
value proposition with a strong technological component, with the objective of allowing small
businesses to have rapid access to credit. Some examples of SME lending players in Australia include
Moula, Judo Bank and Prospa. In our view, this is one of the sectors in which we will see significant
growth and innovation.

In collaboration with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) – for more information about opportunities to grow and expand in Australia, please visit: https://www.globalaustralia.gov.au/industries/financial-services-and-fintech

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The Italian experience of Qonto told by Mariano Spalletti

In a conversation with Mariano Spalletti, Country Manager Italy of Qonto, we find out how this French fintech has managed to succeed in Italy and what the goals are after its first year of presence in the country.

After more than a year in Italy, what results have you achieved and what factors have led you to success?

Qonto was launched in Italy a year ago and in a year we have seen our customer base grow by an average of 25% each month, for a total transaction on our platform of over 300 million euros. Our turnover is also growing steadily and doubled in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the last quarter of 2019.

Our secret is, first and foremost, a customer-centric product: putting the customer at the center of the product. Its functionality from the creation and development phase is the key to understanding what to do and how to do it, to reduce the time and effort required to perform any operation and offer a unique user experience.
In addition to this, the focus on a very vertical market segment such as SMEs, which has always been under serviced by traditional banks, together with a truly tailor-made, modern, simple, transparent service that saves companies a lot of time every day, allows us to finally respond to needs that had never been listened to, but have already been present for years.

What “surprised” you about the Italian market?

Before the launch I was a bit sceptical about what the reaction of Italian SMEs to a digital banking service might be. I wasn’t sure if the market was ready and I was wondering how many companies could be willing to rely on a startup to manage their corporate finances with an innovative but 100% online account. There exists stereotype of Italian companies very much linked to the status quo and traditional processes and channels, especially if we talk about banking services.
I must admit that my doubts were unfounded and the answer was extremely positive from the outset. The Italian market is the fastest growing market for Qonto in Europe after the French market and we are growing significantly. I expect results to be still growing as we introduce specific features dedicated to Italian companies: the most important one so far has been the launch of the Italian IBAN, which has given a significant boost to our growth in Italy, also because it was the feature that was most in demand and that we were able to launch in record time, about eight months after the official launch.

What is the difference between the Italian market and the French market, in which Qonto has been operating for some time?

Qonto was born in France in mid 2017, while our international expansion began in mid-May 2019, when we decided to officially launch the service on the Italian market. During this year we got to know Italian companies better and better: both companies that were already Qonto customers and also potential customers, and we realized that there are actually several similarities between the French market and the Italian market.
The French and Italian SME market are in fact very similar, both in terms of size (about 4 million enterprises for both, although a little more numerous in Italy) and in terms of needs, given the inadequacy of the solutions offered by traditional banks, typically concentrated on two other market segments: private consumers and corporate customers.

What we guarantee with Qonto is a daily saving of time in the management of company finances and payments. With Qonto we guarantee the opening of the account in minutes and 100% online, to make simple and fluid corporate payments, both your own and those of your employees, canceling expense reports and simplifying accounting, all this with a UX and customer service of the highest level.
So I do not see any significant differences in terms of customers and their needs, but rather in terms of territorial dynamics and, in a sense, local bureaucracy. To give an example, we can think about the payment of taxes: in France a simple direct debit to your account via SDD (SEPA circuit debit) is enough. In Italy – as we know – you need to pay through the F24 form, a clearly specific service that exists only in our market and which is actually quite cumbersome. It is aspects such as these that actually involve extra investment to offer an identical service in the markets in which we are present. However, I think it is normal that each country has its own peculiarities, and we are in fact working to push localization to the maximum and offer the same level of service in all the markets where we are present.

How did you deal with the health emergency as a company?

The health emergency has been a challenging period for SMEs, startups and all in all also for us, as despite the strong international expansion they are still investing heavily to become profitable.
I have to say,however, that we were favored by two factors, namely: a solid business model, with revenues that are not based solely on the use of certain features (e.g. interchange on card usage) but also on fixed monthly fees; an important availability of resources, thanks to the Round C of 104M closed in January. These two factors have allowed us to face this period with serenity and not only to focus on the continuity of our service, but also to put in place some initiatives to help our customers on an economic level: we have in fact offered to all our customers from the end of March to the end of May, the virtual Qonto cards for free, even those not included in the plan and we have extended the free period from one to two months for all new customers who opened a Qonto account in the same period. In fact, the “bimonthly covid” was a moment of growth for Qonto and in Italy, in March and April, we acquired 55% more customers than during the first two months of the year.

What has this lockdown period taught you personally?

The main lesson of this period I believe, however, is related to the way companies must communicate. Although this was a trend already underway, there has been even more emphasis on the need to approach and dialogue together with one’s target market and prospects having less commercial nuances, placing even more emphasis on valuable and “inclusive” content, going from talking to a “client” to talking to one’s “community”.

We have strongly believed in the importance of helping Italian SMEs and professionals in this period of crisis, not only healthwise but also economic. For this reason we have tried not only to communicate the special offers we have put in place, but, with a broader perspective, we have tried to convey and highlight all the communications that we felt were important and useful for Italian companies to overcome the crisis, such as, for example, through the reworking and simplification of the measures of the various decrees gradually issued (“Cura Italia”, “Liquidita” and “Rilancio”) in an article to be found in our dedicated blog or by organizing or participating in webinars in order to share tips and suggestions to better face the crisis and organize for the restart.
We want to establish a special relationship with our customers: we are not just a simple “supplier” of services but a real business partner. Relevant communication is the basis for trust, the fundamental element for a valuable and sustainable relationship.

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Bitandcoffee combines tradition and innovation with Unione Artigiani

Bitandcoffee is the new digital personal and company accounting solution for the next era of easy tax and innovative banking PSD2 compliant. This startup has recently closed an deal with Unione Artigiani, managing to bring tradition and innovation together. Marco Frigerio, co founder, tells what it is all about.

What is the agreement between BitandCoffee and Unione Artigiani?

The agreement aims to cover an emerging need from the world of small and micro enterprises (official data from the Chambers of Commerce estimate that more than 95% of the Italian productive system) for innovative digital services. The agreement is a push towards innovation because it will provide specific services to members, which for the city of Milan alone,exceeds 10,000 units.
Thanks to the digitalization of services we will be able to provide all accounting and tax services to a large user base starting from 29 euros per month with additional support for the opening of the VAT number for all new activities both innovative and traditional.

How challenging was it to combine tradition and technology, both on a technical level and in terms of mindset?

As our slogans say, “Unione Artigiani and Bit&Coffee together to enhance your business” and “History and future meet to offer you the best service”. This is certainly the key point of the challenge. The managers of the association and all those in charge have shown a suitable prudence towards our solution but, after an in-depth study phase, they fully supported the idea, boosting and encouraging the adoption of innovative solutions both towards the associates and within the organization itself.

What is the added value you provide to Unione Artigiani and the end customer?

BitandCoffee has always been a reality very much focused on concrete innovation. In fact, the agreement is not a mere declaration of intent but are all concrete and tangible services, also economically, just like all the accounting services offered and already available.
As requested by the executives of the Unione Artigiani we have already started to provide specific courses and dedicated support, in terms of both efficiency of organizational processes and tools, for example marketing with the realization of important technological synergies together with Google Ads.

Do you intend to carry out other projects like this one?

In the near future we hope to announce other important deals in the world of advanced tax services with some large organizations in the world of accountants and also with some innovative and well-known players in the banking world who find in BitAndCoffee a very concrete Fintech partner able to harmonize innovation with effective applicability. Moreover, Fintech District has put us in touch with some interesting companies with whom we would like to develop synergies in the insurance and credit world.

How is your business going and what other projects do you have in the pipeline?

BitandCoffee has now exceeded 10,000 users and the latest services released are multipliers and accelerators in adoption by new users. The genius invoice service, for instance, which self-composes invoices, even with small artificial intelligence logics.
As far as the new projects are concerned, we want to take advantage of the strong skills in terms of accounting and taxation connected with the whole banking and payment systems world. We are therefore creating an automatic accounting system with direct connection to their current accounts with PSD2 technology but the idea is to go beyond the concept of accountant and bank transforming them, as we say,in saas and focusing on Valued added services that generate real value for the end user. We are also considering some financial deals to open up to the capital market.

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PENTA: interview with Bruno Reggiani

Penta is a smart banking for SMEs that allows you to proceed in signing a banking contract online. It relies on the banking license of Solaris Bank, a bank run under German law, operating throughout Europe and with a coverage of deposits of 100 thousand euros.

“Our aim – explains Bruno Reggiani, Head of Product Italy – is to help entrepreneurs in the running of the company thanks to the management of multi cards for their employees. This means easy management of an expense report so as to have greater control over their financial flows.

Penta was founded in Germany and currently has about 7,500 customers. By the end of 2019, it aims to have 20,000 and by 2020 it wants to expand into other European countries to become the first business banking in Europe.

“Italy is the first country after Germany on which we are strongly counting and we have a team that is completely Italian and entirely dedicated to Italy in the Milan office – explains Reggiani – One of Penta’s aims is to integrate its services with third parties. We want to increase the functionality and power of our application through the integration of third parties. Joining the Fintech District and being part of this community gives us a way to talk and discuss with other Italian fintech startups in order to integrate their services into our solution”.

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BacktoWork24: interview with Alberto Bassi

BacktoWork24 is the first platform in Italy promoting investment in startups and SMEs by private and professional investors. Via this Equity Crowdfunding portal, investors can find a wide variety of projects, from startups to SMEs and even Real Estate projects.

The BacktoWork24 platform has been active since 2015, “so far we have closed more than 170 investment transactions with over 22 million euros raised by our companies” says CEO Alberto Bassi who defines his company as “the benchmark for startups who want to grow through private funds and investments as well as for investors who want to diversify their portfolio “.

BacktoWork24 plans to enter foreign markets but not just yet: “there is still a lot to do in Italy!”. According to Bassi, in fact, the Italian Equity Crowdfunding market is growing fast but is not mature and developed yet. “We decided to focus on Equity Crowdfunding just to give a boost to the whole system and turn it into a mass market. Today it is as yet a market only for enthusiasts of innovation, startups and SMEs “.

Bassi aims to hit his national targets by 2020 and then look to foreign markets. To do so, he also decided to become part of Fintech District, “a community that can give a boost to the entire Italian Fintech market now known only to players in the sector and to fans of innovative financial services”

“It is not always easy to work in an integrated fashion in Italy. Thanks to Fintech District we also want to contribute to the development of the Italian fintech ecosystem. By bringing together several players, I am sure new opportunities for collaboration will arise that would be difficult to achieve on their own. Also in this way, we can create an ever larger and more interesting market “.

You can keep up with BacktoWork24 via its platform, where all the new projects for 2019 will be presented, and by taking part in BacktoWork24 meetings at Fintech District’s headquarters. “We often propose meetings between our startups, our SMEs and the network of interested investors – explains Bassi – This enables investors to meet entrepreneurs directly and ask them questions before investing through our platform “.

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Lokky: interview with Paolo Tanfoglio

Lokky is an innovative startup that aims to serve micro and small entrepreneurs by offering specific insurance products for their business. Thanks to new technologies, this startup is able to analyze the needs of customers, understand their real insurance needs and make completely automatic matchings of the best products to cover the specific risks of their business.

CEO Paolo Tanfoglio explains the goal is to enter the market during the second quarter of 2019: “we are closing a round of fundraising of 300,000 euros and we aim to raise a further one and a half million capital in 2019 to support the growth of the activity “.

Lokky currently addresses small Italian entrepreneurs: professionals, freelancers, small traders, and specialized workers. The idea, however, adds Tanfoglio, “is to expand, enter the European market and continue to use the same technological platform to understand the insurance needs of customers”.

Last autumn, Lokky, became part of the Fintech District community with the aim of dealing with other similar companies, “both with startups working on the same customer segment, to have commercial synergies, and with other startups that can have functional technologies for our project to optimally serve our customers with new technologies”.

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