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Investor Advice with Nathalie Schwarzkopf

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

In this edition of Investor Advice series, we spoke to Nathalie Schwarzkopf, Investor at BlackFin Tech, specialized in Fintech and Insurtech at Series A to C stages throughout Europe.

Tell us more about yourself

Nathalie: My personal background includes diverse international experiences: I hail from Hamburg, spent over three years in Asia, initially in Shanghai at the age of 14, and later, following high school, I lived in Hong Kong for two years. Subsequently, for my undergraduate and graduate studies, I relocated to Europe, attending universities in the Netherlands and Santiago de Chile.

After my studies, I worked in a consulting role under a CFO who was appointed to the board of a bank that had been acquired by private equity investors with the mandate to undertake a comprehensive digital transformation of the operations.

During this tenure, I not only gained substantial insights into the European banking market and hands-on coding skills, but also established connections with numerous Fintech companies and eventually delved into the venture capital industry.

What are the biggest challenges that startups usually face in their very first steps?

Nathalie: One of the most significant challenges that startups typically encounter in their initial stages is staying focused. Founders often have a multitude of ideas and ambitions, making it tempting to pursue various avenues simultaneously. However, this can lead to spreading limited resources too thin and hinder the ability to make substantial progress in any one direction.

Another common challenge is choosing who your clients are. In an attempt to gain traction, startups may diversify their customer base too early, which can be counterproductive as it complicates product development and marketing efforts.

Therefore, it is crucial for startups to prioritize a clear focus and target a specific customer segment to efficiently allocate resources and increase their chances of sustainable growth.

How did you get into this investment sector?

Nathalie: My journey into the financial services and fintech sector was serendipitous, stemming from a diverse background in various industries. Ultimately, it was my two supervisors from a previous role who truly ignited my curiosity for fintech. Their expertise and experience in the banking and finance sector profoundly influenced my desire to delve deeper into the fintech space.

Having witnessed different facets of the banking industry, from the inner workings of banks to fintech vendor negotiations, I chose to transition to a role where I could leverage my knowledge to drive impactful decisions.

How can a startup best prepare itself to succeed in the present?

Nathalie: The phase of crazy valuations and growth at all costs environments is certainly fading away. Startups should take a more conservative approach to cash burn with a focus on profitability as well as managing financial and human resources wisely.

Additionally, startups should be mindful of the quantity and value that new hires bring to the team, focusing on skill sets and roles that directly contribute to the company's immediate objectives. Prioritizing operational efficiency, adaptability, and customer-centric strategies, while remaining adaptive to shifting market dynamics and trends plays a crucial role in a Startup’s readiness and ability to thrive in the current business environment.

Do you have any piece of advice for startups that are trying to navigate the current environment and present themselves?

Nathalie: In uncertain times like now, my advice for startups is to emphasize resilience and adaptability while always being close to customers.

  • It's essential to stay agile, being able to adjust your strategies and offerings to meet changing market demands.

  • Focus on building strong relationships with your clients and providing value that addresses their current needs.

  • Maintaining a sharp eye on cash flow and expenditures.

  • Networking and collaborating with industry peers can also offer valuable insights and opportunities.

Lastly, challenges and setbacks can also be valuable learning experiences; don't be discouraged by them, but use them as stepping stones toward growth and success.

Connect with Nathalie on LinkedIn:

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