Berlin Fintech Billie pre-finances the invoices of companies and is thus the possible leader in Germany in the B2B sector. It wasn’t until October 2021 that the startup made headlines with a round worth the equivalent of €86 million ($100 million). Not only the high sums attracted attention, but also the announcement of the future cooperation with the Swedish fintech Klarna. This is considered the most valuable unlisted start-up in Europe and offers online purchases to individuals what Billie offers to companies: Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) or in English: invoice or installment payment.
Behind the five-year-old Billie are Matthias Knecht and Christian Grobe, who have already created the Zencap credit broker for Rocket Internet, as well as the lawyer Aiga Senftleben, who previously worked as a legal advisor for Paypal and Ebay, among others. In Tips & Tools, Christian Grobe tells us why he’s glad he used some tools for Billie early on and what a weird alternate name he almost got the startup from him.
Christian, What tools do you use on Billie?
From the very beginning, we at Billie attached great importance to the automation of our internal processes and now have an almost completely technically integrated back office that interconnects all relevant areas with each other. We pay special attention to this when selecting our tool stack.
Can you give me an example?
If, for example, new employees are created in our BambooHR HR system, all access rights for this person are centrally activated and managed through our Okta identity platform. This saves a lot of time and means that we currently have around 150 employees and thousands of invoices to process, we only have one employee for financial and people operations. Tools that help us with this include Greenhouse, Leapsome, Expensify, and the usual suspects: G Suite, Slack, and Zoom.
In what days of work or situations do you do very well in the team?
Back in the days when we all managed to stick to the trivial approach but infinitely difficult to implement dogma of the OKR school. That means: no negative stress, well-coordinated results, and a “happy flow” with results that really make a difference.
How does your startup work differently from others? Do you have a secret of success?
Certainly an important factor is that we have a founding team that has learned some lessons from previous companies. Also, I think we are good at setting few but central goals, and then consistently achieving them.
How is your work environment?
I hope to speak for the team when I say that we were able to establish a good combination of professional standards and a really nice cooperation. We try to avoid silos as much as possible and no one needs elbows here.
What does it do differently in the product area than the competition?
From a product perspective, I’m glad we took enough time to optimize our risk algorithm when we founded the company. B2B underwriting is very complex and today our algorithm is the reason we can offer buy now, pay later for business customers in the first place. It was also very important that we as fintechs trusted a BaFin license from the start.
Do you have a favorite productivity book?
I really like The 4 Disciplines of Execution. In essence, it is that the most elaborate strategy does not serve you if there are problems with the implementation later. I think this is a point that is often neglected.
What could you be better at?
Like many founders, I’m probably still directly involved in too many areas and having trouble letting go. But I’m trying to work on it.
What is the best business advice you have received?
Encourage talent and don’t leave it alone. Although the practice in many startups tends to be different, I believe that you learn to swim better in pleasantly warm water than in ice-cold water.
Can you tell me about your funniest meeting?
That must have been the meeting where we decided on Billie’s name. If things had been a little different back then, we might have called ourselves Nordwand today, so you can imagine the absurd suggestions that came to mind. So while it’s not always practical from an SEO perspective, I’m really glad it ended up being Billie.