Michael Mueller has raised tens of millions of dollars for his payments startup that is changing the fabric of the banking industry.
On the Dealmakers Podcast, Mueller shared how he made the leap from a career banker to being a tech entrepreneur. We talked about the inside of the banking industry, building big global teams, making deals, creating technology, and building a company that is 100% work from home from day one.
Banking, Crises & Technology
Michael Mueller was born in a small town in western Germany. On leaving school he went right into banking. He landed an apprenticeship role at one of the world’s biggest banks, Deutsche Bank. He quickly found a love for the cross-section of banking, business and technology, and specifically payments.
He spent the next 20 years of his life working in many roles in this transactional side of banking. Deutsche Bank also provided tremendous travel opportunities. They took him to London, Sidney, Singapore, France, Frankfurt, and Abu Dhabi. Then gave him the opportunity to get his Executive MBA through INSEAD.
When the 2008 financial crisis hit the importance of payments became even more paramount. At the time Michael says he was responsible for interbank payments and payments between banks and non-bank financial institutions, like hedge funds that were doing a lot of securitization.
He quickly saw the difference in the challenges in payments when liquidity rapidly dries up and even credit between financial institutions becomes strained.
Senior management and risk teams were spending every afternoon alongside technologists, scrambling to make the right decisions and find liquidity to issue payments right before the daily cut off time. Decisions and amounts that could either break the bank or their customers.
Where Is The Innovation?
In addition to Deutsche Bank, Mueller also spent time working with RBS and Barclays. It was during this time at Barclays that the problem he needed to solve really became clear. He was in charge of cash management.
That means being responsible for the bank’s online banking, payments, and corporate liquidity. These departments were generating close to $3B a year in revenues, with a team of 500 people spread across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the USA.
They had a budget for investing in technology, called Change the Bank. However, for years he failed to see any of that money go into any real innovation. Instead, the money was diverted to regulatory mandates, keeping legacy technology running, and upgrading old software. He saw that existing technologies just cost too much to maintain. While cloud services were finally getting to the point that banks might be able to rely on them for big banking needs.
It was clear old banking tech was going to become financially unsustainable. It definitely didn’t help to maintain their competitive edge. It wasn’t agile enough to build new solutions on top of. The big question was, how do you apply cloud solutions to banking in this context?
Michael ended up meeting several investors who were also working on these ideas. They got together, and in the summer of 2016, they founded their new technology startup in King’s Cross, London. Their company Form3 manages payment processing for banks. This is all how things work behind the scenes.
Whether customers are using online banking, ATMs, or mobile apps, Form3 handles the transaction in real-time, taking it through the many processing steps involved. All in just around 500 milliseconds.
From Banker To Tech Startup Founder
You can imagine it is quite a shift to go from being a career banker in such an antiquated, big corporate environment, to working in and operating a tech startup.
- Embracing the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how it would work
- Directly working with and engaging product people and engineers
- Working with increased agility
- Working much faster
Form3 has already been through four fundraising rounds, totally close to $60M. They’ve even already returned the money to early investors.
They started with a Seed round from angel investors. Then brought in institutional investors for their Series A. Series B brought VCs. While the Series C round enrolled some large strategic investors.
A challenging round that was contingent on landing big contracts, which they did. He describes landing some of these five and 10-year contracts as some of the best endorsements your company can get. Though to make sure your investors are also really bought into the vision for your business.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Michael was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Building A 100% Remote Company
Michael says they designed Form3 to run on a 100% remote workforce from day one. If they can do it in banking, then everyone else can too.
Today, their team is 180 strong, spread across 14 countries. Yet, they are still growing, adding close to 10% more hires every month, and looking to expand into new territories in the new year.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- The keys to effective remote working
- Making and avoiding major pivots
- How to reach out and find out about new job openings
- His top advice for new entrepreneurs