The world of startups is cutthroat, with founders looking to wring every ounce of productivity out of their growing workforce.

Under-pressure CEOs mindful of investment runway could be forgiven for focusing on results at the expense of everything else. However, to do so could prove a mistake in the long-term.

“If you don’t watch how the culture is embedding, you will wake up one day and won’t enjoy your company,” Philipp Buschmann, co-founder and CEO of AAZZUR, tells TechBlast. “You will find yourself leading a company that doesn’t resonate with who you are, or what you wanted it to be.”

He warns: “Once the culture of a business is established, it is hard to change: you’ll need to change the leader if you want to change the culture.

“Leadership comes from the top. The startup landscape is cutthroat, and you have to choose between fear and love. 

“My job is to articulate who we are and where we go and then give the team the freedom to go there in their own way. That’s very important in any leadership role.”

Introducing AAZZUR

Buschmann is a tech entrepreneur with extensive experience working in financial services, FinTech and challenger banking across the world.

His embedded finance startup AAZZUR, founded in Berlin and now headquartered in the UK, enables any business to embed services such as banking, wealth management, lending and sustainability investments into their proposition. 

The likes of Wise, railsr, treezor, Bsurance, W2, Contis and Openpayd are available through its platform – meaning non-FinTechs can access compliance-ready techstacks with just one integration.

Buschmann – who believes embedded finance has the potential to disrupt our lives on the same scale as the internet – launched the business in 2017 with schoolfriend Richard Unger and Martin Damaske, whom he met while working on another project.

“We were sitting in an empty house after leaving a previous project and thinking it would be great to start a new company. We decided on FinTech as that was our background,” he says. “It wasn’t just about the idea, but also about the team synergy and working with people we trusted and respected.”

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Timing is everything

He says that despite their “great idea” for the business, they had to wait for the world to catch up to its potential while regulators wrestled with the implementation of embedded finance regulation.

“There wasn’t a universal or industry language for it, which made getting our idea and messaging out there challenging,” he explains. “However, when the language developed, we suddenly saw there was traction. 

“As an entrepreneur, I am ready for success, but I can’t control the timing. Timing is everything! There is only so much we can control… much of it depends on external factors.

“I have launched two similar companies: one of these went public, while the other, better-structured one, went nowhere. That shows just how crucial timing is.”

AAZZUR, which employs 14 staff, has raised €2.4 million euros to date and is currently raising a further €2m.

The company is to join global innovation platform Plug and Play’s 12-week accelerator programme in Silicon Valley after it was selected from more than 1,000 startups.

“In the next 12 months, we are planning to accelerate growth by 3-4x in all aspects. We may add new locations as well,” reveals Buschmann.

Scaling phase

So does he prefer the startup/scaleup phase to leading a well-established company?

“They are different disciplines – and very few people are good at all stages of the company idea from validation to incubation to scaling and growing the business,” he says. “This is where we are now, which includes hiring more specific people and putting in place more systems. 

“I personally enjoy the current phase. I am not the biggest idea man but once the idea is there, I enjoy scaling and working on growth.”

Asked for one key tip to offer fellow startup founders, he says: “Keep on going. Be resilient. Wait for the right time and seize it. Focus.”

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