Every flourishing project starts with a brilliant idea, initial funding and lots of luck. The rest is a result of passion, hard work and constant improvements of products or services. The story behind the success of Kontomatik, a fintech startup from Poland, is no different.
From a small company fueled by European grants to a renowned leading provider of innovative, world-class solutions for the financial sector — Kontomatik banking API went the whole winding road of a new business.
It all began with a spark ignited by another solution already on the market. Marcin Truszel, CEO of Kontomatik, saw Mint—now one of the biggest fintech providers from the US—and was impressed with its potential.
He thought it would be a great tool to help customers choose the best offers from the financial market: a PFM (personal financial manager) using clients’ data imported within seconds from their bank accounts would not only tell the truth about their finances in an easy to understand, graphical way, but also find deposits with better rates or cheaper loans and credit cards with better terms.
Get money, get lucky
First funding for this project was from EU grants. Both founders of then called Kontomierz, Marcin Truszel and Bartlomiej Wyszynski, were experienced in acquiring European grants, so they applied for them.
But it was a matter of luck their application was accepted: a week before the day of entering the grant contest it accidentally turned out that there is already a long queue of applicants. Why? Because only the first 250 applications would be recognized. Kontomierz entry was 223rd.
The business plan was based on fees paid by the users of this PFM. Unfortunately, consumers were reluctant to pay even a small amount of money for something that could eventually save them lots of cash. But they were willing to use redirecting links to products and services proposed by Kontomierz as the best deals.
The startup had its cut when a client bought suggested items from a third party and this money helped the company to survive for some time. The PFM was also sponsored by ads. It was not enough to maintain and develop the project in the long run, though.
A business full of miracles
Then another miracle happened: Alior Bank—a new, rapidly growing player on the Polish market—asked whether the data aggregation engine could be used to acquire information on clients, who apply for a loan in this bank. The idea was to use the existing solution as a tool for importing data from a client’s bank account to process it and get credit scoring in a snap.
This concept was soon picked by Idea Bank, which implemented the data aggregation engine from Kontomierz in its corporate banking system: customers applying for a loan would just give their credentials to their bank account and then wait around 5 minutes for the final decision.
Soon, around 70 percent of Idea Bank loans were granted based on this automatic scoring. Other banks understood the power of the solution and asked Kontomierz for cooperation.
The next step was a very important one for the startup company. Using the proven screen scraping technology from Kontomierz, Idea Bank offered a one-click account migration from another bank. It was the first and only bank in the world to provide this option to its clients. A successful show at 2014 Finovate resulted with many awards for the bank and new deals for Kontomierz.
Authorities step in, banks step out
But things went south when the Polish Financial Supervision Authority ordered banks to stop using features based on screen scraping technology. The main reason was that this solution relies on logging in with third party credentials, which shouldn’t be revealed by their owner.
According to the PFSA, it could pose security risks and violate terms and conditions of the bank’s service agreement. Banks obeyed the PFSA recommendation, so Kontomierz lost many of its clients.
The only thing the company could do afterwards was to accept offers from other institutions than banks, chiefly quick loan providers. Until then, Kontomierz didn’t sell its solutions to these businesses since they are not as trusted as banks.
So, paradoxically, the national regulator forced the company to move from a regulated sector to an unregulated one. And gave the online lenders tools, which banks could no longer have.
In January 2015 Kontomierz was acquired by German Kreditech Holding, which specializes in online lending. Now, under the name of Kontomatik, it sells innovative solutions to financial institutions all over the globe.