Andreas Viertbauer of Orbis Academy On 5 Things You Need To Succeed In The Modern World Of Finance & Fintech
An Interview With Jason Hartman
Understand technology. You’d think this is obvious, but if it were, you wouldn’t have so many challenger banks and fintechs winning value from century-old companies. We have new tools for business, and some of the larger finance firms don’t quite know what to do with them today.
As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andreas Viertbauer of Orbis Academy.
Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Andreas Viertbauer is well-versed in the finance sector, having worked for renowned Austrian banks in the treasury department. With the original goal of becoming a hedge fund manager, he discovered his interest in modern FinTech along the way and now stands as the co-founder of ORBIS Academy & Managing Partner of VIRA Ventures. Shifting his focus to digital assets and blockchain protocols in the investment field, he now is dedicated to driving healthy and sustainable growth in the global technology ecosystem.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Of course. My name is Andreas Viertbauer and I am Managing Partner of the Swiss company VIRA Ventures. I am a finance guy with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with a focus on industrial economics and money & business cycle. I worked for Austrian banks in the treasury business during & after my time at university and always wanted to become a fund manager. After some time I realized for me very quickly that I felt more comfortable in the modern FinTech space compared to traditional finance, because ther was just so much going on. Since 2016, I have focused on cryptocurrencies and blockchain protocols in the investment field and accordingly started several ventures in this area.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
This is a hard one. I would say the fact that I always wanted to work in the banking sector and now I am spending most of my efforts in a market that is completely shaking up traditional finance. From my previous work in traditional banking, I have noticed that many applied software solutions and processes that may have been revolutionary 20 years ago are not good enough today. The entire administration process is often so complex and resource-intensive that it is difficult for such rigid organizational structures to keep up with flexible fintech start-ups in terms of innovation. Innovation means doing more with less. Processes can be much more efficient by automating away intermediares and making transactions cheaper & faster. Such cost savings enable companies to offer products and services at much lower costs.
At the end of the day, any successful business model is about providing a value-added product or service to the end consumer in the most efficient way possible.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, in addition to our investments in innovative start-ups, where we also strategically contribute to growth ourselves, we are working on a number of projects.
For example, our e-learning platform ORBIS Academy provides numerous video courses, documents, checklists and many other helpful materials for users on the topic of blockchain, entrepreneurship & investments. Our goal is to bring together as many experts from the field as possible on this platform to provide exclusive know-how in areas where we believe it will be essential in the future.
Furthermore, we are working on pilot projects in the metaverse in cooperation with some partner companies and try to implement different concepts, such as offering remote workstations for rent, just to name one.
Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the central focus of our discussion. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started what was its WHY, its purpose?
When we talk about the ORBIS Academy, the reason was a very simple one. As mentioned at the beginning, me and my co-founder Philipp got involved with the topic of blockchain & crypto very early on and over time more and more people came to us asking for advice on the most diverse matters. Be it how to analyze blockchain projects, buy coins, structure portfolios, use DeFi applications or buy digital land in the metaverse. Through these conversations, we noticed the difficulties people have even with basic things.Admittedly, the crypto economy is very complex and for beginners it is often hard to get started. Therefore, we decided to produce various comprehensive video courses with experts, where we explore these issues in detail. So you can say that ORBIS Academy was created by people’s demand in the first place.
With our courses we want to help as many people as possible to invest in innovation with sound knowledge and to have experts at hand for questions, no matter if they are related to crypto, taxes, company formations, real estate investments, NFTs or much more.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Yes, and it’s very simple: “Do something valuable for customers and have fun doing it”.
Our ultimate goal with our courses is to always deliver more value to people than they pay for. We go into the planning of each course with this goal in mind, along with our partner instructors.
If a fellow business leader would ask you for advice about whether to bootstrap or to look for VC capital, how would you help them weigh the pros and cons of that decision?
It depends on what business you are pursuing and what your goal is. While it makes sense for capital-intensive industries to bring VCs on board, it may make more sense for companies that are very quickly cash-flow positive to fund the venture out of their own pockets. Of course, there are many factors that play a role here, such as market size, goal of the company, desired dependency, own funds, growth phase, etc.
Main advantages/disadvantages of bootstrapping:
1) Focus on product and customers
3) Spend money wisely
1)Little capital to reinvest
Main advantages/disadvantages of VC Capital:
2)Network & strategic advisors
1)Loss of control
2)Risk of misunderstanding
3)Less time for the company
What measure do you use to determine the value of a company? What advice would you give to other leaders about how to get an optimal evaluation of their business?
There are countless methods how to value companies in different ways. Very often a so-called multiple of sales is used to calculate a company value or a discounted cash flow method, where one assumes to determine the current company value by discounting future, expected earnings.
However, an optimal valuation depends on the individual case. A company is worth as much as a buyer is willing to pay for it on the market. A company that is of little value to one person may be of immense value to another, for example, because it fills a specific gap in the business.
What would you advise to a founder who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Here, one would probably first have to ask why growth is slower. Is it because the competition is bringing better products to the market at lower prices? Or is the market I am operating in no longer as relevant as before due to certain changing conditions? Is it perhaps seasonal and just due to temporary condition that I need to ride out?
In most cases, flattening growth is due to market saturation and possibly a lack of innovation & new business areas. We are currently seeing something similar with many internet companies. The business models of the Internet are being massively attacked by new technologies and we are already seeing a decline in growth. In business life cycles theory, one would say that we already arrived in the decline stage.
What are the most common finance mistakes you have seen other businesses make? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
There are many, but especially in the crypto market where we are I would highlight the misallocation of capital due to a short-term time horizon.
Numerous innovative companies have grown massively in the last 3 years and have been able to accumulate a lot of capital. However, it seems to me that very often too much is spent on marketing to generate hype and too little in R&D.
I personally like the statement that all those expenses that don’t improve your product should be allocated differently. Of course marketing also plays an important role, but should not be the focus especially for innovative companies that are at the beginning where everything is new territory. Although this could lead to higher profits in the short term through more attention, in my opinion it is the wrong way in the long term.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Understand technology. You’d think this is obvious, but if it were, you wouldn’t have so many challenger banks and fintechs winning value from century-old companies. We have new tools for business, and some of the larger finance firms don’t quite know what to do with them today.
- Ask for help. When I started researching new trends & wanted to understand what the hell was going on with this new wave of technologies emerging at the same time, I often didn´t know who to ask or where to get the right information. Therefore, I simply contacted various experts such as startup founders, successful investors & VCs, developers and many others who were at the forefront of this innovation. Every time I was faced with a problem or challenge, my focus was on solving it, not solving it on my own. This massively accelerated my learning process and gave me valuable impressions.
- Understanding generations. A wise man once told me that to predict future, watch two groups of people: Developers and children. The best developers in the world are working today on the software solutions of the future, and young children are showing us as they grow up what will be commonplace in 10 years.
- Be multidisciplinary. Specialization is good and understanding the fundamentals of technology is essential but being multidisciplinary can be very helpful in your career progression. It will give you the skills and experience to thrive in more situations and will underscore your adaptability to others.
- Spend money for valuable information. Information and education are the basis for all the decisions we make every day. If you don’t consume high quality information, you can’t make high quality decisions. Look around for like-minded individuals and groups that are better than you and challenge you to grow and learn new things all the time. Sometimes so-called mastermind programs cost money, but good ones are well worth it.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Always focus on building and creating value for others, no matter what the market conditions are. Try to hire people who have the same mission as you and who are fun to work with. Everything else will come naturally.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I wouldn’t say I’m a person of great influence, but I think the biggest global consensus of humanity should be sustainability and how we can persist as a species. Technology can solve many environmental problems by using it appropriately and working together as a community to solve these problems. I think it takes efficient incentive models for individuals to actually see results in a timely manner. Fortunately, this is already being worked on.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Follow ORBIS Academy on our socials or visit our homepage to get more insights (www.orbisacademy.ch)
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!