From employee to founder: These are the ultimate tips from Susanne Krehl

The founder of Fabit was the first employee at Viafintech, which many still know as Barzahlen. Here she tells us how she made the leap from start-up employee to company boss.

Susanne Krehl looks back positively on the past few years. After a long time at Viafintech (formerly: Barzahlen), she took two big leaps at once: On the one hand, she quit her job and managed a big world trip before Corona. Second, she founded Fabit. The start-up sees itself as a digital coach for better money management and has been on the market with its own app since last autumn. In this interview, she explains why this leap is not always easy and which golden rules Krehl has followed.

Ms. Krehl, you went from employee to founder. Do you feel more pressure today?

At Viafintech I already had a lot of freedom, first I built up the communication and then I was responsible for the internationalization. I was the first in the team and trained others, so that was also "my baby". But with Fabit, it's something completely different now: I feel this responsibility clearly, but I'm also very happy to be able to make all the decisions the way I want today.

How many nights do you sleep through?

I would say six out of seven. On the seventh night, I worry about the things that probably every female founder worries about. Basically, founding is like an emotional roller coaster: sometimes things go well, then badly, on a monthly basis or several times a day. Then there are also challenges where you don't know what to do at first. Sometimes an idea comes to me at three in the morning.

Wouldn't you like to hand over a few typical tasks of a founder?

Nobody likes to give notice. Fortunately, I haven't had to give notice to anyone at Fabit yet. And I'd like to give up analysis: To this day, I'm not an Excel fan and like to have other data put into presentable form.

When looking for the right co-founders, I went strongly by gut feeling

Susanne Krehl, Fabit

When did you first develop the idea of founding your own company?

It was already during my time at Viafintech. Then I resigned in 2018 and first went on a world trip. I was then also in Australia, where there are low-income fintechs like "MyBudget" that many people use to clear their debts. That's when I thought for the first time: that would also be something for Germany. Because low-income is far too rarely the focus of fintechs today. That's why Viafintech worked so well: Hardly anyone had this target group on their radar.

You founded Viafintech with Ralf-Michael Schmidt and Robert Heim. Did you also look at other partners?

In the summer of 2020, I both looked for partners and thought again about whether the concept was the right one. I decided on the latter relatively soon. In the search for the right co-founders, I then went strongly by gut feeling. There were definitely some interested parties who were fully qualified, but my gut feeling was against it. I would also advise every founder to do the same: If it's not a 100 percent fit, don't do it. Ralf and Robert not only complement my skill set perfectly, but are also great people.

Susanne Krehl was the first employee of Viafintech. (Photo: Fabit)

What was the biggest challenge at the beginning?

The first employees make an extremely big difference. They play a decisive role in the success or failure of a start-up, something I have already experienced first-hand. I recruited the first employees from my PR and fintech network, some of whom I already knew or for whom I had good recommendations. This is also my most important tip for startups: Team, team, team. Who have you worked with? Who delivered as an intern and might have moved on now? These are important questions to ask yourself.

If I have the feeling that there is more hot air than ability, then I don't hire someone.

Susanne Krehl, Fabit

When do you not hire someone?

If I have the feeling that there is more hot air than ability, then I don't hire someone. For that, I take a few good tests and work samples, and I always ask for references from the former employer. And I'm a fan of the probationary period. That's where you find out who is "ok" and who delivers above average. So I look for employees who have been underappreciated and who, with a little freedom, will blossom into true talents.

What is some other advice you would give to founders?

Thinking you know everything is the biggest mistake you can make. Start-ups should therefore work a lot with customer interviews early on, even if that might put the work over the top. For this, feedback and help from the network is very important: I always have a few founders and investors that I have on Whatsapp speed dial. There you can ask questions like: Which fund is good? Which manager liability do I need? Or can you do an intro to person XY on Linkedin? That's a tremendous treasure.

Thank you very much for the interview.

About the person: Susanne Krehl started in the communications industry and was the first employee at Barzahlen (today: Viafintech), where she also managed the expansion into new European countries. In the summer of 2021, she founded Fabit to help people improve their financial habits. In her spare time, she is an avid scuba diver.

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