“There used to be this term ‘work life balance’, right?”
That’s Holvi’s CEO, Antti-Jussi Suominen (or AJ for short), musing on what entrepreneurship means in 2020. He’s the kind of guy that wears a leather jacket with our company slogan on the back.
“Well that’s gone. Now there’s just ‘life balance’. People want to blend the personal and the professional. They want flexibility, and this whole notion of freedom is why people want to become self-employed.”
It’s an infectious notion too. According to latest research, there are more than 31 million self-employed people in the EU, equivalent to 14% of its total workforce, or one in seven of all people in work. In the UK alone, between 2010 and 2015, 40% of all new jobs created were in self-employment, a trend the New Statesman has dubbed the ‘new normal’. And it’s this new normal - Europe’s growing army of freelancers and entrepreneurs - that Holvi’s digital banking is designed for.
“The term entrepreneur is, in fact, a little misleading”, AJ clarifies. “The word often conjures up an image of people who want to become rich and famous, the Richard Branson type. Whereas the way we at Holvi use it, it’s more a person who wants to lead a different kind of life.”
Google Trends data for the search term “How to be an entrepreneur” over the last 10 years. The score is relative - 100 represents the peak of popularity for the term, 0 when it was least popular.
“For us ‘entrepreneur’ means anyone who is, in one way or another, self-employed. Either through a company with friends or colleagues, as a solopreneur, or as a sidekick hustler. These are all what we consider to be ‘micro entrepreneurs’, and our mission is to help them succeed. But, of course, it’s up to them to define what success means. That’s different for everyone,” he adds.
But to achieve this success with your own business, to attain a ‘life balance’, is not always easy. Especially when it comes to money matters. Because when you’re your own boss, you’re suddenly responsible for everything that someone else used to take care of for you - billing, accounting, filing tax returns, pension contributions, the list goes on.
Frozen Fingers and Expensive Mistakes
A witch put a curse on me.
I’m too short to reach the post box.
My fingers were too cold to type.
These are some of the more creative excuses small business owners have provided to the tax authorities for filing late returns. These excuses are so ridiculous, and so numerous, that there is even an annual ‘best of’ list for the most bizarre ones. Yes, they’re funny, but late or incorrect paperwork is actually no laughing matter - it leads to trouble with the authorities. And it’s something Holvi is keen to help its users avoid.
“Micro entrepreneurs long for freedom, but they also fear making mistakes, mistakes that will be costly for their business. They talk about misreporting by accident - either because they don’t understand, or because they forget,” AJ explains. “They are afraid they’ll make some sort of mistake, and then they’ll end up paying a fine, additional taxes or even going to jail.”
“What we provide them with is an overall view of their business - we enable them to see if they’ve done what they were supposed to do. We don’t run their business for them, but we do help them spend less time on their financials.”
On a practical level, what are these tools that Holvi offers its users?
“When we looked at what micro entrepreneurs need to do to successfully run their own business we realised they need to do the following:
- Set up their business
- Get new business (i.e. customers)
- Pay bills and get paid
- Understand their business (get insights)
- Finance short term gaps in their finances
- Report to authorities
“We provide help for all these different problems and jobs that need to get done as a complete package. Think of it as a service, one tailored specifically to the needs of the modern day entrepreneur.”
Contextual Banking for the Uber Economy
Today’s ‘Uberised economy’ is one where consumers and businesses alike expect Everything-As-A-Service. It’s a new consumption model “in which little or no friction exists between desire and the satisfaction of need”. To address this new dynamic Holvi is focusing on what it calls ‘contextual banking’.
“Contextual banking means that we offer banking ‘in context’, it means our solution is built in the context of the needs and requirements of anyone running a micro business,” AJ continues.
“But what is contextual in Finland and what is contextual in Germany [Holvi’s two main markets, along with Austria] are two very different things. The devil is in the detail. We define our market not as business banking, but as these core things a micro entrepreneur needs to do to successfully run their business.”
So whether you’re a graphic designer in Hamburg or a yoga teacher in Helsinki you can rest assured that with Holvi your invoices look professional and are 100% compliant. All your business information will be collected in a digital format - it can be managed from your desk or on the go - and it can then be sent to a local accounting partner for processing.
‘Life balance as a service’, if you will.