The Munich fintech CRX Markets wants to become the world’s leading supplier of bank-agnostic working capital financing. CRX Markets has created a marketplace for just that where companies — independently of banks — finance assets and liabilities through lenders. An interview with its CEO Frank H. Lutz.
Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do?
Frank H. Lutz: CRX Markets was founded in Munich in 2012. In 2015, our digital marketplace for working capital financing went live. Our marketplace is a platform for companies, banks and institutional investors. It gives companies the opportunity to finance assets and liabilities through lenders. Why? To optimize their own working capital, or free it up in other words, so it can be used for other purposes in the company.
The idea behind CRX Markets comes from its founders Moritz von der Linden and Carlo Kölzer. After successfully building a digital marketplace for foreign exchange trading, they founded CRX Markets. Working capital financing was another area that was lacking an independent platform where companies could operate freely with a bank or investor without any obligations.
I’ve been running CRX Markets as its CEO since 2018 together with my two board colleagues Alexei Zabudkin (CFO) and Thomas Brusa (CIO), alongside a fantastic team. Together, we’re moving the digital marketplace forward.
How companies reduce risk and dependency
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Frank H. Lutz: Working capital financing has obviously been around for quite some time. In addition to banks, some companies and startups have tackled the topic of working capital financing. What makes us stand out from the crowd is the idea of a digital marketplace where companies finance assets and liabilities through third parties, which are many different banks and institutional investors.
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Frank H. Lutz: The market for working capital financing is still strictly controlled by banks. They bind companies to their own financing programs. Companies that want greater flexibility in financing working capital often cooperate with several banks.
That allows them to reduce risk and dependency, but also increases the monitoring effort and the lack of transparency. Not to mention the effort required for technical integration of different solutions as well as separate accounting and contractual management.
That’s exactly the problem that CRX Markets solves. Companies that decide to work with us are connected once to the digital marketplace with an add-on and then have access to a large number of lenders. Because all business is managed on one platform, the customer has total transparency and control over all of their working capital financing. They can expand their liquidity pool while also improving their ability to compare and control. Seamless integration into the customer’s ERP system means the processes are fully automated. Moreover, legal documentation is significantly reduced by using the platform.
How is an unknown fintech company able to win over global players?
Munich Startup: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Frank H. Lutz: The biggest challenge was getting the first clients on board with a solution that hadn’t been tested yet. It takes a lot of convincing to get someone to go with an unknown fintech company to finance working capital. Especially because using our marketplace requires us to connect with companies’ core systems. The necessary trust to do that was something we had to gain from every single customer.
Initial success and winning over renowned customers has made customer acquisition easier. We’re proud of our customers, which include Nestlé, Vattenfall and Daimler.
Munich Startup: How is business going?
Frank H. Lutz: In 2019, we financed more than 2.5 billion euros on our digital marketplace. We currently work with suppliers from more than 45 countries on five continents who provide liquidity every day on our platform in different currencies from more than 30 banks and institutional investors — and those numbers are increasing.
In times of crisis in particular, our platform is more important than ever. Companies that already use our digital marketplace complete more financing and see the benefit of being able to access various lenders, banks and institutional investors.
Also a platform for times of crisis
Munich Startup: Why did you want to fly under the radar until now?
Frank H. Lutz: We aren’t really flying under the radar, because we’re very much known in the industry. And a growing number of companies are interested in our marketplace. That’s certainly also because global companies already cooperate with us. And also because the facts speak in our favor.
Munich Startup: Where do you see your business in one year, and where in five years?
Frank H. Lutz: Our vision is to become the world’s leading bank-agnostic marketplace for working capital financing. To reach that goal, we’ve set intermediate goals:
- First, we want to strengthen our position as the market leader for working capital financing in the German-speaking market by continuing to increase the total number of customers and the total volume of lending conducted on the marketplace.
- In a second step, we want to expand to new markets. The focus will be on the Scandinavian countries, the Benelux countries and the UK.
- Global expansion is then our final strategic goal.
“We’re not aiming for the “unicorn” label”
Munich Startup: How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?
Frank H. Lutz: In all honesty? We’re not aiming for the “unicorn” label. With our digital marketplace for working capital financing, we want to make a significant economic contribution. Even or especially in times of crisis.
We’re optimistic that this will become apparent in the increasing valuation of CRX Markets. At the moment, however, we’re predominantly focusing on getting more customers and lenders on our marketplace.
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Frank H. Lutz: Munich is the ideal location for startups. The Bavarian city is not only home to a large number of global players. Munich also attracts highly education professionals, who are important for the expansion of companies. For academic cooperation, you benefit as a startup from the internationally renowned universities in Munich. And of course the quality of living in Munich is absolutely amazing with its many parks, lakes and mountains.
CRX Markets: A “friends & family” shareholder structure
Munich Startup: Quick exit or staying power?
Frank H. Lutz: With a “friends & family” shareholder structure that has been loyal to us for seven years and involved in twelve rounds of financing, that question is easy to answer: We need and have staying power to make CRX Markets the world’s leading bank-agnostic supplier of working capital financing.