re:cap was founded in 2021 by Paul Becker and Jonas Tebbe. Together with re:cap CTO Arne Zeising, the three have already launched several companies: While still at university, they built owlhub, a micro-investment solution. After their studies, they went on to found the investment platform LIQID, a very successful fintech company until this day. This was followed by a stopover with &do, a consulting agency for venture building, which Paul, Jonas and Arne also ran together – before tackling their next big fintech startup with re:cap.
In the interview, Jonas and Paul explain the most important lessons they learned from their joint startups and what tips they would like to give to aspiring startup founders.
You studied and founded companies together, so your backgrounds are quite similar at first. What are the differences between your strengths?
Jonas: We all studied computer science and business management, but within this field we each set different priorities. Paul's focus was and still is on business, while Arne's is computer science. My focus and strengths lie somewhere between the two. Together we cover everything that is needed to build a company: Marketing, sales, management, fundraising, technical aspects, strategy and processes.
Paul: We also have very similar values and get along very well. That's extremely helpful.
What are those values?
Paul: Our work is not a side hustle for us. We are all willing to put a lot of life time into entrepreneurial projects. In addition, we are all very structured, not to say structure-loving. These commonalities eliminate a great deal of potential for conflict. And thirdly, communication is very important to us; we always give each other an honest opinion.
What would you recommend to others when choosing a co-founder?
Jonas: Founding a company is a huge challenge. I don't recommend anyone to tackle it by her- or himself. Only with co-founders can you have a real exchange on eye level, which is not possible in that same depth with other team members. And secondly, co-founders should be complementary to each other.
Paul: Personally, I'm not a fan of scouted founding teams at all. That may work in individual cases, for example with some company builders, but it is the exception rather than the rule. The search for a suitable co-founder is comparable to the search for a life partner – it has to be a really good fit, on many levels. You don't just do it on the side.
What would you have liked to have known before you started your first company?
Paul: How much can you work and what are your limits? As a founder, you naturally give everything, but everyone has their limit. You get to know that at some point. Second big learning: It pays off to understand how VCs think and what criteria they use. This was not clear to me personally from the beginning. VCs naturally pursue interests for their own business which do not always align with the interests of the founders. Understanding their business and motivations is very helpful.
Jonas: Everybody puts their pants on the same way as you. What others can do, you can do yourself if you really put your mind to it. You can even do it without prior knowledge or connections, even if it's even more challenging – but it's possible.
A second thing that every founder should keep in mind: When you work with VCs, you're committing to something long-term. This is not a decision that can be reversed after one year. We're talking more about ten or 15 years, during which you have to meet obligations and satisfy your backers.
What lessons did you learn for the founding of re:cap? What did you do differently from previous startups?
Paul: We knew how the organizational structure should work. We also had a better sense of when to bring senior team members on board, which is as early as possible.
At the investor level, we decided at re:cap to make the captable very international. It was also important for us to work with venture capitalists who have larger reserves and can fund us for a longer period of time. Our re:cap cap table is extremely strong after only one year, and we can continue to build our business excellently on that basis.
And lastly, it helped that I acquired very extensive marketing knowledge at LIQID. I can only recommend that founders really familiarize themselves with at least one subject area at an expert level.
Jonas: When we founded re:cap, we knew how important transparent communication is. Pretending something that is not true won't get you anywhere. Really good collaboration only works with transparency. This can also include criticism, or not keeping quiet to your employees when business is not going so well.
As far as fundraising is concerned, our time at &do was also helpful. We didn't even ask ourselves the question "Do we want to bring VCs on board?" at LIQID. Because of our experience at &do, it was very different at re:cap.
What was different about re:cap compared to the startups you’ve founded before?
Paul: We approached re:cap with greater expectations. We already knew how to build a product, acquire paying customers, obtain capital and build a team. In that respect, we were able to focus on challenges beyond that and set higher goals right away, such as scaling and internationalization. In addition, we both worked more operationally at LIQID, whereas our tasks at re:cap are more complex. Here, for example, we are also responsible for fundraising. We might not have been able to cover that in the past, but we can now.
Jonas: When we founded and built up re:cap, we simply proceeded very consciously, nothing happened by chance. The process was very predictable. That wasn't the case with LIQID, where we figured out on the fly how everything worked.
How did you come to the topic of recurring revenue financing?
Jonas: At &do, we repeatedly supported investors with due diligence projects and helped them evaluate tech companies. In doing so, we realized how much room for improvement there is in terms of structuring processes better.
In addition, as a founder, you inevitably have to deal with the issue of financing. In the past, almost no one knew about debt financing, but that has been changing for some time. This gave us the idea to found re:cap.
What are your tips for future founders?
Paul: Starting a business is completely different than choosing a career as a lawyer or management consultant. I have the impression that at times not everyone realizes this and some just think "investment banking is somehow not so cool anymore – then I'll just found an internet startup". But that rarely works. You should be aware of what a momentous decision that is.
Secondly, if you have decided on a rather risky topic for which there is not yet a clear business case, you need to have real passion for it. If at some point the business case vanishes into thin air, for example because new competitors enter the market, demand fails to materialize or customer expectations are different than expected, it helps a lot to be passionate about the topic. In my experience, this happens much more often than the business case being realized one-to-one in reality.
Jonas: Trust that there really is a solution for everything, no matter how big the problem.
What do you get up for in the morning?
Jonas: I have an inner drive to want to self-actualize. I seek and find fulfillment in creating something new, something that doesn't yet exist. I want to change processes and industries.
Paul: It's great to realize that you get to do something like founding and building re:cap in the first place, being given an opportunity like this. You don't want to squander that opportunity. That's a huge reason to get going every day.