Bernadette Wijnings (co-CEO Blanco) was invited to appear as a guest in two Dutch podcasts this month. Her conversation with Jeroen Broekema in the Leaders in Finance podcast covers a variety of topics, from Bernadette’s career to her mission and advice for others who want to start a startup. Meanwhile, the At The Money podcast with Thomas Mensink focuses on Bernadette’s experience of attracting investments and what she learned from it.
Leaders in Finance by Jeroen Broekema Episode #66: Bernadette Wijnings
In the Leaders in Finance podcast, interviews are held with leaders in the financial services industry. They search for the people behind the success, with the goal of finding out more about the motives, careers and private lives of the leaders in the financial sector of today and tomorrow.
Jeroen starts the episode by asking Bernadette about Blanco’s backstory, people and values. Bernadette explains that Blanco was founded specifically for asset managers, but emphasises how Blanco’s technology contributes to financial inclusiveness, which aligns with her personal mission in entrepreneurship for diversity and inclusiveness. “I want to create a more diverse population for employees, a broader employee picture, and therefore also give opportunities to people who may not be the Dutch white male with exactly the right education and experience.” Bernadette mentions that to create the ideal company to work for, she built Blanco on three pillars: diversity, freedom and responsibility. Diverse teams come up with better solutions and people perform better when they can work according to their own balance. The conversation also turns to how Bernadette likes to work with team players rather than soloists: “It’s very much about wanting to achieve something together, so big egos, the brilliant jerk, I have no place for that.”
Bernadette explains that entrepreneurship runs in her blood. She was ambitious and diligent as a child, and by the age of 18 was already carrying a small notebook to write down potential business ideas. Her entrepreneurial mindset was also encouraged by her mother’s advice: “It is important that you are independent, that you can take care of yourself. Never be dependent on a man.” When Jeroen asks Bernadette about how she has dealt with failures or her previous less successful startups, her answer is to emphasise how she looks forward, and that – although it can be painful to quit when things stop working out – there is always something to learn from it. Bernadette’s advice and tips to other startups is to follow their heart, work with great people who share their vision, and learn from mistakes.
Listen to the original podcast in Dutch here.
At The Money episode #33 Bernadette Wijnings: ‘Fundraising is a sales process: roll up your sleeves and go!
In the podcast At The Money by The Golden Egg Check, Thomas Mensink talks to entrepreneurs who are about to raise growth capital or have recently done so, and with investors who invest in such startups and scale-ups. He focuses on helping startups increase their investment attractiveness and connecting them with relevant investors. In this episode, Thomas talks to Bernadette to find out why she started Blanco, how she managed to raise an investment within a year and what she learned in the investment rounds that followed.
The podcast begins with a conversation about how Bernadette’s role as founder and “co-CEO” of Blanco along with Joost Walgemoed is an emerging phenomenon in the world of fintech. “It’s hip and happening” and the success of their shared CEO position lies in how their skills support and strengthen each other. The tasks are clearly divided between the two of them with Joost being responsible for the customers while Bernadette focuses on the organisation and everything to do with investors.
Bernadette is an entrepreneur at heart and has founded several small businesses, some successful and others less so. She also has a background as a strategy consultant, which has given her the broad base she has now. “I can do everything 80%, but little 100%. And that’s fine if you want to be an entrepreneur.” Bernadette got to know Joost when she worked at BinckBank eight years ago. After the plug was pulled from the deal just before a management buyout, they decided to continue together. With the enormous amount of market knowledge, network and experience they had together, they started Blanco. “We made an under-the-hood solution for asset managers, a kind of white label B2B robo-advisor. You don’t see us, hence our name Blanco, but we are there. The demand for such an invisible solution was high under the influence of increasing KYC legislation.”
Thomas asks how Bernadette managed to raise Blanco’s first round of investment within a year when they didn’t have a product yet. Bernadette explains that their first angel investors came from Bernadette and Joost’s direct network: from friends, Bernadette’s very first boss, people she had worked with in the past and two former clients. Then the fundraising with venture capital funds started. “I came to realise that fundraising is sales. And sales is a funnel. You push a lot into it at the beginning and then at each step you look at who stays and who doesn’t. Fundraising is about rolling up your sleeves and going!”
Once Blanco was on the radar of the right parties, venture capital investors took the initiative to knock on their door. Since then, Blanco has raised an investment round almost every year. “It’s a snowball; through current investors we end up with new investors. It’s almost an organic process.” Bernadette is currently working on the next investment round for Blanco and the end is far from in sight. “We want to raise money again to press the accelerator further and grow. There is still so much to gain on the market and the need for our products is great. Our goal is to be a solid organisation in Europe to whom asset managers can blindly entrust their critical processes.”
Bernadette notes that her position as a female tech founder also helps to attract investors as the number of female founders is still so small, especially in fintech. To change this and make fintech more attractive to women, she advises that it is important to encourage female talent. “Send a recruiter out deliberately with this search question. Make the extra effort to find qualified women. And create a work environment where diversity, freedom and responsibility are important values.”
Listen to the original podcast in Dutch here.