How this Mogul Sold his Business for $480 Million, and Built a $10 Billion Banking Empire

August 9, 2019

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Only a few entrepreneurs have built a business and sold it for a ninedigit figure. Globally there is a small group of people that have ever built multibillion dollar businesses during their life time. Creating a $10 Billion Dollar company in less than four years is iconic.


Michael Gastauer is the entrepreneur who did it. The Founder and CEO of Black Banx digital banking group is a one of a kind FinTech entrepreneur that has achieved this unique growth. His banking group Black Banx has grown faster than any other FinTech company in history. With more than 9 million customers is Black Banx the largest digital bank that has been established during the recent FinTech age. It took Michael less than four years to get there and his business growth is far from the peak.


To understand how entrepreneurs create billion dollar businesses this fast, we spoke to him in an interview:


CEO Monthly: Thanks for joining us today. First of all, could you tell us how you came up with the idea to found a digital bank?


Gastauer: I have been in the banking and payment industry for more than 18 years. I have worked with Banks in almost every part
of the world. One of the biggest hurdles for a customer in banking is opening a bank account if you are not living in the same country as your bank. When you send or receive payments internationally, things can get expensive and complicated.

Experiencing these pain points in banking, I realised that a digital solution that would allow customers from any country to open a bank account in minutes and use the full garment of retail banking without unnecessary restrictions would solve a huge problem.


CEO Monthly: This sounds like a perfect solution for millions of customers, how did you fund the company and this kind of growth?


Gastauer: I had the fortunate situation that I didn´t need any 3rd party funding for growing the business. In 2008 I sold my last company, one of the first payment service providers in Europe and Asia for $480 Million USD to an Asian Banking Group. To finance the growth of Black Banx, I invested over $100 Million USD of my own funds.


CEO Monthly: This is a quite an impressive amount. Most startup companies would try to find a Venture Capital Investor for that kind of funding. Did you ever think about getting 3rd party investors onboard?


Gastauer: We had a few requests from Venture Capital firms that were interested to invest, however I saw some disadvantages to sell shares of the company before we reached a certain valuation. Most founders get diluted when they bring a VC Investor on board, especially at an early stage. The VC usually takes a board seat and wants to be involved when making decisions. If you want to grow a business fast you have to be able to make fast decisions.

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Black Banx growth chart by number of customers

Each of these “FinTech Unicorns” needed several years to get their company to a $1 Billion valuation. Black Banx reached a $2.2 Billion valuation in 2016, the first year we launched.


Since then we have grown with almost the same speed, this month we shall be able to celebrate our ten millions customer, which makes us the fastest growing Digital Bank worldwide. Our current valuation of $10 Billion is primarily based on our key metrics such a revenue and future growth potential.


CEO Monthly: What does Black Banx do different than other companies in your space?
Gastauer: The biggest difference between our business model and many other Fintech companies are two things:
We address the global cross border payments market that has an annual volume of $22 trillion. Most FinTech companies are focused on much smaller markets such as remittance which is a $800 billion market. When your product solves a problem for a market of that size, your growth rate is way more extreme. The crossborder payments market is mostly dominated by international banks.
Most Startup companies don´t have the experience and resources to serve customers on a global market scale. Hence, the usual rollout strategy is to get market shares in a smaller local market and gradually expand into other countries. Depending how fast you can scale your business, this might take several years before you reach a global presence.


When I founded Black Banx, I knew the key to success would be to find a solution that would allow us to serve customers on a global scale with minimum resources. Being in banking, our biggest problem to solve was how to do KYC on customers for account opening, without having any manual work involved. To solve that problem, we developed a fully automated, compliant KYC solution that has unlimited scalability and works for customers in 200 countries. The invention of this technology set us apart from any other existing banking solution. It allowed us to offer real time, online account opening to clients in 180 countries from day one.


When we started back in 2015, Black Banx has been the first FinTech executing a Digital Banking business model on a global scale. In the last few years some of the other big players in that industry started to copy our business model and slowly targeted the same countries where we got massive growth from. However as in any other industry what’s important is to acquire a relevant market share and establish a brand, which we have been able to do early on.

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CEO Monthly: Michael, what advice could you give an entrepreneur if he or she wants to build a billion-dollar business?


Gastauer: Obviously there is no exact solution for doing this, however what I have learned is that the following criteria are important:
Try to create a product that has unlimited scalability and solves a huge problem in a global market. Find a smart solution to address this market and grow your business as fast as you can. Focus on revenue and growth over everything else.
Most importantly; enjoy what you do. If you don´t have the right motivation you won´t have success. Money is not the motivation, solving a problem that millions of people have is the right goal. This is what all global business models like Uber, or Facebook have in common. The rest is execution and building the team for it.


CEO Monthly: A $10 Billion Dollar valuation with almost ten million customers is already impressive. What are your goals for Black Banx in the next few years?


Gastauer: Given that we launched only a few years ago, I believe we have reached ten percent of the company size we can reach in the next few years. The business model of being a global company from day one, and serving customers in 180
countries allows us to grow into a digital Bank with 50-100 Million customers.


CEO Monthly: The Private Equity and Venture Capital firms must be dying to get a share of your company, are you ever planning to raise outside capital?


Gastauer: Indeed we are being approach by those firms quite often, however sofar we have been too busy growing the business; going through a full round of negations with them takes a lot of recourse and we didn’t need their money.
Also I have learned not to talk about these things to openly until the deal is sealed, so all I can say for now is we are in the final stage of accepting a ten digit investment from a Private Equity firm. The funds will be used to take the company to the next stage and preparing it for an IPO in the nearest future.


CEO Monthly: Michael, this is a truly unique and impressive approach of building a business. Thank you for your time and sharing these insights with us

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