Team Saaseads interview with Machiel Jansen Schoonhoven from ALT FIN. ALT FIN is all about providing loans via funds and fintech platforms for corporates and SMEs.
When and how did you get into the whole start-up scene
“It’s never too late to start a start-up”
After 30 years in Investment Banking, Machiel saw the struggles and changes happening in banking for Small and Medium Entities (SMEs) and decided to provide solutions.
Banking and banking regulations have been changing drastically since the shock of 2008. That mixed with the development of Fintech has made for massive changes in the industry.
These radical changes also created space for opportunity, and Machiel felt passionate about one area in particular and that kick started his start-up: ALT FIN (alternative financing). ALT FIN is basically allocating funds from non-banks, mainly pensions & insurance, and lending these funds to SME companies.
“Typical commercial banks don’t cater to these businesses whole heartedly, and that’s why I ventured out on my own”.
Upon leaving the investment bank, he leveraged his network and reputation as a banker in the Netherlands to bring this under-addressed SME loan market to life, as the idea of alternative financing was undeveloped there compared to the US and UK. In the alternative financing arena, Machiel is one of the first movers in the Netherlands.
Shifting from Corporate to start-up
While the need to continuously build your knowledge, skills, reputation, and network is the same whether working at your company or someone else’s, the feeling is immensely different. For starters, having your own business provides you with freedom, which is fantastic. Freedom to check your daily target. Freedom to follow your own agenda as opposed to a forced management framework. And with freedom comes great responsibility.
On the ALT FIN side
Machiel is currently in the process of building the online platform that will accompany the meat and potatoes lending business he’s built from the ground up. The AI platform is a mix of SME loan software and credit assessment (financial analysis) that provides a credit rating and rich qualitative and quantitative analysis that removes the bulk of traditional assessment practices. The software provides the optimal mix between fintech and human expertise.
In terms of coding and platform building experience, this is Machiel’s first time building a web product from scratch. While in the past such details were handled by other departments, the process has not been very foreign as he is establishing it with the aid of his partners and advisors.
Take us back to INSEAD in the 90’s and its network
Machiel’s intake was almost three decades ago, but he remarks, “It’s exactly the same!! INSEAD is a time proof formula, the only difference now is the Singapore campus.”
As for the network, some classmates are only seen at 5-year reunions, but many have become close family friends. Having friends in every city is still possible, even after 27 years.
Lessons that stuck with you since the 90’s
One class that stuck out in Machiel’s mind was OB (Organizational Behavior) by Manfred Kets de Vries, where the professor educated students on cutting-edge research, digging into the egos of prominent CEOs. The class was particularly interesting as it dug into personalities of successful and unsuccessful CEOs.
Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright
Following media on Washington Post, NY times, along with Fintech development online.