Leopoldstadt. Financial district north of Vienna. The colors of a monitor can be seen between the dark buildings and the mirrored glass. They contrast with the overcast sky of the Austrian capital. And with the brown, still waters of a canal that brings water from the Danube nearby. Liquid crystals flash green and red messages. Abbreviations and percentages on the trend of cryptocurrencies. A B with a slight three-dimensional effect stands out on the monitor. It is the logo of Bitpanda, an investment platform founded in 2014 and in eight years becoming one of the startups with the highest market value in Europe. The vocabulary of the digital economy defines it as a unicorn: a company with a market capitalization of over a billion dollars.
The dream of democratizing finance
Bitpanda was born from an intuition of its founders Eric Demuth, Christian Trummer and Paul Klanschek. Today all in their mid-thirties. Then economics students at the University of Vienna which is located about fifty meters north of their company headquarters. Demuth – who will be a guest of the Italian Tech Week – and his partners are convinced that technology applied to finance would change the approach to investments. That an app could have played the role of traders and intermediaries. That investing would soon become as simple as sharing a post on social media. So it was. Today Bitpanda has 4 million users around the world. 100 thousand in Italy alone. A powerful growth, driven by the boom in the technology sector over the past 10 years.
The difficulties after the collapse of the technologists
In May, the company inaugurated its headquarters in Vienna. The stock trend monitor is located at the entrance to a five-story building. Looking at it from above, it resembles the shape of a boomerang. Inside there are about a hundred people working, including engineers, marketers, market analysts. They occupy the company open spaces, the rest, in turn, work from home. There is no plastic in the kitchens. In addition to the tables, at the stove, there is also a sink where everyone after having prepared a coffee or prepared lunch, washes the dishes or cups before returning to work. The tech crash of 2021 also affected Bitpanda. At the peak of its expansion, the company has reached one thousand employees. But inflation and geopolitical tensions led the company to lay off 200 people.
Demuth has his office on the fifth floor of the building. 2021 was the year of the collapse of cryptocurrencies, Bitpanda’s first business. But it was also the most difficult year for new tech companies. “Worried? I would not say. We have already experienced moments of crisis. Even worse than that. We know our market and we have sufficient reserves to face the difficulties ”. Black long-sleeved T-shirt, light jeans, white sneakers. Beyond the window behind her you can see a racecourse: “Seeing the horse races is relaxing in moments of stress”.
Demuth: “The crisis will pass. It has always been like this”
Demuth is sure that the crisis will pass: “It has always been like this”. While the principles that led to the birth of Bitpanda will remain: “We were born with trading in cryptocurrencies. We are used to moving in a very volatile sector. Here we believe that investing means believing in yourself first of all and not in banks and consultants. It is another investment approach. It’s a change of perspective in people’s minds, it’s hard to think you can go back. Indeed, it is destined to become more and more widespread ”.
Bitcoin led the way. The development of digital technologies did the rest. In Italy Bitpanda is recognized as a company that offers cryptocurrency services. As well as in all the countries where he works. Over time it has expanded its offer to two thousand digital assets, stocks, precious metals and commodities. The sale takes place through the app developed by the group.
A simple and rather straightforward design. As direct is the style of the street art-style messages that decorate the internal spaces of the company: ‘Free Crypto’ (free cryptocurrencies); ‘Rip the cash’. Decorations. An aesthetic, more than a political vision. The impression is to be in a newly built temple of the new finance. Which may have new codes, but unchanged objectives.