Masters' programs - tomorrow is our business

Qonto: the banking alternative for entrepreneurs and start-ups

13 May 2017

Meeting with Alexandre Prot (H06), serial entrepreneur, CEO of the start-up Qonto

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Alexandre Prot, graduate of the Grande Ecole, specialization International Finance, started his career in strategy consulting at McKinsey & Company and after multiple successes in consulting, he shifted his career focus in 2011 to become an entrepreneur. Founded in France, his first start up, Wimdu,is one of the leading online marketplaces for short-term rentals and private accommodation. Following Wimdu’s success, he went on to co-found Smokio in 2013: the first connected electronic cigarette.
While overseeing financial tasks at Smokio, he became tremendously frustrated with his banking experience, inspiring him to create his new start-up Qonto. Qonto is an exciting and innovative banking venture, designed to simplify and enhance banking experience for businesses. Its efficient design allows businesses to save valuable time whilst providing a high quality service. We spoke to Alexandre himself to find out a bit more about his new venture.

The concept

Qonto is the banking alternative for entrepreneurs and start-ups. It allows any entrepreneur to obtain a current account (with a French IBAN) and order a Qonto Mastercard in just a few clicks, helping them kickstart their business. The idea behind Qonto was to make banking more:

  • Efficient: Qonto is simple to understand and use, making it essential in saving valuable time.
  • User-friendly: constantly seeking to eliminate extensive processes and hidden fees, Qonto is driven to providing the best banking experience ever
  • Collaborative: with Qonto, you can manage your team members' user rights, maintaining control of your companies spendings
  • Connected: connect your favorite business software to the app and constantly keep track of your finances, wherever you are, thanks to our application.

Qonto in figures

We gained 1.6 m€ in seed funding, only a few months after the company was created, along with Valar Ventures (founded by Peter Thiel), Alven Capital, and experienced business angels: Dominique Vidal (partner at Index Ventures), Céline Lazorthes (founder of Leetchi.com and MANGOPAY) and Frédéric Potter (founder of Netatmo).
We currently have 120 beta users, including: TheFamily, Clustree, Alan and a further 2000+ companies are on the waiting list to access our beta (launched in March 2017). There are 20 team members working for Qonto after just one year of activation.  

Strong relationships with the HEC Incubator

Qonto has agreed to a partnership with the HEC incubator, as a way of ‘paying forward’ the HEC community, which is very important to us. This partnership is twofold: firstly, a VIP access to Qonto.eu for every HEC entrepreneur with privileged pricing conditions and a dedicated customer care team. Secondly, I will personally involve myself in mentoring the HEC incubator portfolio.
I’m excited to meet, share my experience and support talented entrepreneurs. Stay tuned!

Close links with the HEC community

I’ve stayed very close with the people I met whilst studying at HEC, both with my peers who in turn have become great friends and it is also where I met my wonderful wife. I organized a 10-year anniversary reunion for my class last year, where a part of the day was spent highlighting the entrepreneurs of the class.
On the ‘professional’ side, I am particularly impressed with the HEC society’s ‘Trent’setters’ and ‘Club Jeunes Entrepreneurs’ led by Alexandre Aymé and Mathieu Gastal, I think they both show great promise.
Finally, I am honored to have one of the most talented French female fintech entrepreneurs among our business angels at Qonto, a fellow HEC graduate: Céline Lazorthes, founder of Leetchi.com and MANGOPAY).

Immerse yourself as soon as possible

It’s never too early to launch your business. Don’t be afraid to start a ‘small’ project while you’re still studying, if you have the drive and grit to make something happen from the beginning right to the end, that has huge value.
There are many opportunities out there so you can explore what’s right for you, for example, taking part in a startup weekend, attending meetups, etc. I love being an entrepreneur, but I can see why these type of projects aren’t for everyone.
Essentially, I think it’s highly important to immerse yourself in an entrepreneurial environment as early as possible, so you can assess how committed you are to starting your own business.

Recruiter’s stance on HEC students

I think HEC students are brilliant, open-minded, enthusiastic, and are becoming more and more entrepreneurial. I always really enjoy meeting candidates who have graduated from both HEC and other engineering partner schools (Polytechnique, for instance), as they always have a great technical and business vision.