CEO and co-founder of software company Meniga Georg Ludviksson finds that although entrepreneurship is an emotional roller coaster ride, he is inspired by the challenge of building a company and having an impact in the world. This is why he established Meniga, a global leader in personal finance management software solutions. Meniga's purpose is to "help people lead better financial lives" where digital banking users are able to better understand and manage their money.
Today, Meniga operates offices in 4 countries with around 100 employees and its software powers digital banks used by 40 banks in 22 countries that are used by over 50 million people. Meniga is working on the future of digital banking with leading banks such as UniCredit, BPCE, Swedbank, Santander, Commerzbank and many more.
Could you tell our audience more about yourself, your background and how you arrived at founding a company?
I’ve been building software companies my whole career so I guess you can call me a serial entrepreneur by now. Meniga is the third company I have started. I studied software engineering at the University of Iceland and when I was graduating, back in 1999 close to the height of the dot.com bubble, I was inspired with the world of technology and didn’t want to work for an old fashioned firm – so I started a company with two of my classmates.
We built the company, Dimon software, a provider of enterprise mobility solutions to Nokia and others, for 5 years. We did all the mistakes in the book but still achieved a moderate measure of success. When Dimon was liquidated in 2003, it felt like a I had gathered a lifetime’s worth of experience and I had also caught the start-up bug – making it hard to do something else when you are addicted to the emotional ups and downs of startup life.
At Dimon I started as a lead programmer and took on mostly technical roles but one of the main lessons I learned at Dimon is that sales and marketing matter more for success than technology – so this is what I have been mostly focusing on since. Later I took a job as head of sales for a small software company selling software to Fortune 500 companies, with the sole aim to better learn how to do sales. I then moved to Boston for an MBA at Harvard Business School to further develop my skills.
When I started Meniga in 2009, I was deliberately starting a company in an area where I’m really passionate, personal finance. Entrepreneurship is an emotional roller coaster ride and you really need to passionate about what you are doing to get through the hard times. But while hard, there are many reasons why I have chosen this career path.
Some additional reasons for me are that I really am inspired by the challenge of building a company and I like to have a big impact in the world. Being able to choose who you work with to a degree and define the culture in the work place is also appealing.
Please give us some detail and information on your company and its products or services.
Meniga is a global leader in personal finance management software solutions. Our higher purpose is to “help people lead better financial lives” and we do so by partnering with leading banks and help them expand their digital bank into a kind of “personal finance coach.” Our solutions broadly help digital banking users better understand and manage their money. So, we are a B2B2C company and an innovation partner to banks in Europe and beyond. Our software powers digital banks used by 40 banks in 22 countries that are used by over 50 million people. We are privileged to be working on the future of digital banking with leading banks such as UniCredit, BPCE, Swedbank, Santander, Commerzbank and many more.
What is your typical day like? (e.g., What time do you start? What are your daily activities?)
One of the best parts of being the CEO of a growing start-up company is the versatility of the job so there is no such thing as a typical day. I divide my work between working with the management team on sales, marketing, product management, organizational issues, etc, and in between I travel between our office and to meet current and prospective customers and partners. Fund raising, working with the board of directors and generally making sure there is a good alignment in the shareholder group is also a big part of the responsibilities of the CEO. But regardless of the work, I try to organize work so that I do creative work, like strategy or writing, when my energy levels are the highest – usually in the afternoon or evening.
What has been the most rewarding point in your work founding a company?
I’m truly proud of the company I have built on several levels, especially the fact that we have been able to touch the lives of millions of people and help some of them to improve the financial behavior. Nothing beats hearing a user explain how he or she has improved their life as a result of using our solutions.
What has been the most frustrating point as a founder?
Every company’s growth path is strewn with difficulties and Meniga is no exception. We have had our fair share of ups and downs, including a few near-death experiences. There have been times when we have had severe cash-flow problems and were days from not making salaries – which is incredibly stressful. We have also seen major business deals that we had worked super hard on and would have had a major positive impact on the business fall through at the last hurdle for reasons outside of our control, which is extremely frustrating. But I guess the most frustrating part has been when making difficult trade-offs between the personal and work life at times of great pressure. I have two boys, 12 and 16, and prioritize spending time with them above work but there have been times when this was difficult.
How do you develop or cultivate your company’s culture?
A big part of my job as CEO of a 100 strong and fast-growing start-up with offices in 4 countries is organizational building and culture is probably the most important aspect of organizational building. When it comes to cultivating culture I am cognizant that my actions influence what others do so I try to lead by example. I also regularly talk to employees and discuss how we can jointly shape our culture and make Meniga a motivating, fun, and collaborative workplace. For example, last week at an all-hands meeting, I was discussing how our chosen corporate values are only words on paper unless we actively work with them to shape our work in a positive way.
What is the most important management or leadership skill needed as a founder?
Sales skills. You are always selling your vision and your company’s story from day one. First you have to convince yourself that it’s a good idea, then your co-founder(s) to join your cause, then customers, investors, employees, etc. If you can’t rally others around your ideas and vision, then your company will never grow.
What is your favorite app or the most utilized app on your phone and why?
The Meniga app of course. I still use Meniga every day to keep track of my spending.
What book are you currently reading and what is interesting about your choice?
I’m just finished reading “Skin in the game” by Nassim Taleb. Taleb (author of "Black Swan") is one of the foremost thinkers of our time in my view and his latest book is really good where he challenges many long-held beliefs about risk, reward, politics, religion, finance and personal responsibility. He is at times arrogant but his thinking and analysis is usually spot on!
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.