5 Questions with Allard Luchsinger, Managing Director of the ABN AMRO & Techstars Future of Finance Accelerator

Mar 23, 2022

Allard Luchsinger is the Managing Director of the ABN AMRO & Techstars Future of Finance Accelerator. He is a serial entrepreneur, venture investor and startup mentor. He spent the last decade building a fintech focused venture capital firm, investing in founders across Europe and Africa. Before becoming an investor, Allard was co-founder and CEO of Zecco, a fintech startup in San Francisco that was successfully acquired. In the late 1990s and early 2000s he served as co-founder and CEO of an online global car trade B2B marketplace Prior to joining Techstars, Allard took a sabbatical where he started his training to be a meditation teacher and coach.

01. What are you looking for in startups for the ABN AMRO + Techstars ‘Future of Finance’ Accelerator 

We are looking for unstoppable founders. These are the founders that are so determined to make a dent in the universe with their vision and drive that they will keep finding ways to make their dream come true, even if the barriers seem insurmountable. These types of founders build companies that solve hard and big problems. They know they can’t do it on their own, and they always find ways to increase their chances of success and accelerate their growth. We are looking for these unstoppable founders building companies at the intersections of fintech, sustainability and digital assets and who have a strong urge to leave a positive impact on this planet.

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars MD? 

My biggest learning lies in my full realization of what it takes to be an unstoppable founder. I’ve personally learned the hard way that it’s impossible to build a world-changing company without giving it your absolutely all. This makes the founder’s journey extremely challenging, and at times very rough (next to being lots of fun as well). That’s why I have the deepest respect for those who chose this path. In the end, it’s the founders, and no one else, that will create the success or who will fail. All those surrounding them - be it investors, board members, or advisors - should be humble. Our first task is to support founders in being the best possible version of themselves. We do this by helping them not to make the mistakes we made, by opening up our networks, and by giving our best counsel. But when push comes to shove it will be the founders who know what’s best for their businesses, which makes it important also to realize when to get out of their way. .

03. What is your favorite thing about the Amsterdam startup scene?

Amsterdam has always been a city of trade and of financial innovation. The startup scene, however, took some time to get up to speed and blossom. The past few years Amsterdam has more than made up for it. The scene is buzzing, incredibly international, multi-faceted, and has turned into a strong ecosystem where large numbers of founders are innovating and building their companies. One of my favorite things about the international founders that come to Amsterdam is that many of them are in love with the city, in the same way that I am, after 25 years of living here. With my background as a fintech founder and investor, I’m also thrilled to see how Amsterdam has become one of the leading hubs in the fintech and payments space. The success of, amongst others, Adyen and Mollie have created fertile grounds for a whole new generation of fintech founders and their companies. This is a virtuous cycle that keeps bringing more founders from all over the globe to the city, further enriching the Amsterdam startup scene. 

04. Describe a situation with a startup founder or team where you felt like you made a difference. 

Leveraging my experiences and knowledge as a founder and investor, I’ve been lucky to have been able to make a difference for founding teams on many strategic and operational matters. An interesting issue that I’ve been tackling at a good number of companies is management of board dynamics. As a founder, and as a Series A stage investor serving on the boards of most of the companies we invested in, I’ve learned that board dynamics can be very hard to navigate for founders. All board members want to add value. And in this well intended attempt to add value, every board member brings her own perspective and his own baggage. Managing the dynamics of the different people and egos in the group can often become a real challenge for founders. I am humbled to have helped founders and their executive teams in shielding them from some of these potentially crippling board dynamics, guiding the board to get out of the way, and enabling the founders to do what they do best: drive growth to achieve their dreams.

05. What does our partner ABN AMRO bring to the accelerator?

ABN AMRO is a bank with entrepreneurial and international roots. You can feel this when you engage with the bank and its people: very open to innovation and a tremendous willingness to learn. Moreover - and this is very important I believe - there’s a conviction that some innovation better happens outside of the organization. When working with ABN AMRO you feel the intrinsic respect for what founders do and the value they create. If you couple this with the deep domain expertise of the bank, their many business lines and their vast network, you get a very strong partner for unstoppable founders looking to accelerate their business.