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Fabiola is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Secfix. She was born in the U.S. and came to Germany to study at the Technical University of Munich. This was the time when she decided with her Co-Founder to set up her own business. They started their journey in 2020 with the first product, a marketplace for ethical hackers. Their main goal is to help startups and small businesses get and remain compliant with standards such as ISO 27001 and SOC 2 in weeks rather than months. For that, they have built a security monitoring platform that helps automate this tedious and complex process.
What entrepreneurial challenges have you encountered that you wish you had more help with?
Basically, just more of a financial backup when you're in the beginning would have been great because there are a lot of people that have ideas, but normally when you need financial backup, you really need to have a product and customers and so on. But how do you kind of fill in the gap in between having an idea and getting into that part. Since reaching out for grants is a lot of bureaucracy and takes a long time to get approval.
The other one was being a foreigner in Germany, it's not really the best for entrepreneurship I have to say. I honestly had a lot of issues with my visa. It was a pain, literally one of the worst things I have, I'm still dealing with it after almost two years. You need to complete a huge form. It also takes a lot of time to prepare the Business Plan, need to prove financial backup and then the immigration office needs six months to approve it. And this is also related to the third one, which is opening a bank account in Germany as a foreigner, it was also a huge pain because it was all connected to not having a proper visa. It was kind of all connected to each other and it was not the best experience I have to say.
What could have helped you to improve the situation?
Most importantly, what I needed was support from people, not only from foreign people, because everyone was kind of in the same boat. They all had different experiences, so they couldn't really help me. But having support, for example, from an organization in Germany, like a governmental organization that can take you by the hand and are going to make this easy for you. The other thing, just having more transparency also on the internet, like when I search for visas for entrepreneurs or how to open a bank account as an entrepreneur, a foreign entrepreneur in Germany, you just read a lot of stuff and there's no real clarity on what you need to do. Just having a little bit more guidance would have helped.
Who or what supported or empowered you during your entrepreneurial journey?
Mostly, its accelerator programs like Grace, were super helpful in the beginning. They were actually the ones that advised me to talk to Berlin partners and also to apply to the Berliner Startup Stipendium. That made it a bit easier to get my visa. I think just using partners such as Grace was definitely helpful. And obviously the network that I already had from other accelerator programs, or from founder communities as well, who might already have gone through it.
How can female founders who were not born in Germany be supported to ease their way into entrepreneurship in Germany?
First of all, it is important to relieve them from their fears, because it starts from there. Their uncertainty of, "If I do this and I don't have a job, I don't have an income." So, I guess just giving them kind of a perspective of where they can seek for money while they're still in this development phase and discovering phase, that would be already very helpful for them. Having some specific examples of other foreigners who have gone through the program or who can share their experiences. Just having proper guidance for female founders where people can relieve them from their basically biggest fears. That's the first thing. Obviously the second one, having programs such as Grace, where they can just talk to each other and share their experiences, their problems. However, I was sometimes very frustrated because there's no real community of female founders that are foreigners in Germany. So just sharing the different problems helps to find another way to find solutions.
How did your cultural background influence your career?
I think my cultural background helped me because you really stand out from the crowd. You're not the typical founder that people see in the news. So, it's already a big plus, specifically if you're doing PR or marketing, or just trying to put your startup out there. In my case, when you think about cybersecurity, you think about a German, white male, between 40 and 50 who works in a corporate business. Then you see my face in there, then it's like, "Okay. This is interesting. What is she doing there?" Just having this advantage of having your cultural background and heritage in there is good. Then I think one of the things that help also is to bring a little bit of the knowledge of your origin culture in. Knowing how Americans sell but being aware of the German behaviors helps to combine the best from two worlds. That helps me to build a super good company. I think just having this ability to open your mind to different ways of thinking, it's a plus.
Thank you so much Fabiola!