In 2018, MatchBox was featured in the series ‘Women on Top in Tech’ by The Asian Entrepreneur. This is a leading international digital business magazine with a specialised focus on the startup scene. It stands as the most authoritative source on Asian entrepreneurship. Women on Top in Tech is a series about women founders, CEO’s and leaders in technology.
By Marion Neubronner: Suzanne Wisse-Huiskes is the Founder of MatchBox Consultancy and an Advocate for the Global Tech Advocates. She benefits from over a decade of experience in the Alternative Finance industry; mostly impact investing, crowdfunding and startup accelerators. She founded MatchBox to provide expert advise and consult corporates, large impact funds, entrepreneurs, investors and research centres in their mission to create profitable businesses with impact. Her goal is to improve access to funding for entrepreneurs worldwide. Suzanne is deeply networked in EMEA entrepreneurial ecosystems, as she lived and worked in Nigeria and the UK a.o.
What makes you do what you do?
My drive is to enable entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by improving their access to funding. This can elevate an entire community. I believe that Alternative Finance can potentially be a powerfull catalyst for shifting the way our financial markets work.
I love the ingredients of the alternative finance market: the innovative nature of the industry; the global playing field; the turbo speed of change. The market is booming and shows little sign of slowing down.
I founded MatchBox to support highly motivated entrepreneurs and investors in their mission to create profitable businesses with impact. MatchBox has become a trusted partner to these clients: they value our strategic and operational expertise, as well as our strong global network used to consult and connect. The requests vary from developing large investing programs to ensure access to capital for SME’s, to developing funding strategies for entrepreneurs. What works in one country may not work in others. We understand the local players and the local markets. This work is fully aligned with what is important to me.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I’ve been in the crowdfunding industry since 2008. Back then, Facebook only had a 100 million active users as opposed to the 2.000 million users today. Kickstarter, one of the worlds largest funding platforms, was yet to launch. Joining the industry that early in the game, allowed me to rise with it. I was fortunate to be part of initiatives that pushed the Alternative Finance ecosystem, first in Amsterdam, then on a broader European level.
Then later on other emerging markets began to interest me. I moved to Nigeria, to work in Africa’s fastest growing economy and home to exciting trends in capital and fintech. I familiarized myself with the investing ecosystems in African countries. Today, I work in alternative finance ecosystems in Asia, Africa and Europe. Being able to learn, share and compare best practises from different economies to me is key in the rise of the industry. Currently, the crowdfunding market in Asia alone is worth over 200 billion Euros. That’s huge!
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I’ve always followed my heart in my professional life. I focus on work that I am passionate about and am not afraid to take the path less travelled. So leadership demographics never held me back. With my experience and skills I am well positioned to successfully get the job done. For me it doesn’t feel like it’s a stretch.
Even more so, my clients see it as a big advantage to have a women on the job. I recently worked on an impact investing program in West Africa focussing on women-led SME’s and experienced the benefits of a diverse team. Women entrepreneurs see the world through a different lens and, in turn, do things differently.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
The industry was completely new when I started, with no seniors to learn from. As a strong believer in mentorship, I do reach out to people in other industries for feedback and to bounce ideas.
I also learn a lot from working with various entrepreneurs. Collaborating with Sir Richard Branson in the beginning of my career was encouraging. We did a successful Crowdfunding Campaign for the elephants in Botswana. But I’m equally impressed by entrepreneurs that make a huge impact on their community no matter the circumstances. I’ve seen exceptional people grow businesses in the poorest regions of Nigeria. One can only admire their leadership.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
For me, mentoring young entrepreneurs is a great way to develop and grow talent. My focus is usually on two mentees at a time to ensure there is enough time to discuss ideas and challenges. I worked at fintech start-ups for almost 10 years before founding MatchBox. So there are plenty of stories to share and learn from, both on failures as well as on successes.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I’m very vocal on the need for diversity. I’ve always found myself in male dominated groups. First at University, then in my first corporate position and later as a Board Member. At some of my MBA Finance classes, I was the only women in a room of 50 men. It never bothered or intimidated me. It just made me work a little harder.
Nonetheless, diversity is much needed. I strongly believe the industry is missing out on many brilliant women. That is why I dedicate a great deal of time mentoring female entrepreneurs. We discuss the tools their businesses require to grow and attract the right type of capital. Investors still have a different approach towards female founders. This year, we are launching an initiative called ‘the Republic of Female Founders’, to provide practical tools and guidelines that are specific for this group.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
My general rule of thumb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. For me, it’s all about collaborative leadership. My industry is becoming more complex every day, so sharing best practices will bring us far. That’s why I became an Advocate of the Tech Shanghai Advocates, part of the Global Tech Advocates. This group of senior leaders in the tech community is created to champion and accelerate the growth of the local technology sector.
I am also a fan of the CrowdfundingHub and Crowddialog in Europe, and Ingressive in Africa for similar reasons: Ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they believe in the positive impact of the industry. My peers are all trailblazers in the alternative finance industry, I consider myself to be in great company.
Advice for others?
I strongly believe in collaboration, so building business relationships is key. I truly foster my relations. To me it doesn’t feel like work but rather like building bonds. Seek opportunities to connect and reach out. It really pays of to have a strong network. At MatchBox, I work with a network of exceptional local experts. If you need advise and consulting on your funding strategy, impact investing program or crowdfunding strategy, we will gladly work with you.