The Case Of Koia: How To Launch a Startup In a Pandemic 2021

During the peak of the pandemic, it wasn’t just pandemic babies popping up. We saw startup growth doubled. One of these startups was Koia. Backed by Monzo and Freetrade co-founders, Koia shows a promising future.

A bit about Iris ten Teije – one of the co-founders at Koia.

If you could explain Koia’s mission in one sentence, what would it be?

Koia aims to open up access to alternative assets. We want to provide access to new, exciting and rewarding investment opportunities that were previously only accessible to the very wealthy. 

Koia, in Iris’ words herself.

What inspired the idea behind Koia?

At Koia, we enable anyone to invest in alternative assets like fine wine, watches or Pokémon Cards. We fractionalise high-value collectibles so that our app users can, for instance, buy 1% of a €100,000 watch.

It’s a new concept, so we indeed often get asked how we came up with the idea. As founders, even before we got to know each other, we’d all been interested in getting more people to invest and getting more people engaged with investing. We came to the conclusion that in order to do that, we couldn’t build just another investment app that was slightly better than the ones out there. Instead, we wanted to build something that was truly unique, more engaging and that’d tap into people’s passions and interests. By allowing anyone to invest in what they know and love we believe we can attract seasoned and new investors alike and build something that excites our users.

How did you meet your co-founders?

We met here, on Work in Startups. 

It wasn’t our first attempt at finding co-founders, as all of us had previously tried working with people from our personal networks or joining incubators. But, finding the right co-founders is not easy. There are so many criteria that you don’t want to compromise on: you need to be passionate about the same business problems and areas, have complimentary skills, have a similar vision for how you want to build a business and, last but not least, get along. Given that only a few out of many people you cross paths with might be a good match, I believe it only makes sense to cast the net as wide as possible and explore every avenue that’s available! 

How Iris found her co-founders.

Do you have any tips for finding co-founders online? 


The way I approached it is that I posted a rough outline of the business idea I’d been exploring, but I made it clear that this was flexible, because you want to be equal as co-founders and everyone wants to have their input.

Aside from that, I was quite clear on what type of skill set I was looking for and after initial conversations simply started working with people to see how it felt, before formalising things and putting contracts in place. During that initial period, it was very important for me to chat through all the important things, from practical matters like personal runway, to motivations for starting a business and the envisioned “end goal”.

As a growing startup, what was the biggest challenge you have faced thus far?

Every day there are new challenges! As mentioned earlier, the first big challenge was finding the right co-founders. After, given that we’re in the fintech industry and are offering a completely new service, it of course also took some time to find the right set-up and make sure everything was fully legally compliant. We’re now in a stage where we’re starting to look for product-market fit which I am sure will be another interesting challenge with some twists and turns! 

How have you found recruiting?

Recruiting has so far been going well. We’ve done both job ads as well as a lot of direct sourcing on LinkedIn. Of course, it takes time, but that is expected. The fact that Koia is one of the first platforms of its kind and is bringing something truly innovative to the market is very exciting for many early-stage startup people, who like creating and building new things. 

What are three things you would look for in your future co-workers?

Whereas many things depend on the role and the stage of the company there are a few things that I’d try to look for no matter what:

  • Biased towards action: in a startup it’s all about getting things done, typically with limited guidance, processes and resources. I look for people who’ve proven that they are able to execute and are great at solving problems. 
  • Growth mindset: it’s important that people are willing to learn, are open-minded and always looking for ways to improve the company. As a startup, we have to be ahead of the curve, and not be afraid to experiment. 
  • Data-driven: not everyone needs to be a data wizz, but what I mean by this is that we look at the facts and make decisions based on evidence, not opinions. Where no data is available, of course we may sometimes have to trust our gut or experience, but generally, being data-driven enables us to build a culture that is meritocratic and fair and where we can make the best decisions possible. 

Where do you see Koia in five years?

We envision that in five years, investing in alternative assets has become completely mainstream. Buying a share in a Rolex watch will be as easy and common as buying a fractional share of Apple. Not only do we envision that the concept of fractionalisation will be applied to collectibles, but to anything of value: be that music royalties, land or NFTs with Koia playing a key role in enabling people to own a piece of and trade anything.

Bonus: Koia’s investment journey so far as a new startup.

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