Triin Hertmann is the COO and co-founder of Grünfin.
As one of the first employees at Wise, she knows a thing or two about building a company that’s founded on social responsibility. She’s also an active angel investor with an eye for fellow female founders.
But she also has a surprising hobby to balance out the virtual, software world, and a family of a husband and two kids that has helped to steer her perspective when starting Grünfin.
What do you do at Grünfin?
I’m one of the co-founders so I deal with a pretty wide range of topics. All to make Grünfin a successful business and have as much impact as we possibly can around our mission.
At this early stage, as a founder, you pretty much pick up all the different pieces lying around that don’t necessarily fit anywhere else. These days, I’m responsible for finance and accounting, investor relations, but also backend operations, people and offices.
Some of the things I’m pretty familiar with already from my days at Wise as an early employee, other stuff I’m still learning - which is great.
What is your typical day like?
The day starts with family – helping my two kids get ready for school and kindergarten. After that, I head to Grünfin’s offices and work on the things that need to be done that day. Starting the day with calls at home is common, but I also enjoy the office atmosphere and being close to co-workers.
We run a family office together with my husband, to manage our investments that we’ve made throughout the years. So this requires some attention too. As an active angel investor, I may be looking at new pitch decks or check in with portfolio companies.
I have a special place in my heart for construction projects so for the last couple of years, there’s always been something happening around this area.
For example, right now I’m renovating my parents’ house and our family home, both at the same time. It’s not for the faint-hearted, I can say. But I do enjoy creating a vision and then seeing it come to life, physically. I guess it balances out working on software, where it’s hard to “touch” your work results and sometimes they lie years ahead.
I really love being outdoors and my favorite sport is long-distance running. I try to find time for long walks or runs at least a couple of times a week. It’s a great opportunity to unwind, either spending time with the family on a hike or listening to podcasts while I run.
Why did you start Grünfin?
I’ve spent almost my whole career working for startups and in the tech industry.
I’ve witnessed how startups can really change the status quo and people’s habits, by offering something that’s superior, simpler and cheaper.
I saw that happen at Skype as well as Wise. So it has somehow been baked into my DNA now and it’s what I have in mind for Grünfin as well - starting from scratch and redefining how people think about long-term investing - the customer experience, ease of use, pricing and, most importantly, purpose.
Also, being a mom of two amazing kids, I have an additional dimension to thinking about the world. It’s gained more and more importance in my life over the years. What can I do, how can I use my skills best to leave them with a better world?
The first and most immediate thing is to provide them with a loving, stable and happy home. But can I go beyond that? I’m trying to find out with Grünfin.
You mentioned being an active angel investor, helping other early-stage start-ups grow. What types of companies stand out for you?
I have been an active angel investor for the past 3 years. My portfolio consists of close to 15 companies by now, which for me is quite a lot.
I love seeing the startup scene in Estonia grow exponentially, like a proper startup itself. I especially enjoy how a lot of female founders are doing amazing things recently.
I’ve clearly noticed how female founders have a different point of view that they take with their businesses – putting more emphasis on their company’s wider impact and purpose.
This gives me an additional reason to invest in them. Four of my last six investments have been into female-led startups and I’m super happy about that.
Generally, I naturally look at the team and their ability to actually execute on their plans. A lot of times, the gap between dreams and reality is pretty big. So you have to be able to see if the team is able to take that challenge on, or have a realistic view.
Do you have any personal investment principles that you follow?
I believe in combining regular cash-flow investments with long-term high-risk investments.
Based on this principle, I’ve built up my investment portfolio of the relatively safe fixed-income funds and real estate, and combined it with the high-risk components of start-up and VC investing.
To add a little bit of spice to things, I also have a stock portfolio that I occasionally revisit. However, the best strategy for shares – as always – has been buy-and-hold. There have been a number of times when I’ve sold stock too early. The long-term approach always wins in my book, however you look at it.
I also have some “don’ts”. For example, I don’t invest in co-funding/crowdfunding projects as well as any instruments or companies that profit from high-interest loans.
I’ve turned down investment opportunities from several generally well-performing startups based on that rule.
The ethical considerations of investments have an important role.
How do you think about your personal carbon footprint?
Having family and kids already makes my carbon footprint larger than the average. But I think we can make the most impact towards a sustainable future if we work together. Also, trying to set an example for my kids and how they think about making the world a bit better is a way to offset some of that footprint.
I like to consider – and teach my kids the approach of – where I can make the most impact. And while personal lifestyle choices matter, when we go back to the roots of carbon emissions and pollution, we find a handful of large corporations.
To influence these large players, my answer is to vote with your feet (not buy goods from unethical companies) and with your money (invest in sustainable funds and keep your savings in green instruments).
Any book/podcast recommendations?
Some of the podcasts that I listen to while running are Restart (in Estonian, about Estonian startups), but also How I Built This (interviews and stories behind some of the world’s best known companies) and Let’s Talk For A Change (a podcast by Norrsken Foundation that highlights impact entrepreneurs and how world problems can be solved by ideas and tech).