Leetchi Turns Focus onto German Speakers

By David Knight |

Leetchi, Europe’s biggest platform for group payments, is hoping to repeat the success it has enjoyed in its native France after turning its focus onto the German-speaking market. A new ‘country’ manager for Germany (and Switzerland and Austria) has come on board, and Amazon will be the startup’s first German partner.

Céline Lazorthes founded Leetchi in 2009 after struggling to organise a group weekend for friends, and the company now has 300,000 users worldwide.

But 80 percent of them are French, and Céline – who was in Berlin this week along with the new Germany country manager, Julia Alunovic – wants to tap what she believes is a large and lucrative market. She told Silicon Allee that the German market was similar to that in France, and the fact there were already some users from Germany using the English-language website was a good sign: “We thought, if we already have some traction with the English website, then this is the place we should invest.”

Users go on the website, create a pool and invite friends via Facebook, Gmail or by emailing a link. Everyone pays into the pool and the money can then be spent free of charge on a partner website, or withdrawn for a 4 percent fee. Having started the company in Paris on her own, Céline now oversees a team of 20, and has raised a total of €5.6 million in seed, series A and series B funding.

Investors include angels Oleg Tscheltzoff and Xavier Niel as well as 360 Capital Partners and Idinvest.

The group payment space is a busy one – you may well have heard of WePay in the US – but Leetchi’s early entry has aided its success, Céline added: “When I started, we were the only (such company) in Europe.” Now there are up to 70 competitors in Europe alone. So how has Leetchi maintained its success? “I think the main difference is user experience. We provide as simple a user experience as possible. The payment experience also needs to be very simple… What we want for Leetchi users is to do it in 30 seconds.”

Julia, who is originally from Austria, will be based in Paris. She said: “We are pretty big in France already; Leetchi has more or less become a household name for our target audience – young, urban, connected people. They know Leetchi and we are hoping to achieve the same standing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland pretty soon.”