StarTalers's journey & what it says about Luxembourg’s ecosystem

Novice coder turned financial change maker, StarTalers founder Gaelle Haag is breaking barriers between women & investing

From Hollywood to Main Street, the gender pay gap is on everyone’s radar, garnering more and more attention each year. All the while another equally harmful disparity is quietly slipping by: the investment gap.

Women live longer, earn less and invest less, undermining both their chances at financial independence and society’s economic sustainability. Perhaps surprisingly, the wealth management industry still targets the same demographic it always has (Hint: It’s not women).

With years of business consulting and private banking experience paired with support from the local ecosystem, Gaelle Haag set out to arm women with true power: financial independence.

A coding class & a worthy cause

“Women earn less, have more volatile careers and take more breaks to raise families, so at the end of their lives, in addition to the pay gap, they have a pension gap and an investment gap, ” explained Gaelle, founder of StarTalers, a digital financial coach for women who want to invest sustainably. “With lower salaries, smaller pensions and longer lives, you cannot use the same variables you would use to calculate the annuity men would need.”

Before the seed for the StarTalers app was planted at a Nordic Chamber of Commerce women and wealth event, Gaelle had already caught the startup bug. The ecosystem member who played the first and perhaps most pivotal role in her journey was Women in Digital Empowerment (WIDE) via its Rails Girls program.

The workshop helps participants code an app in a day without any prior knowledge.

“This was the first thing that really showed me a new path. I just signed up out of curiosity, but it got me to look at my career differently. If you can learn a new skill at 35, the sky is the limit. The only limit is the one you put on yourself, ” Gaelle said.

After the course, Marina Andrieu, WIDE Co-founder and Executive Director, suggested she team up with other women who were interested in continuing their development. From then on, a group of eight participants met one Saturday a month for coding classes. During these sessions, they worked on their projects with support from each other and a pro-bono coach.

Surrounding yourself with “the right people”

“Marina has been instrumental. Before I left my job, she organized a female startup leadership program and selected me to participate. I was set up with advisors and learned about the lean methodology, product testing and how to launch a company, ” she added. “I also felt supported, which is important when you go from a corporate environment to being completely alone. It’s all about having the right people around you.”

During the program, StarTalers began to take shape, culminating in a product that, roughly one year later, would win over judges at the Arch Summit. The startup’s pitch secured it the €50,000 Whoopi Goldberg Female Empowerment Award, helping fund the application’s development.

More recently, another ecosystem member, Luxinnovation, has stepped in to work with StarTalers on R&D: “I really appreciate what Luxinnovation is doing to help us get national funding. They are the ones submitting the files, and they are also guiding us — pointing out weaknesses and helping put the value proposition together, ” Gaelle noted.

StarTalers’s journey reflects that of Luxembourg’s ecosystem. With access to workspace through The Office and The LHoFT; training and coaching through WIDE and Luxinnovation; funding through Tomorrow Street’s Arch Summit and potentially the Ministry of the Economy, it is clear that it takes a village — a diverse, united village — to effectively support startups.

Gender equality’s next frontier

Combine that with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and the country’s ecosystem is a force to be reckoned with.

“It’s very lively. Thanks to the country’s small size everything is approachable. I think Luxembourg has done a good job of simplifying everything so it’s relatively easy to find your way around and connect with the right networks, ” she added. “Also, it’s an ecosystem that works together very well. They partner on some things and compete on some things, but it’s always healthy competition.”

In September of this year, StarTalers plans to launch the first version of its application and continue pursuing this next frontier in gender equality. Its unique customer experience — with goal-setting options, a prudent approach, clear language and accessibility —  aims to empower every woman to take control of her financial future.

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