May 16, 2020

Changing the female founder conversation in fintech

Vivi Friedgut, CEO and founder...
5 min
Vivi Friedgut, CEO and founder atBlackbulliondiscusses on International Women's Day, the current investment landscape for female business founders.

Her...

Vivi Friedgut, CEO and founder at Blackbullion discusses on International Women's Day, the current investment landscape for female business founders.

Here’s the thing. For International Women’s Day 2020, it’s frustrating that we’re still having a conversation about the investment landscape for female founded businesses.Coming into the startup world from a 10 year career in finance in 2014, I was honestly surprised by the atmosphere and attitudes towards funding and women. 

Figures from Beauhurst show that female-founded businesses in the UK secured just 13% of VC deals. Meanwhile Pitchbook’s latest figures show in 2019, female-founded companies received  2.7% of venture capital funding from a total of US$3.54bn. Sobering when compared to WeWork’s eye-watering US$5nn lifeline for the same period.

Do these stats surprise me? No. For my pre-seed raise last year, I was encouraged to bring my male CTO to the meetings. Not because of anything financially based; simply because this is still how it is.

As an entrepreneur, I’m naturally optimistic. And despite the prevailing culture, we’re seeing more female-led companies than ever before.  Here’s why the tide is shifting – and I’m excited to ride the wave with the community of brilliant women around me – also those who choose to reject the existing narrative and carve out a way forward for their business to thrive.

The necessity of high performance

Lots of the commentary, and research, shows that female-run startups outperform their male counterparts despite raising less money; First Round Capital found that its female founding team portfolio of companies performed 63% better than their all-male equivalents. 

Business model plays a part too – simply, if women are raising less money then of course they’re more focussed on generating it. Blackbullion has always been revenue first, partly because raising as a woman is more difficult, but also because we believe that paying customers is the ultimate value test of your proposition. Anyone can give stuff away, not everyone can sell.

Female founders can lead by example

For too long, the narrative around startup culture has been led by the “brotopia” of Silicon Valley. Fintech’s no different, with its founder mythologies, hustle addiction and brand one-up-manship. An Illuminate Ventures study found that 15% of male entrepreneurs are motivated to start companies for financial gain compared to just 2% of female entrepreneurs.

There’s a clear perception that women are more inclusive and care more deeply about creating lasting impact than men do. Possibly. Driven more by purpose than money? I’m not convinced. The overwhelming majority of female founders I know want to do good but are very driven by doing well. To be fair, it’s equally true of most of my male founder friends too.

I’d wanted to build Blackbullion since I was a kid (I also wanted to be a fighter pilot!) but no one cared enough to pay for it so I went into finance. It took the 2008 financial crisis, and the world to wake up to the problem of catastrophic debt, and be willing to pay to solve it, for me to get going. Purpose? For sure, Money? Yes. After all, what’s more empowering as a woman than financial independence?

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All this shapes the kind of businesses we grow and the culture we create within them. And the ripple effect of this filters out as more female founders shape the startup community and set the tone.  Looking at Blackbullion, we have a strong family first culture where working mums (and dads!) can arrange their work time around what the business needs. And talented international colleagues can travel home as they need to – even if that home happens to be in Barcelona.

As leaders, female entrepreneurs can reframe startup workplaces, encouraging a more diverse, inclusive and flexible environment where our teams, partners and selves can thrive. These are highly investable businesses.

The eco-system’s changing

With more female entrepreneurs making their ideas happen, the ecosystem around us is changing, from the inside out. This means more networks and organisations creating a supportive infrastructure, from the Allbright Collective, focused on creating networking opportunities for women in business, Femstreet, the women in tech community and The Wing, the workspace designed for women.

Critically, we’re seeing more female owned and focused VC firms and investment bodies like angel network Angel Academe and VC firm Ada Ventures. Take Melody Lang, at MPA Education, one of our own investors who’s building success from a predominantly female portfolio. As female-run funds grow and more women become investors, the networks of female founders will deepen and strengthen, creating that new ecology that’s a genuine meritocracy.  

I’m looking forward to the day we no longer have this conversation; like many female founders, I’m over it, and just want to get back to the business of making the world better.

This battle has to be won but we need to ditch the disempowering story of men being the enemy. If I was a betting person, my money would be on the fact that we’ll all be better, more successful and more impactful when we can finally redirect the energy expounded on this to making the world a place we can all be proud to call home.

For more information on all topics for FinTech, please take a look at the latest edition of FinTech magazine.

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Image and video source: International Women's Day 2020

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Jun 10, 2021

FIVE things fintechs must do to keep investors onboard

Fintech
Investment
venturecapital
AI
Brandon Rembe, CPO, Envestnet...
5 min
Fintech innovations drew in first-time investors who reshaped the markets. What new advancements will help them continue their rise?

New investors flocked to the stock market during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-eight percent of investors said they had never had a brokerage or similar account before opening one in 2020.

Low or no-fee trading options have helped accelerate the trend – nearly half of new investors said they accessed their account primarily through a mobile app. As FinTechs, how do we create the trust needed to keep new investors in the market and create a fruitful customer experience for them?

The financial industry does a disservice to individual investors if we merely offer tools that focus on making money quickly, an approach that usually backfires. Instead, the surge of interest presents an enormous opportunity for those who want to help more consumers use financial technology to educate them on responsible spending, saving, and investing in order to achieve financial wellness current fintech tools have welcomed individual investors in the door.

Now, it’s time to focus on education and improving their experience going forward. There are several ways those of us in fintech can step up to shape the future of retail investing so that it works better for everyone, starting with the following areas.

Equal access to financial wellness education

Financial health should be available to everyone — but today, not everyone has the educational resources to achieve it. One study shows that only 3.9% of students from low-income schools were required to take a personal finance class. What they aren’t learning in school or from family members, fintech companies can provide on their platforms.

The companies should move from solely offering financial services to a more responsible model of education, advice, and prescriptive choices to help consumers develop better habits and make wiser financial decisions. Not only can they empower consumers and bridge historical wealth divides, but they can also stimulate growth by opening up new consumer segments.

More personalisation

Just as we’ve come to expect that our fitness routines are tailored to our individual bodies, we’re also ready for finance tools that go beyond one-size-fits-all solutions. But only six percent of financial institutions say they’re using the kind of technology that allows them to deliver a deeply personalized experience. Fintech tools need to reflect that financial success looks different for each of us.

For one consumer, it may mean providing guidance on how to pay off student loans early; for another, it may mean prescriptive actions that enable them to stick to a budget for the first time; for a third, it could look like prioritizing environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments, so that her portfolio aligns with her political beliefs.

Now, we are seeing financial technology beginning to meet the demands of personalized finance in a substantial and meaningful way.

The rise of AI-Powered Advice

Big-picture advice and predictive guidance used to be a feature of high-end financial advisory firms — a perk only available to those who could afford it. But thanks to rapid advancements in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), that kind of holistic advice is now more accessible than ever. AI-driven robo-advisors can parse many different streams of financial information, delivering customized answers to key questions: Is it time to buy a home, or is it smarter to keep renting? Can I afford to take out another student loan?

Intelligent connectivity powered by AI can anticipate consumers’ needs and next steps, making proactive suggestions that guide them along the path to financial wellbeing. Fintech companies can also help consumers identify when their financial picture becomes too complex for a robo-advisor, and help them find a human financial advisor to meet their needs. 

Focus on financial mental health

New investors are quickly finding that the market can be overwhelming. That’s not surprising, financial anxiety is common and studies show that financial stress can have an impact on mental health for some.

It’s not enough for fintech companies to give retail investors access; they also must provide the guidance and support that help consumers manage their financial well-being. Educational tools can ensure that consumers are well informed about their options.

Predictive analytics can anticipate consumers’ questions, serving them key information and insights before they ask. Features that emphasize a comprehensive notion of financial well-being, rather than short-term wins and losses, can also help ensure that consumers are keeping their eyes on the bigger picture.

Gamification for good

The surge of gamification apps has done an impressive job making investing as engaging as playing a video game or joining a social media platform.

Much of the current use of gamification emphasizes short-term thinking, but there’s also an opportunity to help consumers think more broadly about their overall financial picture. One example is peer benchmarking, a feature that enables help consumers to see how their financial habits compare to those of friends and fellow consumers.

Gamification can also be used to incentivize making smaller, smarter choices — for example, rewarding saving over making an impulse buy.

The future of fintech is about more than just broadening access to the markets. It’s about making sure more individuals have access to the tools that can help improve their financial well-being—in the ways that suit their own circumstances and needs. The potential to act within their own set of individual priorities, with their long-term financial wellness in mind is much more empowering to a consumer than simply relying on short-term, high-risk investments.

About the author: Brandon Rembe is CPO at Envestnet Yodlee. He has over 18 years of experience building high-growth technology, software, and information service companies, Brandon has worked across a broad spectrum of enterprises from early-stage ventures to global businesses.

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