Last week in Chicago, the Financial Solutions Lab hosted a fintech-focused networking event that explored real world lessons in starting a fintech company from folks who’ve done it themselves. Jason Henrichs, Managing Partner of Kinetic Group; Nick Maynard, Senior Innovation Director at D2D Fund; Manu Smadja, CEO & Co-founder of MPOWER Financing; and Paul Vogelman, COO at PawnGuru shared their insights with an intimate audience of fellow entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders and other stakeholders.
The panel touched on critical topics such as the ever-changing consumer product landscape; the perseverance it takes to identify consumer pain points, develop innovative solutions, and change behavior; and regulations that impede innovation, growth and progress.
Maynard touched on the incredible success of prize-linked savings—a great example of pure innovation creating large-scale impact. Henrichs offered his unique view as a seasoned entrepreneur who has founded companies across different industries.
We also asked the panelists about the role that Financial Solutions Lab and CFSI could play in improving the startup environment. Vogelman noted:
As a fintech entrepreneur, I see tremendous value in an ongoing relationship with CFSI. The data that CFSI has compiled has already been tremendously meaningful input into PawnGuru’s early strategic decisions. Additionally, the network of advisors, investors, and policymakers that CFSI has built will be very meaningful down the road to our company as we seek to expand and grow into new markets and geographic locations.
Additionally, the panel addressed the importance of awareness and education in the fintech space and noted the massive potential of mobile to reach the underserved. Vogelman noted that 80 percent of PawnGuru submissions are sent via mobile. The panelists also put a real human face to their businesses by sharing why they personally got into fintech. Here’s Smadja’s inspirational story…
I’m trained as an engineer and spent time at Capital One and then later McKinsey where I did a lot of work in the financial inclusion and economic development space. But my tie to student financing is a much more personal story. I came to the U.S. when I was 17 and struggled to secure student financing. There just weren’t many private lending options for non-U.S. citizens. And then about a year ago, a current student at my alma mater sent an email to the alumni listserv. He shared a story that he was $500 short for the month, in the last semester of junior year. His financial options were bleak; traditional banks don’t lend to students without a strong co-signer. That’s when I realized this lack of access to credit affects not only international students, but also domestic students. And that’s when idea for MPOWER Financing began taking shape: bridge loans that help students get into and through college.
Have your own story to share? Tell us and we’ll post it here on the CFSI Innovation Labs blog.