#FounderFeature w/ Jeff LoCastro: On Building Fintech and Never Quitting

Posted on May 29, 2019
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On Building FinTech and Never Quitting

Would you believe I’ve never had a “real” job? The emphasis on “real” is because as soon as I could, I started my own company. Part of what’s influenced me to work this way is the mentorship I received from a number of people in my life, namely my father. The dinner table was my nightly mentor session. My father, his friends, business associates and family ate together and I listened. I was always a good listener, and I’m glad I was because I have relied upon their advice, especially while starting FinTech companies like Neener Analytics. The biggest piece of advice I got from my mentors was, “Never quit.” Who knows who really said it first, but when you quit you just don’t know how close you were to success, so I just never quit.

I’ve always been a creator, a builder. I see an issue and I fix it, and if there’s not a fix, then I build one. As one of the first executive team members of Classmates.com, I saw that the overall tech marketplace was focused on transactions, but had no way to connect affinity and behavior to outcomes. This was an issue that needed a fix, especially when considering the need for strong social media revenue streams. That’s how I began working on analytics that could accurately predict outcomes.

Banks are exactly the kind of risk-focused business that need information found on social media to predict outcomes. When banks are able to better predict outcomes, there is much greater stability for the bank – and for their customers. People tell their stories on social media all day every day with the things they “like,” and the things they share, but Neener Analytics doesn’t focus on “what” they talk about, but rather how they talk about those things. Exactly the way human beings make decisions about other human beings.

The difference here is Small data vs. Big Data. We’ve developed the first Small Data solution; we’ve cracked the code on it. Human beings are hardwired for small data, and Neener Analytics found a way to take those communications, identify HOW the consumer is talking about certain things, which essentially allows the consumer to tell their story. We take the story and convert it into specific individual outcomes for that consumer. The banks build stronger relationships with their customers, the customers build stronger relationships with their financial health. All of this is a big, brand new idea and is good for everyone in any given community.

When you have an opportunity to grow a company like this, it’s critical to develop it the right way. Our Neener Analytics team is small, and has done some accelerators before. The Venture Center is unique, though. While there are good and bad accelerators out there, The Venture Center is a great one. Because of the partnership between FIS and The Venture Center, we have incredible banks coming in to listen to us, advise us, and to build relationships with. Because of the connections The Venture Center and FIS have in the community, this FinTech Accelerator has provided major fuel for our fire.

The group dynamic between the founders here is also incredible. When we are all here together, founder to founder, it just feels easy. We don’t have to swap stories because we have all shared a similar journey. We have truly been there, and it’s a wonderful feeling to be in an environment where everyone around you just gets it. And if anyone has had a rough week full of setbacks and obstacles, we remind each other: Don’t you quit. Never quit. You don’t know how close you are to building the fix.

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The Venture Center is pleased to feature each of our Summer 2019 Accelerator Portfolio Companies on The Venture Center blog. We find the most talented, passionate entrepreneurs on the planet and work together to accelerate their companies and their products. Our portfolio companies are brilliant, tough, and tenacious. Follow our guest blog series to read about each of them. We know you’ll find these men and women as inspiring as we do.