Great Ideas Vs. Viable Businesses: Fintech Entrepreneurs on Making Their Way & Making Change
Is your great business idea financially viable?
We were excited to host a panel of fintech entrepreneurs from our 2021 ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator for an open discussion of their entrepreneurial stories. They spoke to us about what starting a business is really like, the biggest challenges, and the best advice for entrepreneurs.
Here’s how they answered one of the most important and least-talked-about questions in entrepreneur inspo content: How do you know if your great idea will make a viable business? Will your business financially justify all of the risks you’ll need to take?
Read for our panel’s takes or scroll down to watch the entirety of the Q&A – it’s so worth it!
Wayne Miller, The Venture Center Executive Director: How do you get from “this is a great idea” to knowing you have a viable business?
And how do you say, I’m going to give up my day job, mortgage my house, put my family at risk, sell my car and ride a bike, use my credit card to make payroll, and go ahead and take the myriad other risks entrepreneurs face?
Did you think about making money or making change first?
Joseariel Gomez: I’m not sure I have the answer to that, but you just have to do it. You have to get started, right? And there’s definitely a lot of fear at the beginning. I think the way that you reach a market fit is that you have to be good at talking to people and understanding what their real challenges are, as opposed to what’s on the surface. You can waste a lot of time on that surface challenge.
And I also feel that – there has to be a wrong that you want to right. Or something that is gonna carry you through the tough times, because it’s going to be insane at some points. You have to be very passionate about whatever you’re doing. Don’t treat it lightly. It sounds very romanticized, and I think that’s a mistake sometimes because it’s tough.
If you’re intelligent, if you’re curious, and if you like to learn, you’ll figure things out. It’s not like rocket science a lot of times – it’s more about persistence.
I still don’t think about making money – I’m one of the lowest-paid people in my company. I sacrifice my income so that we can have more people, so we can go a little faster. It’s never been about money, otherwise, I’d probably be a lot more successful working for Apple or one of those companies.
For me, it’s about making an impact. I think the value of something is not what people are willing to pay for it, but how much impact it makes.
Miraj Patel: From day one, you have this imposter syndrome. It really doesn’t matter what milestone you hit: your seed, your A, your B, your C, your D, all the way up until IPO or exit in another fashion. You always feel like, is this thing real or is it all going to come crumbling down? That’s something that I’ve had to come to grips with as a leader.
I’m the same as Joseariel. My co-founder and myself are the least-paid folks in the business. But it’s really not about us. This is a people-centered culture that we’ve created. And it’s about much more than talent on a resume. It’s the grind, and the personality, and the euphoria, and will to see this problem through that my team brings to the table every single day. When that’s what’s leading you, the sacrifice doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It’s like we have this baby – and look at the awesome team surrounding you that wants to come in every day and protect this thing that we have going, and see it grow, and see it mature.
So, as far as paying the bills, you know [laughs]. There are days and times – it seemed like something that would never happen, but we had a situation a few years ago when we couldn’t pay the team the next day. Those types of things happen, and that’s when you really have to draw on your “why” and be super honest with yourself and ask if this is something that is ultimately going to work out.
The anxiety moments, the fear, will come and it’s about coming to terms with the fact that this is what we signed up for, and it’s never going to get easier. Every founder I’ve spoken to at different stages says the same thing. You hit your milestone and immediately set your sights on the next one. And that next one comes with so many unique challenges, but when you look back you think holy crap! When we started this thing we didn’t believe we could even get here, who would have thought we could survive the 99% that don’t even make it this far?
So, paying the bills. We’re the last people that get paid, but it’s a great situation. Because you want these folks who are passionate, determined, and in the trenches with you every single day – you want to show them that you’re taking care of them. And it’s their hard work, nobody else’s, that’s responsible for all the success that we experience. That, at the end of the day, is what makes it easier for me to wrap my head around.
Louden Richason: We started with the problem of financial literacy. But, that’s not a business. And we had to figure out how to monetize it, because at the end of the day we have a financial literacy app, and you have to make money from it if you want to build a company. It took us a while to find the right market fit with financial institutions, but we eventually landed on financial institutions because they were already putting in the effort to reach this younger generation, but not really effectively reaching them.
It took us a while to get to the point where we realized, this is who’s trying to reach the younger generation, and this is the avenue we can take to deliver financial literacy. But we started with that problem and then we looked for the institutions we could work with to help deliver the change we wanted to make.
Huge thanks again to our 2021 ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator for opening up about the nitty-gritty of becoming an entrepreneur. Be sure to watch the whole conversation here for more on the biggest challenges, best advice, and most important influences these entrepreneurs have encountered.
Look out for part two of this Q&A next week!