The 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator follows five highly successful programs produced by FIS and The Venture Center. This year’s Accelerator is conducted entirely virtually. In our FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature series, we’re peeking behind the curtain and getting to know the 2021 cohort founders. We hope you enjoy hearing from the cohort companies!
For our next Founder Feature, please meet Martin Toha, Cofounder and CEO of Array. Array easily and securely gives your users personalized credit and financial data. Learn more here.
The Venture Center: Where did the idea for Array originate?
Toha: My previous experience founding businesses in the server, communication and personal credit sectors showed me the challenge businesses have in managing customer acquisition costs and engagement. No matter the business, I found my teams focusing their time and resources on customer acquisition costs and trying to push lifetime values, with not as much time spent on product and innovation. I spoke with peers and fellow entrepreneurs who shared the same challenge and wondered why businesses didn’t have better financial tools and resources for product innovation to better engage their end-users.
As a builder and engineer at heart, my curiosity for this question drove me to build a platform that enables businesses to enhance their user experience, improve marketing efficiency and increase brand loyalty and engagement. In 2019 I founded Array, a platform to provide embeddable toolkits built on top of a robust API for businesses with credit, identity and financial wellness offerings. My vision is to empower consumers with powerful financial tools and provide businesses with access to the latest product innovation to better serve their customers.
What problem is it solving?
Toha: It’s no secret that keeping active users is a challenge. Fintechs and financial institutions are constantly looking for ways to drive engagement and interaction with their services and better tailor experiences to their customers’ wants and needs. We have found that embedding financial services improves customer experience and expands CLTV two to five times. Array provides financial education tools, credit and identity management solutions for fintechs, financial institutions, digital brands, and platforms through its API and library of embeddable components. Where once it was difficult for consumers to access their financial information, our dedicated team at Array makes it easy by helping our clients democratize credit data, promote financial wellness through greater transparency, and ultimately drive user engagement with an easy-to-use interface.
The Array platform allows companies to leverage API access to credit bureau data, build front-end applications based on that data and manage consumer privacy through its advanced data security solutions. Array’s portfolio of always-expanding personalized consumer data tools is dedicated to helping the most innovative companies increase engagement, enhance all points of the customer journey and enable account holders to make smarter financial decisions.
What has been the most difficult part of building this business?
Toha: Remaining laser-focused on the customer and needs of the end-users. Consumer financial needs are always evolving, which means our customers are always looking for new solutions to support their end users’ financial wellness. Ultimately, we strive to create a platform that allows our customers to deliver more value to their end-users by consistently innovating our platform with the tools necessary to build financial wellness.
Finding great talent has also been difficult. It’s a time-intensive process if you want to do it right and I like to be very hands-on with recruitment. We’ve built the team we have now through a combination of traditional sourcing/recruitment and referrals. If I could have 10 more of each of my team members now I’d be happy.
Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? If so, how did you overcome that feeling?
Toha: Having founded a number of companies, I’m very familiar with the feeling of wanting to quit when things get overwhelming. In my experience, I’ve found that those feelings pass and are always shortly followed by a revelation, lesson or win. The thought of what’s to follow after those periods of adversity is immensely powerful in overcoming the feeling of wanting to quit when things get challenging.
What is your philosophical approach to trying to find a work/life balance?
Toha: As my businesses have matured, the best thing for me is that I can focus where I see the highest return. There are long days, and sometimes a line of people who need my input, but I am not getting lost in some of the smaller things I would have spent time on before. I am getting better at knowing my limitations and where I will provide the most value. Whether it’s family time, taking personal time to make sure I am staying healthy or running the business, my biggest philosophy is being present where I am.
I know I keep long hours, because it works with my family and my process to keep things going seven days a week. I don’t expect everyone to share my work style. We are constantly working to create a corporate culture that encourages people to be present when they are here and to be present with their family, hobbies and personal interests when they are away.
Who is your favorite entrepreneur and why?
Toha: I have two – John and Patrick Collison. They are visionaries and have made products approachable and usable, ultimately enabling businesses to service the end-user. Both our clients and end-users are our priorities and I want to ensure we make both of their lives easier.
Tell us about a time you failed (at anything!) and what you did to use that failure to learn.
Toha: Looking back on what I have learned, trial and error has been a big part of how Array identified the best parts of task management, status updates, team organization and communication. There are a lot of things that worked really well with 10 people that, when scaling to the 11th person, start to fall apart. Early on, for the sake of speed, we really pushed for using old systems to do new, advanced work and found that we’d often hit a certain ceiling that was short of vision we wanted… Getting out of the mindset that we needed to use the tools we had, and instead focusing on going out and finding the best tools available to help us scale was a big shift where we had to recognize that we had a process failing, and use that failure to set up a more successful approach.
What’s the best book you have ever read, and why?
Toha: The Armchair Economist. I like that Steven Landsburg applies economic and financial theories to real-world applications. I also like understanding how systems and incentives evolve over time- his perspective has helped inform my viewpoint when approaching new markets as an entrepreneur.
Who has been your most influential mentor?
Toha: I’ve had a lot of great mentors along the way. Phillip Riese, a former President at Amex and one of our board members, has become an incredible mentor and friend. Philip himself has scaled a world-class financial services business and has been instrumental in helping me set the foundation for growth and a strong culture at Array. I trust his recommendations wholeheartedly.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your solution, your journey as an entrepreneur, or as an expert in your field?
Toha: If you only have one thing to focus on… ensure it is building the best team.
What’s your mantra, or your favorite quote?
Anything that can go wrong….will go wrong. -Murphy’s Law
Thanks to Array for contributing to the FIS Fintech Accelerator’s Founder Feature series! Learn more and get in touch with Array here. Be sure to check out our video of Demo Day to check out Array’s demo!