he 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator follows five highly successful programs produced by FIS and The Venture Center. This year’s Accelerator will be conducted entirely virtually. In our FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature series, we’re peeling back some layers and getting to know the 2021 cohort founders. We hope you enjoy hearing from the cohort companies – be sure and save the date for Demo Day on August 26!
For our next Founder Feature, please meet Derek Manuge, Co-Founder and CTO of Railz. Railz provides quick, low-cost, and direct access to your customers’ accounting software via a single API. Learn more at railz.ai
The Venture Center: Where did the idea for Railz originate?
Manuge: Both Sohaib and I independently came up with the idea of Railz. For myself, the idea was born out of the struggles I faced while working as a quant. Obtaining data to build better models or make better decisions was 50-80% of my time (and much of the time, the data I wanted was not the data I could get).
In banking and lending, arguably one of the most important sources of information for making credit or financial decisions is accounting data. Static financial information or historical credit data works well and is the standard dataset for most institutions, but it’s suboptimal.
Imagine what you could discover if you have every financial transaction on a business since its inception? This is the premise behind why Railz exists. We’re here to provide that information so you can build better models, garner deeper insights, and make decisions.
TVC: Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? If so, how did you overcome that feeling?
Not yet. There are always challenges, but in comparison to what we are building at Railz, they are too insignificant to deter me from executing on our plan and vision for the future.
TVC: Tell us about a time you failed (at anything!) and what you did to use that failure to learn.
When I was 16 I invested $500 in a margin account to trade foreign currencies with 20:1 leverage. I made $1500 in about a month, and lost $1500 in about a week. It taught me the importance of managing risks – don’t put all your eggs in one basket, especially if that “basket” is set to implode when the “eggs” move in the wrong direction.
TVC: What’s the best book you have ever read, and why?
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. It is one of the definitive books on value investing from one of the seminal authors that has influenced some of the legendary investors of the past century, Warren Buffet included. It resonated with me because if you abstract the ethos of the book, it’s ultimately about decision-making, and it helps one understand the frameworks to help guide one’s decision-making process. Each decision we make is an investment in time, energy, money, or some combination of the 3, so by learning how to make objective decisions, and learning how not to let your emotions take control of you, you can make more consistent and profitable decisions over time.
TVC: Who has been your most influential mentor?
I have been fortunate to have many influential mentors throughout my career. Two people in particular come to mind. First is my Master’s thesis advisor, Dr. Peter Kim who gave me the autonomy and support to research anything and everything I desired. This ultimately led me into studying mathematical finance, which formed the foundation of my career as a quant. Second is my corporate advisor, Mr. Bill Tharp, who serves as my sounding board, and through his various ventures has shared a lifetime of learnings and experience with me that I continue to be grateful for to this day.
TVC: What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“There’s always something to do.” It’s the name of a book about Peter Cundill (the “Peter Lynch” of Canada, who managed the Cundill Value Fund and generated a 15.2% annual return over a 30 year period) and a phrase he used often throughout his life.
I will often say “There’s an infinite number of ways to solve a problem,” which is a derivative of this quote because I truly believe that no matter what problem you find yourself in, there are plenty of ways to find your way out of it.
Thanks to Railz for contributing to the FIS Fintech Accelerator’s Founder Feature series! To visit the 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator, click here. For questions, please email email@example.com. And be sure to come to our virtual Demo Day to see this and other cutting-edge tech solutions in action!