Q&A with Railz Co-Founder and CEO Sohaib Zahid FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature

Posted on June 30, 2021
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The 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 Sohaib Zahid, Co-Founder and CEO 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?

Sohaib Zahid: I came across the Railz at my previous workplace. Intuit is one of their largest clients. I realized that getting normalized accounting data is a massive pain point for companies building various business applications within the Intuit ecosystem. There was no one building the developer’s first API tools for companies to access normalized accounting data to build new SME fintech applications.

TVC: What problem is it solving?

Zahid: Getting access to granular, high quality, and clean financial data on businesses has been a problem for all institutions that need this data to inform their decision-making – whether its lenders, banks, fintechs, governments, or others.

Without Railz, companies would need to build and maintain integrations with many software providers, design and architecture data pipelines between various disparate sources, and standardize the data to be usable downstream.

With Railz, all you need is one simple connection to our API to access real-time financial data -it allows businesses to get up and running in a matter of hours instead of months (or years) and allows them to focus on how to best make use of the data.

TVC: What has been the most difficult part of building this business?

Zahid: Building and managing a fully remote team during a global pandemic. The pandemic was a paradigm shift in everyone’s lives and trying to find and build a high-performing team that can adapt to these changing circumstances and solves problems together (via video) has been one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced. The value of face-to-face meetings and communications is something that we often underestimate, but non-verbal communication is important. Luckily, our team has found ways to not only overcome this but thrive as a fully remote team. We have tools like Google and Slack to thank for most of this.

TVC: Tell us about a time you failed (at anything!) and what you did to use that failure to learn.

Zahid: I was building a direct-to-consumer bike company, Vanhawks, and failed to raise enough capital. I had to let go of 70% of my team. We had to rethink our distribution model. Going through bike stores was the antithesis of our direct-to-consumer philosophy. We were wrong in discounting the bike industry’s ways of doing business. We not only put the company back on profitability but Vanhawks ended up being acquired

TVC: What’s the best book you have ever read, and why?

Zahid: The Alchemist is my all-time favorite. Primarily because it focuses on “If you really want something, the whole universe conspires to help you.” It is a very powerful mindset that every entrepreneur needs. 

TVC: Who has been your most influential mentor?

Zahid: I started my first company with my brother. To this day he is my sounding board. He has challenged me to be a better brother but more importantly a better entrepreneur. He never sugarcoats anything. He gives me a reality check and has pushed me to be better at what I do. 

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 founders@venturecenter.co.