Presented by Envestnet | Yodlee
Every founder starts with a big idea, but only 1 in 10 succeed. So what’s the difference between the fintech startups that get off the ground and those that don’t make it out of the gate? This VB Live event is your chance to find out how founders and VCs look at creating successful startups first-hand.
“We started doing fintech well before it was cool,” says Kat Utecht, managing partner at Core Innovation Capital. Utecht started her career in financial services, but after making a leap into a role as CEO at an online/offline commerce company, and almost going bankrupt 12 different times (“I was fortunate to get lucky at a lot of different inflection points,” she says), she sold to a private equity firm in 2009, and she’s been doing venture ever since.
Her current company, Core Innovation Capital, invests exclusively in companies that democratize prosperity. That means investing in mission-driven teams that are modernizing financial services and insurance infrastructure, and are specifically trying to help with accessibility and affordability, as well as fintech-adjacent companies focused on increasing household GDP.
“We really believe in doing well and doing good at the same time,” Utecht says. “Our companies make more money when they bring true value to an end consumer. We have a fundamental belief that those two things go hand in hand. Back in 2011, everyone was saying, you can’t do well and do good. You’re not going to be able to make money and help people. We’ve proven them wrong, so that’s great.”
On the modernization and infrastructure side, that means companies like Ripple Labs, which they think will change the rails of the financial services system.
In accessibility and affordability, they’re backing companies like Opportune, which has done $5 billion in equal installment loans to Hispanic consumers — a tenth of the price of a payday lender. They’re responsible loans, she says, as the company tests for affordability, is transparent, and reports to the credit bureaus so people can get on the credit spectrum. In insurance, they back companies like Health Sherpa, which gives low to moderate income people access to insurance. The company has enrolled more than two million people into the ACA — the most people enrolled after healthcare.gov.
On the fintech adjacency side, Core Innovation backs companies that help households get more top-line growth through revenue and income like Mayvenn, which is a direct-selling hair extension company. On average it puts $250 in African-American hairstylists’ pockets that make make under $10,000 a year.
“We’re biased, but there’s a lot of opportunity to target the low- to moderate-income consumer,” Utecht says. “There’s really a problem in this country where we’re starting to lose the middle class. We love to see startups, whether it’s on the infrastructure side or on the direct-to-consumer side, really help to democratize prosperity in this country.”
There’s a compounding demand for economic security, Utecht explains. In the last three years there’s been a 2X increase in income volatility, with about half the country unable to come up with $400 for an unexpected expense, and surveys saying most Americans are more concerned with stability than mobility. Half of millennials are worse off than their parents, she adds. There’s $1.5 trillion in student debt, up 4X since the ‘80s. A lot of these people have been left out of the credit system and the financial services system.
“The most successful people are people that have the relationships and understand the environment and are mission-driven,” she says. “They think about their mothers and their cousins and their siblings. They’re going to check cashiers or payday lenders at least once a year. These aren’t just poor people. Most of the country is vulnerable. Even if people aren’t in that situation themselves, they see it amongst others. They want to fix it.”
With such a crowded market, Utecht’s biggest advice is to have a hook. There are dozens of investing apps, too many unsecured lending apps – the dime-a-dozen companies that don’t have a specific hook.
“It’s kind of like, what’s your superpower?” she explains. “One is just that you have these great relationships that no one can take. That’s a great secret sauce. Two can be having a great hook. We’ve seen some things that were so creative that they become viral, and once they do, their customer acquisition costs are pretty much nothing. I think the biggest thing is just finding something where you’re totally unique and different, that people will realize and see that.”
To learn more about the ingredients in the secret sauce, why hacking regulations is your worst idea yet, and how to build the relationships that make your company stand out, plus case studies from real companies that are nailing the fintech space, catch up on this VB Live event!
Don’t miss out!
- What successful fintech startups have in common
- The differences between being a solopreneur vs. being a co-founder
- Tips for finding and growing your dream team
- How to go from killer idea to disruptive startup
- Evan Schuman, Moderator, VB
- Jeff Cain, Senior Director, Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator, Envestnet | Yodlee
- Pierre Wolff, SVP Business Development, InCountry
- Ken Kruszka, CEO, SnapCheck
- Kathleen Utecht, Managing Partner, Core Innovation Capital