Scaling a fintech startup

I recently heard Niko Karvounis, co-founder & Chief Product Officer of Quovo, share his perspective on scaling a high growth fintech business during an interview with Nikhil Lele, Principal of EY’s Financial Services Office at the NY FinTech Empire Startups Meetup.

Quovo is a bank account aggregation platform that was recently acquired by Plaid in January for $200 million, so clearly Karvounis and his team have done things right to grow their platform and find a smart strategic partner in a related area.  He shared some great insights here in advance of NY Fintech Week.

Quovo has an un-sexy business, but early on they saw a clear opportunity to incorporate bank accounts in ways that were not considered previously. Karvounis and the team were highly results-oriented when deciding where to focus resources, regularly asking “What will be successful, productive & scalable?”  By choosing to be cautious and doing one difficult valuable thing (account aggregation is their primary focus) really well, it helped them avoid the risks of over-promising and under-delivering.

Karvounis described a very thoughtful and strategic approach to their development process, which sought to “productize“ experience – by combining the user experience with compliance, not focusing on one as a detractor from the other.  When it came to taking advice from others, they learned quickly to figure out who they could trust and who’s input added value to their business.  

Ask yourself this important question when it comes to getting advice:

“WHO IS A PRODUCTIVE CONTRIBUTOR TO THE CONVERSATION OF YOUR BUSINESS? 

 On evolving Quovo’s team culture:

“What motivates people is working with a team to do their job.  I think it’s a fun place to work – we take the contributions of our people seriously.”  

Niko Karvounis, Co-founder, Chief Product Officer, Quovo

I appreciated how Karvounis went about BUILDING THE TEAM AND COMPANY CULTURE  at Quovo.  3 key take-aways were:

  1. People need to feel empowered. The founder (or leader) needs to be willing to accept better ideas. When you notice that the people who disagree with you are right consistently, give them more authority to help you to produce sensible and scalable results. They learned along the way with their talent – to figure out the model that makes you thrive.
  2. Don’t under-estimate the importance of fun. The 3 co-founders found they needed to have fun to do hard work. Since not everyone is curing cancer, your staff might not be innately excited about your business, but at a minimum you can make it a place they want to be.
  3. Create a new hire “acid test”. Find the people you want to work with. Consider asking yourself, “when I’m stuck in the office at midnight troubleshooting an issue, how do I feel being next to that person?”

My favorite comments by Karvounis were from his LESSONS ON MARKETING:

“ONE OF OUR BIGGEST MISTAKES WAS CHOOSING TO INVEST IN MARKETING TOO LATE, WHICH DELAYED OUR ABILITY TO TALK COGENTLY ABOUT OUR OFFERINGS.  Developing a language for what you do can be important and we could have shaped the category’s language earlier.” 

While they focused on their customers and grew through other avenues, it wasn’t until later that Quovo implemented a structured marketing framework.

Early on the company took a stance on customer privacy by firmly setting boundaries around distribution of client data.  By deciding not to share data sets with hedge fund analysts, they were confidently able to respond to bank questionnaires asking about re-selling client data. “It’s a straight “yes” or “no” answer.  We feel it was a smart decision.  Particularly for large enterprise high touch sales, decision makers are buying from you and have to believe that you mean it when you say you are committed to privacy.”

There were some reflections on fintech consumer trends, as Lele at EY noted the expanded focus on financial wellness, goal-setting and personal financial health.  Karvounis stated several times that we believe that ‘all tech is fintech.’  Commerce, lending, paying rent or healthcare bills – all require connectivity to a bank account. Connecting consumer accounts and managing them to create a seamless universal experience has the potential to democratize accounts and enables better advice.”  Quovo seems well positioned to capitalize on this trend in the future where services and ecommerce blend together convergence between financial data from outside the financial ecosystem is increasingly combined with non-financial data.

 

    If you are a fintech startup or high growth financial services or technology company that is looking to scale your business or pursue an exit strategy, we have extensive experience in this space and can support you, having managed marketing strategy, stakeholder communications and cultural integration for more than 10 mergers and acquisitions over 20 years across large and small businesses, both public and private.  We can advise your company on all aspects of how to position your brand to realize your growth objectives.  Connect to us through the link below to arrange a call to discuss how we can support your goals.

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