After a period of rapid growth, startups in the fast-changing payments arena now face a bevy of challenges, from inflation and rising interest rates to increased competition and investor hesitation.
Founders of five fintechs — which have all landed support from Mastercard — shared their thoughts with the card giant on growth-focused decisions, lessons learned and emerging trends.
Keep problem and solution in sight
Dulce Frau, co-founder and CEO of Chile-based Locales Conectados: Your startup has to provide a solution to people's problems, not just a personal achievement or the fulfillment of an individual dream. The solution must be designed for others, not just for you.
Raiha Buchanan, co-founder and CEO of Sweden-based Gigapay: Make sure that you truly understand the problem that your product is solving. Work tirelessly with your customers, make quick releases and constantly get feedback. Don’t be afraid to change direction if how you’ve understood the problem is no longer valid. Constantly keep your ear to the ground, make an effort to speak to customers, users, or prospects every single day, and look at how you can evolve your business model.
Cultivating a positive culture
Beatriz Acevedo, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based SUMA Wealth: Culture is something that is set from the top, and once it goes the wrong way, it is very hard to change.
Buchanan: Culture can be the biggest indicator of whether you will make it or not. Together with my co-founders we made sure to really be careful with our hires. … Being in a startup is not the same as a regular job, and you really want to hire people who have a growth mindset and are ready to go all in, to make sure the company succeeds. Startup hires need to be adaptable, as often you’re building the playbook at the same time as executing it — generally they are inspired by the opportunity that change brings, and are not afraid to fail.
Embrace the unknown
Frau: One important first lesson we had is that you never stop learning. You are never quite ready to be a CEO or create a startup, and accepting that gives you courage to keep moving forward every day and keep believing in your project. And that learning comes through experience, by doing things.
Jennifer Gomez, co-founder and chief marketing officer, St. Louis-based oneKIN: The path forward is almost never linear nor clear, so being resourceful and audacious in enlisting the right type support will save you time, money and energy.
Maite Muñiz, co-founder and chief product officer of Colombia-based Truora: We’ve seen how multiple fintechs are innovating in simple onboarding processes and more direct communication channels. Fintechs are trying really hard to bring great experiences (i.e., personalized account managers, WhatsApp conversations for questions and marketing, videos and reels explaining their benefits, short, easy-to-understand terms and conditions, one-step logins, etc.). And they take it beyond the traditional digital channels, even going as far as doing physical enhancements to the digital experience (gift deliveries with your new credit card).
Buchanan: After last year’s Web3 hype and the disappointment that followed, especially in relation to crypto and NFTs, there has been a general cooling of sentiment towards blockchain. The last cycle was based upon a lot of opportunistic behavior with a lot of people not really understanding what they were investing in. So it will be exciting to see how real use-cases will be developed on top of this technology, rather than just this opportunistic approach that we’ve seen in the recent past.
Frau: I think the challenge is not in the technology itself, but in the ability of the market to make that technology reach the largest number of people, especially those who are financially excluded. Creating technology for the sake of creating it makes no sense if we don't strive [to] put it into the hands of people and respond to their needs, particularly those who have the lower income and represent the majority of the world’s population.