Hey Fintech Friends #1 ft Rohit Sharma

Helen Femi Williams looks at the latest fintech news, discusses serious and non-serious fintech matters, and shares some of our most recent "Signals" article. This week's friend is Rohit Sharma!

Hey Fintech Friends #1 ft Rohit Sharma
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Hey Fintech Friends #1 ft Rohit Sharma
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Hey FinTech friends. Hey FinTech friends. My name is Helen Femi Williams and I'm your host of this new podcast. Hey FinTech friends. This podcast is brought to you by This Week in FinTech, which is on the front page of global FinTech news, fostering the largest FinTech community through newsletters, thought leadership and events. Oh, and now podcasting. And what's quite cool about this community is the creativity, the intelligence, and also understanding that those who work in the field are just regular people who've decided to devote themselves to solving a particular problem. And with that comes a unique mix of finance, technology, and fun, which is exactly what this podcast wants to explore. So expect this content to be informative? Yes. But we're also keen to get to know our founders and ask them the questions that you didn't know you needed answering. So let's talk about the structure of this podcast. First, we're gonna go through the news. And if you're a subscriber to this week in FinTech newsletter, you're in luck, because this is the audio version. Then we're going to chat to this week's friend, which is Rohit Sharma, co-founder of Kanmon and an embedded lending infrastructure startup based in the San Francisco Bay Area. And lastly, we'll go through the latest Signal article on alternative assets written by Guest writer Giorgio Giuliani

But first this week in FinTech.

Spain’s CaixaBank launched its online real-time currency trading platform, FXNow, in Morocco.

The SEC announced a proposed plan to overhaul the plumbing of US stock trading.

Singapore’s banks are introducing features like customer kill switches to thwart a rise in financial scammers.

The UK’s Investing and Saving Alliance (formed by a conglomerate of banks) is trialing a new digital ID for financial services.

Metro Bank is being sued by software provider Arkeyo for leaking its technology to a rival firm.

Apple launched its own buy-now-pay-later product, letting customers make payments in four installments with no interest

China’s Ant Group launched a digital SMB neobank in Singapore. Separately, SMB neobank Green Link Digital Bank also launched in Singapore.

Checkout.com launched a stablecoin payments feature.

That's This Week in FinTech.

And now for our chat with this week's friend, Rohit Sharma. Hey FinTech friends. So I'd like to introduce you to the first friend of the show. Rohit. Rohit is currently a co-founder at Kanmon, an embedded lending infrastructure and startup based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cannon enables any b2b software company to offer lending products to its customers via simple API integration, and launch lending products in weeks, not months. Prior to Canon, Rohit has held a lot of product and engineering leadership roles, including plastic Qi funding circle DNB, and DELL INC. He received a master's in computer science from Northern Carolina state and an MBA from the University of Texas in Austin. So I guess my first question, Rohit is like, could you like, just tell me a bit about yourself and your experience?

Yeah, so I'm, I'm an immigrant to the states. So India, Bombay, came to the US to study computer science, and really, always been kind of interested in finance, as kind of just a personal kind of hobby obsession, but also kind of with a technology background kind of fell, didn't want to work for like a big bank or a hedge fund. So FinTech kind of felt like into my lap, but really started my career more in engineering, my personal career in engineering, and over the years, got to move into product management. So it started getting smaller and smaller, company-wise, started at a big company, Dell then went to a smaller company, went to an even smaller company called Angel seed-stage startup, where I actually met Nick, so they can actually work together for a long time. So we've been in the trenches together, and then that became the funding circle. So that was a great experience. I spent nine years there. In the end, I was the leading the product. And then, like startups, so went to another startup called plastic again in the FinTech space. And then finally, like Okay, I'm gonna give this a go myself. So now, along with my co-founder, we've been doing it for so long and a lot of white hair, but we still continue to kind of explore opportunities in lending. So that's what I'm doing currently as a co-founder, we're building embedded lending infrastructure to kind of enable the next generation of commercial lending.

You just talked about turning on and like embedded lending, but like, what does that actually mean? So, you know, to your non-FinTech friends, what does that mean? What does embedded lending mean? Like what do all these terms mean?

I always Fintech is such a broad word. So I always kind of try to start at the end, like zoom out and confuse my friends, even more, this explanation for FinTech I started with like, hey, anything that's kind of in the intersection of technology and money is really anytime you are touching money and utilise technology, it's fintech. If you follow that argument, pretty much everything in the world today is fintech. So that's kind of the broad definition specifically for embedded lending. The thesis and what we have is, that we know that lending money, especially in the commercial space is going to be more of a commodity is almost like a feature that other platforms that already serve these customers will tack on to their value offerings to kind of broaden their value offering and really solve all the problems of their customer base. So in the past, I would say 10 years, you've seen an explosion in what we call b2b SaaS, or software that is exclusively focused on solving problems for businesses, of all sizes, from small business to medium to large, but really focusing on like a product particular vertical and trying to be really best at serving that niche audience. And by serving that niche audience, they gradually can expand the TAM of that audience as well. And anytime you serve kind of a business customer, you kind of solve their core problems. So if you're building software for solving problems for architects, you build software that can manage their practice, etc. But you always kind of in a business context end up at some point where access to capital becomes a really important piece for the business. So our kind of pieces for embedded lending is that we want to build software that enables these other b2b platforms that are serving these customers to offer commercial credit products to their customers, without trying to become a lender or an online lender themselves and kind of understanding the complexity of lending. for them. It's just a simple API integration, and within a week, products to their end customers. So we abstract away all that lending process, the application, the credit, etc, behind the API. So we truly embedded into that b2b platform, software. And it looks like at home is really offering them that service. So from a platform perspective, they're like, Okay, we kind of give you software to run your business. But now you have access to capital as well. Because you already trust us with running your business. There's a trust already developed enough, we can actually know all your problems, including access to capital. They use more offers, it's a win-win for both the platform, as well as the end. So

just to kind of like expand on that, like with green stick on the series questions for now, when it comes to where you were kind of sits within the sort of FinTech space, like, what is like where do you see it going? And like, what do you see? It's like, do you have like a fact or stat that you want to kind of highlight within this space? Yeah, so

the macro stat that I really like to anchor and really think about the opportunity. So if you look at if assuming success, and Kanmon succeeds and becomes this connective tissue that enabled software companies to offer lending to their end customers, what it enables really is access to capital for all these businesses the in the world that need to succeed because small businesses and medium-sized businesses are really the engines of growth for the economy, we've kind of known that in developed economies and developing economies, and this kind of product that we want to build really enabled getting them access to capital in a really simple, easy way, in a place that they already transact day. So they can spend time really building their businesses than worrying about financing and how do I get access to capital? So really, it's about enabling that business formation and access to capital and growth in the business in the economy, which what excites us every day to really come work on the company. And then from a macro perspective, the reason we believe that this opportunity exists is there's also just in the last two years if you've noticed, this is specific The US debt. And I'm probably sure the same in other countries as well. But there has been a tremendous kind of increase in liquidity in the system. So if you just look at commercial banking, deposits in the US, pre-pandemic, they were about 12 trillion, and it's about 17 trillion right now. They're kind of two trends that are coming together that really makes us excited about this opportunity. One is that, hey, small businesses need to grow. That's always going to be a key growth driver of the economy. But there's also an immense amount of capital that is sitting in the system that is looking for a home. So we want to be that enabling layer that enables that capital to actually connect to the small businesses and start this flywheel effect that really increases the day.

Awesome. I love that. It's kind of like bringing all these different elements together in one and connecting it in a global way, but also kind of like positioning itself as part of a massive ecosystem. And going back to what you said earlier, it's like Fintech is kind of everything when you think like anyway, like yesterday, I was speaking to some gal, and she was saying, like, I was telling her about, like how I do a lot of FinTech stuff. And she was saying, oh, isn't that quite boring? But I'm just like, actually, do you have a car? Do you have a lending thing? Like, within what, within whatever you do, you're gonna be part of this massive ecosystem, and you're just kind of making it better?

Exactly. Right. So I mean, it's a cord that I have not, it's not my original cord, but I really like it as like, money is the original social network. And Fintech is really connected to money. So you are, you're solving a basic human need, and the economic system that we have really runs on that. So it's, it's really core to what we do as a human species today.

I love that money is that original social network. And it does kind of make sense, especially when you look at how we're changing. Like, even when you look at crypto and you think about like how we're changing what money is, is like, well, before people just use materials, people just use like different things. So we're just like, reinventing that same thing. So that's, I like that. You should just say it's your quote, and just like take that. But that sounds good. All right. We're gonna move on to like unserious questions because there are a lot of podcasts which are going to ask you serious questions, but to a large extent, we have a set we want to know who Rohit is beyond the fintech. So the first thing I want to do is just ask you a quick-fire question. So just like let's go answer, what comes first? You ready? Okay,

Android, or Apple,

Apple, tablet or laptop or laptop, city or country see live for country life, city, hotel, Airbnb. I've gone back and forth, I'd say hotel now. We used to be Airbnb. But now I think I'm back to hotels, there's somewhat of a predictability with hotels, I know what I'm getting

Free and travel or free meals out. So if you could forever have free air travel or free meals out, which?

I think free meals and not because I'll like food more, I just don't like travelling or taking flights,

you probably going to eat more than you're going to travel. Although if it was free, maybe they'll get on set it's definitely

that's a good economic way to say it as well. Like you spend probably a lot more on food. So that's actually the Battle of rational choice to

See through walls or see through lies. So like, either see-through like you can always see through any wall. Or if someone's saying a lie, you will always know that they're lying?

I'm going to see through walls purely again from the fact that she through lies and I'm worried my brain will not be able to handle it. There's too much truth there. Sometimes you should be shooting away from the truth. So I'll take the walls out of fear of the other one not because I like walls.

Yeah, ignorance is bliss, but then equally, like I do get insane. But then I'm like, if I can see through the wounds,

but I can at least like control. They're like, don't look there. Don't look here. Like they can come from anywhere.

Good point, has a daily word limit of 20 or daily step limits. 20?

Oh, word limit any day steps are for good.

Yeah, yeah, you need to do this steps. That makes sense. And okay, this is my last one. Be 18 Your whole life will be 35 your whole life.

Oh, 35 I was dumb when I was 18. So 35 is definitely the way to go. What were the dumb things you were doing? Oh, no doubt. You think you know everything. And you think that you have everything figured out as you get older? You realise that that's not true at all. and pretty much everything is everybody is making it up as they go along all the time, including yourself. So that I think only comes with, at least for me has only come with age.

Yeah, I think that's a good point, actually. But when you're 18, you have this like level of confidence that you're just like, oh, the world is mine. Oh, maybe 20 ones about one for that question. But I totally, I totally get what you need. We have a couple of other questions and like, you can take your time because like that was our rapid-fire, but then actually, it's quite good that you expanded on them anyway.

What is the craziest idea for a company you've had a FinTech one or non-fintech? Either one is either would be interesting to know, I have

a crazy idea, which I think I still will execute one day. And I don't know if it's a company idea or not, I don't know if I can ever make money out of it. But I really like electronic music, and like obsessively collecting vinyl. So I wanted to buy like a vinyl distributor, just so that I could skim a copy of everything that comes in, and then try to kind of sell the rest. But that's definitely a crazy idea for me, my wife has said, You're never going to do it ever, ever.

Vinyl distributor. So you

Yeah, so we're in the kind of electronic music scene, if you're, if you're putting our vinyl is there's a record label that really creates signs the artist and takes the masters and actually creates like has the publishing rights. And then maybe we'll contract with a vinyl factory to actually create the test the presence, but then they all go to a distributor, who then farms it out to record shops. So the record shops are actually selling the vinyl and are actually interfacing with a distributor who collects who's going to facilitate the sale of the wine all across all these record labels. So the distributor has the widest access to all the record labels and all the music that gets put out. So if you can be at that distribution point and actually skim or even pay, I don't mind paying to skim every record that comes through that instantly. Makes my collection much bigger than it is today.

Yeah, that's sick. So yeah, you can diversify like electronic music makes sense. With embedded lending, you just gotta

have. Unfortunately, club punters don't like to pay a lot of money. So there's not a lot of revenue opportunity in the electronic music space. Unless you're throwing big festival or you own a club-like fabric. Yeah. But going back to

what you said Money is  the original social network. So you just got to find a way to make it work. sticking on the money question. If money was no option, what would you do?

Again, you'll kind of see a trend here like I would like via electronic attack at a music club, running the length of music tech, or being a DJ but I have no talent to be a DJ. So something related to electronic music if money was no no, not an object, I don't have to make money that that will be like a dream come true. Like I love in London like my favourite favourite favourite club venue in the world is Fabric in Farringdon. And like, we made a club ticket at fabric would be a dream come true. Like that sound system is amazing.

That's so funny. When was the last time you went to fabric?

Oh, pre-pandemic. I think it's September 2018. There's this really favourite DJ of mine Sasha. And he plays an all-nighter, like, open the clothes. I think every year. In fact, he just announced he's gonna pay in September again. This year. I'm gonna make a trip just for that. So I have flown to London just for two days just to go-to Fabric. Catch him and then come back. Wow.

Okay, I haven't been to fabric actually. So well. Yeah. So a very, very long time. But I feel like we've,

I don't mind electronic music but I have to like, for me, it's like I have to be in the mood. And like my friends have to be like, we are doing this tonight. And then I'll commit like, I'll commit to the night and like, this is what we're doing. But yeah, Fabric is a very interesting place. For a while I think it's like closing down,

they closed down. Then they're back open. Their sound system is just like, for me, it's really about the sound and the music. So the sound system is definitely immense in room one.

And I mean, this is the FinTech fan podcast, and we want to highlight other FinTech friends. So, who do you think is a friend that you know a friend of FinTech that we should be highlighting,

my kind of Shout Out is a Amol Walvekar he's at Amol Walvekar on Twitter. He's a super-sharp payments guy used to work wepay, he was like early bolt and now kind of doing something new. I really enjoyed talking to him like a super smart guy. And he does He doesn't advertise himself a lot. So I'm giving him a shout-out. So you should definitely get them on the show.

Awesome. And what is it question we should be asking our future friends of the show?

I thought about this. So I think like this actually, you can ask every FinTech guest since fintechs deals with deal with money and, etc. The kind of instance we're building software, there's always some bullshit issues that happen, that seems very catastrophic when they happen. It could be like unintended consequences, or like hilarious user actions, but like in hindsight, like, are very, very funny. So it's almost like, what's the funniest FinTech story that you've experienced personally, would be an interesting kind of view into the kind of problems that we face while we're building software with a humorous element to it. The one that has happened to me, which I laugh at today, but at the time was extremely painful, is when we had switched deposits and withdrawals for customers. So when a customer wanted to deposit, we actually withdrew money. And when they wanted to withdraw, that sounds like such a mess, it was definitely a mess. And the team rallied together, we fixed it really quickly. But the point is, for those 15 minutes, I definitely thought he was gonna get fired, but we found it really quickly. And before it actually went into production and affected real customers. But that could have been an interesting day and these types of issues happen with software. So that'd be an interesting question to ask folks like, well, it's something that at that time seemed catastrophic, but now in hindsight, it seems funny to you.

I love that. All right. Well, yeah, it's been great speaking to you. No worries. Thank

you. Super awesome. Thanks for having me.

Well, you'll say shows like Where can people find more about kind of what you do? Yeah,

I'm on Twitter at RNSharma.  I don't tweet a lot. I write some funny memes sometimes. But Google, and always happy to chat fintech so drop me a DM

Signals is a subscriber-only newsletter focusing on deep dives thought leadership and so much more. Here's a quick snippet from our latest one.

Alternative assets are exploding in popularity among retail investors, who are gaining unprecedented access to this historically cost-prohibitive asset class. The alternative asset boom creates a major opportunity for consumer-facing fintechs and infrastructure providers to challenge incumbents in a creative and more defensible way.

Alternative assets are investments that don’t fall in the conventional investment categories of stocks, bonds and cash. These typically include private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, real estate, commodities, art, antiques and collectables.

The Alternative AUM more than doubled in the last 10 years and, based on an estimation by Preqin, this growth will continue at a very high pace in the future decade.

Traditionally only high-net and ultra-high net worth individuals have had access to these asset classes, but the Internet is relentlessly inverting the trend and opening up alternative assets to new socio-demographic groups.