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The Front Page of Global Fintech

The the largest fintech community in the world. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest in news opinions, and all things financial technology.

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🎧The Fintech OG Series: Laura Spiekerman and Aaron Frank

🎧The Fintech OG Series: Laura Spiekerman and Aaron Frank

Welcome back for the next episode of the Fintech OG series! 

This week I'm excited to have Laura Spiekerman of Alloy and Aaron Frank of Lightspeed on the podcast. With each of them having more than a decade of fintech experience, these two offered incredible insights and advice. From nearly dying to then selling their company to Goldman Sachs and creating the Apple Card, to making the controversial decision to sell to banks (hello long sales cycles, regulation and small pool of customers), we dove in to what has defined their success and what the future of the space looks like. 

PS: Don't forget to follow, like and share the podcast!

Lastly, thanks to LoanPro and Lithic for sponsoring this week's episode! If you’re in the market to streamline your lending processes or if you just want to see what next-gen loan management looks like, go to ⁠⁠loanpro.io⁠⁠ and book a demo. 

And whether you're a venture-backed startup or a mature company looking for robust APIs that can reliably handle your card transaction volume, Lithic may be the right choice. Contact their sales team at ⁠Lithic.com/contact⁠ to learn more.

‎The This Week in Fintech Podcast: 🎧The Fintech OG Series: Laura Spiekerman and Aaron Frank on Apple Podcasts
‎Show The This Week in Fintech Podcast, Ep 🎧The Fintech OG Series: Laura Spiekerman and Aaron Frank - Jun 11, 2024

Transcript:

Julie: Hello, fellow FinTech parents. So good to see you guys, it's been too long. Jesse Podell gave me the idea for the fintech OGs podcast and I was like, I am so game for that because I get to talk to some of my favorite people that I've known for years in this space.

And I'm really excited to dive in with you guys. I did one episode earlier today, you guys are my second one that I'm recording in this series. And I started off by just asking, you know, How did you get into fintech and what's made you stay in fintech, which might even be the more important of the two questions.

Laura, do you want to start?

Laura: Sure. I got into fintech because I didn't know back in 20 Oh god, what year was that? Like 2010. I was a couple years out of college and I suddenly decided I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore or I didn't want to go to law school [00:05:00] anymore and had to figure out, like, something else to do with my life and found these two guys who were starting a company at the time it had to do with microfinance payments on mobile phones and using M PESA, which I think now most people in at least our world know what M PESA is.

And I was super interested in microfinance. I had done my thesis on it in college and, but I had never thought of anything related to it as a career. It was just sort of something I was interested in studying. And so I emailed them and was like, Hey, can I join you and do whatever you're doing? And they said, sure.

So I started as the first employee at this company called CopoCopo in East Africa. And that's really what got me into it was like this idea that cell phones could completely revolutionize at that payments at that time microfinance payments in particular. So if someone was taking like a 7 hour Matatu ride to pay back their weekly loan, that was a huge sacrifice for them.

And being able to [00:06:00] just send money instantly, the equivalent of Venmo for us was pretty life changing. So that's what got me into it. It obviously evolved over time at first, in the first kind of like few years I was in Fintech. To me, the really interesting part was distribution. Like how do you get distribution of financial services?

And in that case, M Pesa was an interesting angle of being able to bring new infrastructure into an economy, into a country and, and dumb phones, you know, feature phones really changed the game. I think a few years later, it became apparent that identity was one of the core. Blockers in financial services, so if we all suddenly had cell phones, great.

We're good. But the next thing was now we all have to have real identities because of the requirements, the sort of barriers to access. In financial services and identities are something I think we take a little for granted the United States, but are not kind of ubiquitous in terms of the standards and everyone doesn't have an official kind of [00:07:00] identity the way that we think about it.

The reason I stay in FinTech, I, God, I wish I knew why I stay in FinTech because it's kind of sucks. I think it's a little bit of just feeling like, feeling like we're still in the first, I don't want to say the first inning. We're in the first few innings still. If you look at, Bank technology as maybe the prime example or something like ACH, right?

Like, you, you know, this really, we're still so early in our journey in transforming financial services into what it should be. It's a little bit depressing because we've been at it, like the three of us have been at it for a while. So it's a little depressing to think we're still so early in it, but it's true.

We're still so early in transforming. Financial services into something that's digital, accessible, friendly fair, kind of all the things it should be. And so I think part of it, it is, I just feel like there's this persistence associated with like, I have a dream for what it could be. Right. And, and we're still pretty far from that, but it feels possible [00:08:00] in

Julie: you mean the dream wasn't, you mean the dream wasn't an Apple credit card?

Laura: No, the dream was not an Apple credit card, but thanks, Aaron. Got us partway there.

Aaron: Yeah. Let's not, let's not go there until the end of this.

Julie: Well, Aaron, what initially got you into fintech and why do you stick around?

Aaron: Yeah, what originally got me into it was, you know, I left the previous startup I was working at and wanted to attack a problem that was just massive. Right. If you think about kind of the, man, I sound like a VC as I think about what I'm going to say

Julie: are one now,

Aaron: the macro trends, the tailwinds that are really pushing the world, like, you know, global GDP keeps growing.

You know, I play mostly domestically, but like the U S economy keeps growing financial services. as a kind of a thing might is just going to keep growing and growing as we just kind of have commercialized everything in the world. And money has to touch everything, right? Like that's kind of how you think about it.

So when we [00:09:00] started, you know, when I started looking at what I wanted to do next, it was really a question of how can I impact every American on a daily basis? And there was a bunch of ideas we were playing around with, but the thing we kind of kept coming back to that wasn't, that was venture fundable, at least at the time, it's probably still is now given the market.

But it was also just like, wasn't, there was no clear answer why nothing better had been built. And I know the answer now, but like at the time we just never got an answer. It was credit cards. We'd been looking at like healthcare per, like per month. Daily healthcare for people. So you could underwrite them daily, which there's a reason that doesn't really exist.

Last mile fiber to the home, which is massable capital costs. And then credit cards, which have their own problems from a capital structure, but it was something that like, you know, every American has three point, whatever the number is nowadays, we spend so much on credit cards, there's this much credit card debt, and we really looked at it.

And [00:10:00] said this could just be a massive market and there's been a lack of innovation. Could you take an Amazon? Honestly, the original thing was Amazon. We never envisioned Apple. But could you take an Amazon esque approach to innovating the space and being consumer centric? And so we kind of just kept on digging and it took two and a half years to get the company off the ground and live.

So it wasn't like it was a quick thing, but it was a lot of learning and a lot of, Hey, anyone can be an expert in credit cards. Cause we have them. And then realizing that that was kind of one inch deep and you really had to go like a hundred feet deep to really make the business work. Function and turns out you get kind of an MBA in credit cards by doing that.

Why I stay is a very good question. I know, you know, it's something that became kind of a hobby for me. I think I'll probably work till I die in some sense in the weird way that I take time off and, but also work at the same time. But it's something that's just kind of constantly interesting.

And there's always going to be room for innovation as, [00:11:00] you know, Regulatory changes happen, and as kind of the world keeps on evolving you know, unless something fundamentally happens about the financial services ecosystem we live in, it's so massive, you can kind of keep on learning for all time and see new solutions happening kind of on a daily basis.

Monthly basis, like coming out to market. The thing is the adoption period is what a decade for things to truly kind of hit mainstream adoption. So it's interesting. It's not the only thing I think about anymore, but it's certainly something that like, once you have this skillset, it's hard to look at the world in the same way anymore.

Julie: You also think about raisins and gymnastics now. It's just all part of the rotation. But I do feel like of the

Aaron: a lot of demands for raisins.

Julie: of the three of us though, I feel like you're the one that's not, you're never allowed to leave fintech. You can't leave. The industry would just like, go away.

Aaron: No, that's Shamir, and I'm really curious who you interviewed before us today, but that's like Shamir and Josh can't leave and then [00:12:00] even more so The other ally got Jason Who was Perk Street the Perk Street folks? Dan O'Malley and Jason Hendricks

Laura: Hendrix, yeah, yeah.

Aaron: I'm gonna feel like yeah, that's a name Cuz they're like the true og and then you can go it back even farther right like But, you know, it's Fintech has evolved in the last decade.

I realized I've been doing this for a decade now. And like, it's a lot more people now. It's a lot more mature. There's a lot more you can do in a lot shorter time period. And there's a lot more. There's a lot more people who are willing to help for free or just be alongside you to help you do something interesting when we were getting started in 2013, 2014, we really had to go dig up people who had done it in the previous generation.

And in credit cards, that was essentially one company called Revolution Money. Otherwise there was really, you know, there's FNBO, it's not FNBO, MNBA and Pravidian. And like you had all these credit unions who had these [00:13:00] things like a PSU, but nobody had really built from scratch in a very long time.

Or they were kind of hidden down in some Atlanta suburb. So I spent a lot of time in South Dakota and Atlanta trying to figure out how these things even got put together.

Julie: Crazy.

Aaron: guess I should say Capital One too, because people call me out for that, but that's like, kind of not relevant in my opinion,

Laura: They're gonna

Julie: well you mentioned, well you mentioned it taking like two to three years to get things off the ground. Laura, I feel like you can relate to that a lot because I remember when I first heard about you guys I was like, oh, this must be like a somewhat newish startup and it's like no it's been around for a while actually, it just had like For a while you weren't anyone and then all of a sudden like everybody knew who you were So talk to me a little bit about you know that transition

Laura: Yeah, I think it was, you know, we started the company in 2015. We believed that the API for identity effectively should exist. Based on a problem we wanted [00:14:00] to solve for ourselves and what we saw in our little corner of the world, but in retrospect, I think there were sort of 2 big things that made the timeline what it was, which was long 1 was that it takes a lot longer to build financial infrastructure and financial services broadly than you might expect.

You have to put together all these building blocks. You have to worry about very critical things like. Data security and compliance and all sorts of stuff. You have to gain, in our case, the trust of banks who are highly, highly regulated, move slowly, very conservative. So there are a lot of things that I didn't think just took a lot longer than what we expected.

Some of those have shortened today. I think if you were starting over there are companies who do SOC 2, for example, right, that didn't exist back in 2015. And so that's, that was, that was, For me in the year, you know, 2015, 2016, that was like, probably the number one thing on my mind was like, how to get that done quickly, cheaply, et cetera.

The second [00:15:00] thing that made the timeline what it was is just that the market changed. Like, in 2015, there weren't that many. FinTech companies that were super exciting and building. We kind of had that first wave of alternative lending, right? Went boom and bust. There was, there were Venmo, you know, a few kind of payments things that had happened, but it wasn't super exciting in 2015.

There weren't a lot of companies being created and it wasn't until 2017, 2018, that the market really changed maybe in 2019. And then of course, the, the acceleration with COVID, where you saw a ton more companies being created and then more of the building blocks to support those companies, the banking as a service models, all that stuff really exploded.

So I think those two factors just made the timeline really long. And so it was 2019 until we raised our series a and 2019 until we saw any real traction as a company. So it was four years.

Julie: Another question I wanted [00:16:00] to ask is, So the first thing I want to ask is, what have been some key decisions that each of you have made that have brought you to, you know, the level of success that you have today? You know, it's not something that happens overnight, but what were some of the things and moves that you made that you think have brought you to where you are here? 

Aaron: Yeah, it's an interesting question because like a lot of what I've done is, you know, I said it's a hobby of mine. You know, I've just tried to be helpful to the industry. It took us so long to learn how things worked. So I give a lot of kind of time away just helping people figure out how to put a business together and behind the scenes just, give advice, whether it's for kind of my new job or honestly, just right now, a lot of the times it's just founders will reach out and I'll give them my take. And I try to, you know, save them years of their life trying to build the wrong thing and or to build it the right way. So that that's honestly the best place that things that's gotten me to this place.

You have to, you know, have a lot of willingness to not burn a lot of time, but give up a lot of [00:17:00] time. You know, it's network building. It's not it's it's it's not totally selfless, but at the same time, it also lets you see what's interesting and figure out kind of where the future is going to go. That would be kind of the biggest thing I've done that's really gotten me here.

The other decision wise when I was still running final was just a matter of don't die, right? Like a lot of financial services is you just need to wait for the right moment for your company to work for us. Our acquisition was a year long. No, maybe it was an 8 month process in retrospect at the time. We didn't realize it, but like sat down with Apple sat down with Goldman in about April for two different things.

Well, Apple is doing just market research. We believe they've never confirmed any of this is the funny thing. So I can probably tell these stories. Sat down with Goldman, I think, for a different thing. And then kind of it came together at the end of the year where everyone kind of got their act together.

We all sat down in a room for about two months, and then it kind of made sense to bring us together. In house at Goldman, but that was a 2017. That was a really rough year We'll [00:18:00] say personally and just to keep the company moving forward and trying to figure out something that would work A bid on a bunch of RFPs kind of doing what now is credit card as a service You know the gsps of the world do that deserves the cardless is the imprints tallied there's a few other of them but yeah Just stay alive is kind of one of those other things until you've figured out the right pole to kind of grow your company aggressively

Laura: I think I would echo the don't die sentiment. There are a lot of times where it felt like we should give up, especially in the, you know, the 4 years it kind of took to get any traction or or to a series a so the decision. I don't know if it was as conscious of the decision as I would like it to be, and maybe it was more of a just like.

We don't want to get real jobs, persistence, like a little bit of a chip on our shoulder or got to prove it kind of thing. So less of a conscious decision and more just a sort of you know, brain defect of ours. That's one thing. [00:19:00] I think the second decision that was critical was to start selling to banks pretty early.

It was a time where a lot of VCs, especially once things like were picking up in 2018, 2019, a lot of VCs were like, why don't you just focus on FinTech? Cause I think you could look around at companies like Plaid that had really focused on FinTech and they were this meteoric company who sold to FinTech companies, right?

And you could build a real business just off the back of FinTech companies as FinTech was growing. And while we have continued to sell to FinTech are some of our Best, greatest, you know, happiest customers we really saw an opportunity with banks and I think that's been a really interesting journey for us to help banks kind of move into the next.

Century, and era of financial services, and they've been great customers and partners of ours. And I think it's been fun to see other companies sort of go through that with banks as well. Like, banks have just really changed in [00:20:00] the last few years, continue to change a lot in the next decade. So that was one that I think was, a little bit more conscious on our part and a little bit controversial or or one that at least I would sit back and go, Oh God, should we be selling only to 50 companies? Like I didn't feel sure of it, but now I'm really glad that that's what we did.

Julie: What have been some highs and lows for each of you, both personally and professionally since you've been in FinTech?

A lot has changed for all of us since we've been in FinTech. So I'm sure that there's, there's a few of each of these that you could mention, but I'll ask for one or two of each. 

Aaron: Yeah, I mean, so we it's not Fintech running a [00:22:00] being a founder is kind of a unique position in the world. You know, we almost ran out of money in 2017 a handful of times.

So like, and that was after a failed MNA from a large now public FinTech company that I don't think I can name because technically an NDA still exists. But I don't know if anyone even knows that story anymore, but yeah, you know, we, That was one of the lows, not being acquired end of 2016 by kind of, it would have been a nice outcome for everyone.

And then we would have built them kind of a bank that they finally now have. And then having to manage, you know, cash flows and balance sheet and figuring out kind of the morale of the company. And then kind of one of the highs I'd say throughout this whole process was seeing you know, essentially a next iteration of our product on stage.

Being presented, you know, by Apple. It's kind of one of those unique things. And that was after, you know, we sold the company. Took another, [00:23:00] oh man, the timeline's really hard. 2019, and yeah, another 18 months to get it live with Goldman. And then, you know, hundreds of people working on that. Many, many millions of dollars, obviously being put toe to work to get it kind of live at a different scale.

But, you know, seeing that and seeing kind of core product features that we had thought of in 2016 kind of being able to be given out to the masses. So that was one of those pieces that just was really unique and high and kind of a surreal culmination. And then kind of doing a bunch of, you know, it's kind of funny.

I sat in a weird world inside of Goldman. You know, I spent a lot of time in Cupertino working with the folks there, and it was certainly something really unique to help them think through what they could build. Some of it live, some of it probably not ever live, but, you know, that was a unique thing, having not actually worked for them, having worked at Goldman Sachs, so.

Yeah, I mean, there's also all the things about building a company, but that's not unique to [00:24:00] FinTech. 

Julie: What about personally? 

Aaron: Personally? Oh, man. I made a lot of good friends throughout the process. You know, we kind of ran the company for better or for worse for a while, kind of as a family. So a lot of the people, we still talk from time to time.

Some of us more, some of us less. It, you know, personally, it taught me a lot about myself, about how to take care of myself. In retrospect, it's also one of the reasons I've been here. Not yet gone back and done it again. And that, you know, I do really much so enjoy the helping out founders. So I advise a whole host of folks and I, you know, now sit inside of a venture fund, which is besides saying yes and no to deals, you're also just giving out feedback and kind of ingesting information and trying to figure out where the world's going.

So I don't know, it's a. It's the whole journey has been interesting. You know, it's a roller coaster being a founder, I'll say. And so that's the thing that you sign up for either way, whether you want it or not, nothing, nothing, nothing works 100 percent of the time.

Laura: I think some, it's funny how some of the highs and lows [00:25:00] stick with you, even though you've had sort of like objectively bigger, Or, you know, better or worse things happen since then, but in the context of the moment, they were so monumental that they stick with you. So for me, probably the biggest tie was in 2019, I think it was, we signed Ally Bank.

And for us, that was just a massive deal. We were only like 10 or 12 people at the time. We had no business working with them. I mean, I can say that now, I think, but we signed this like very large. Deal dollar wise with a very large financial institution, you know, top 20 bank in the United States.

And 1 that was really known for being digital 1st or digital forward. That was just massive for us. And we felt I felt just so you know, proud of our team. 1 of our investors sent us a box of champagne. Like, it was just a huge deal for us. And, and, you know, now we've signed. Bigger [00:26:00] deals and with bigger financial institutions, but nothing has really compared to that.

For me, that feeling of just like, we might actually might make it some of the lows have been investor rejections. Probably there are a few that stuck out for me where I think either. I really liked the investor. I'm just like. Wanted it to work, or where I really thought, like, this is going to come through.

I think this is going to happen. And then, you know, they give you a phone call, or they write you an email and they pass in some, you know, way that just makes you feel terrible. So there are 2 or 3 of those that stick out for me as just being like, this really sucks. I think our, our kind of seed extension round was the most.

Painful round we had where we, Tommy tracked it, my co founder Tommy tracked it, but it was something like, you know, 99 no's and we got one yes from any adventurers who led that round. And those 99 no's sucked, [00:27:00] but there was also the high, I'll give you a second high of some of those investors coming back a couple years later and going like, this was the biggest mistake I've made or whatever.

That felt awesome. We've saved some of those emails and sometimes we project them at Alloy, all hands. When we're feeling like we need a little pick me up. 

Julie: And I feel like you were manifesting the ally partnership by naming your company Alloy, too. Like, I just feel like that match was meant to happen.

Laura: And by having purple. Purple was our, like, primary color at the time. Yeah, we would have meetings in their office and they'd be like, You guys, you need to differentiate yourselves a little bit. We're like, We're sorry. We swear it wasn't our purpose. 

Julie: Switching back to the industry more broadly, Where has Spintech added the most value over the past decade?

Where has it, you know, kind of lagged and really not done too much for innovation?

Aaron: You want to take it? I can, like the place where you're at 

Laura: our consumer fintech. So you, you, you hopefully have the right answer here. 

Aaron: Well, I mean, she didn't even [00:28:00] ask about consumer fintech, like it's definitely where we're, and I think a lot of, you know, regulatory.

Industry like highly regulated industries sit in this model where you will have a just constant kind of slow march of innovation on the infrastructure side of things where companies like, you know, innovation isn't time to any cycle, or there's a little bit of capital requirements kind of tied to it, but you will see just kind of new and you will New technology built out to replace kind of the incumbents in the technology, the legacy tech that exists on the consumer side.

 Where FinTech has failed and it's tried to innovate and it's tried to innovate so many times, and I hope that one day it works. But I think at least in the U. S. It's just not set up right to do it is on kind of alternative credit. Or just even credit underwriting as a fintech company, it is incredibly hard to get right.

And it's something that if you look at the value created [00:29:00] by public companies who do credit consumer credit, it is really hard. There was somebody tweeted this. Last week or two weeks ago about this of like which credit companies that are public have like actually returned to investors. And the answer is not at least once they've gone public.

Pretty much nobody has performed. They did temporarily insert, but today it's just kind of not working out so well. And a lot of that is, you know, you're playing with one hand tied behind your back compared to a bank who is essentially It used to be 0 cost of funds when we were at lower rates, but it's whatever, like SOFR or whatever internal opportunity cost is, which is usually a little bit higher than that.

So it's certainly innovated on kind of getting us better consumer experiences, cheaper technology, more efficiency. I think we're seeing the beginnings of kind of an AI wave where if we are in a place where [00:30:00] we are Lacking the number of heads we need to actually do the task, AI is going to help banks and fintechs solve that pretty soon.

Automation, I mean, Allo is kind of one of the beginnings of this trend, right? Like, to think about how a bank did underwriting before any digital automation, it is just kind of laughable that somebody actually had to go look at forms that were manually filled out by hand. So. That's sort of an answer to your question.

It's succeeded in expanding the market, right? Like, we wouldn't have things like Chime or Cash App from the big banks in this time scale. So it's certainly pulling the market forward a lot faster than you would have ever gotten it, because it's just banks aren't innovation shops. They're technology sho they're not technology shops, right?

They're risk organizations, when you really think about it. And so for them to adopt technology, it needs to be battle tested. And so FinTech is one of those battlegrounds that, Gets to test out new technology and then eventually the banks will kind of adopt it. It's kind of your story of with with ally, right?

Like they were the first people and now every other bank sees it as okay [00:31:00] People can trust alloy because the big banks use it

Laura: I would say this is sort of a simple answer, but I think we've underperformed in like pfm stuff the fact that we still 100 years later, whatever it feels like The fact that we don't have sort of good personal financial management that my friends are still asking me, like, what can I do to track my expenses and save more money and blah, blah, blah is sort of a failure.

I think of of a lot of things overperformed. I think we have overperformed in. Bank adoption with COVID bank, like digitization during COVID. I think that really has surprised me and been an incredible story of just banks who were on this like 20 year innovation cycle or whatever, 10 year innovation cycle, just completely fast tracked the way that they were going to digitize.

Not everyone did it, of course, but just the fact that you had dozens of banks, hundreds of banks who were able to digitize in a very short time is pretty remarkable. They stood up, like, if you [00:32:00] think about the PPP stuff, and there's a lot of fraud problems and stuff associated with that. So it's not like the model of innovation that we necessarily want, but just the pace that they were able to deploy programs was like a Thursday to a Monday or something pretty remarkable.

All things considered. So I'm, I'm pleasantly surprised by that. 

Julie: Is FinTech still a good place to join? Like if you were, if you knew someone fresh out of college, fresh out of an NBA, would you tell them to join FinTech or would you want them to perhaps look at other industries first? 

Laura: Yeah. I mean, FinTech is still, like, this is why I'm still in it, right?

It's like, we're still at the beginning. So. Is is 2023 FinTech awesome. Not really, but is the next like five or 10 years? Awesome. Probably like think about how far we have to go. We've come a long way, but we have so much farther to go. The market is huge and getting bigger, like yes, it's a good place to join.

Aaron: I [00:33:00] agree. I think it's one of those like, it's not even just the beginning. The market's just so big. I'd say if they want to join, they probably should go and figure out. Not to go kind of straight up the middle where the, you know, a lot of people have tried to go and compete directly with Capital One and Chase and Citi.

Go and compete, not on the edges entirely, but more towards kind of the overlap between FinTech and some other industry where you actually have a competitive advantage. And you can grow into competing with Chase, Capital One and Citi. MX just got, you know, as, as you think about like where to approach this industry, it's a very large profit pool in the, in the VC speak.

Julie: There's four quick fire questions. I'll start with Laura on the first one. She'll get asked first and then the second one, Aaron will get asked first. So Laura, a personal highlight from 2023. 

Laura: I think I get fired as a mom if I don't say having a baby. So I had a baby about a month ago. That was five weeks ago. That was a highlight. , the [00:34:00] other highlight for me, just, it's not like a one specific moment, but feeling like we got through kind of the worst of this, like, FinTech slump of 2022, 2023 at what I hope is the worst.

I feel like we came out of it for the better. A lot of companies did. I feel like good about this. The industry in general, there was a while last year was like, Oh God, how bad is this going to get? And you know, not to say we're through it all, but I'm, I'm happy seeing like the good companies survive and people have gotten resilient and a little bit more just like people are, people are hustling again.

Not everything's free. It's a good feeling.

Aaron: I would be fired as a VC if I didn't say joining Lightspeed. man, highlight for the year. It's kind of funny, like, it's It's been nice to see yeah, I think it is we have a lot of Not grift, but we had a lot of just noise for the last few years. That is just finally getting cleaned up [00:35:00] and it's unfortunate companies are dying my my personal angel portfolio companies are dying like Yeah, and like, you know, these are companies founders spent, you know, the last three years of their life on so it's not like We want them to die.

It's just we funded everything like it shouldn't exist It's nice to really be doing solid work again and looking at true kind of like Help the world innovation and building efficiencies like things that build efficiencies into their businesses or other people's businesses Or automate things away or build new payments networks things that just were You know, you'd go and look at an idea and you get five of the same copycats.

We're not seeing that anymore And so it's like very nice to see an industry just cleaned up and I think it's side effect of SVV collapse, to be honest, of like, anything can fail. So you really actually have to have a solid business. So yeah, I mean, that, that would be kind of one of the nice things.

The other thing is just like, the winners are truly kind of starting to stand out as winners from a, you know, like, and, and a lot of the times it's the [00:36:00] people I wanted to back, as opposed to, I could, I cared less about the idea, but it was really just the people I wanted to win in the world. So that's a really nice kind of secondary effect of kind of this, this market having cleaned up.

Julie: All right, Aaron, if you could have dinner with anyone.

Aaron: That's a great question. Man, this is a FinTech, but I should say like Hamilton for establishing like the banking system.

 But that would also be like, he would be like, what the hell have we gotten into?

Laura: I'll go with Aretha Franklin. I've been reading my son a book about her, so. 

Julie: There you go. That's my, today's 

Laura: answer. 

Julie: And that one's very much not FinTech related, so. Not FinTech related, as far as I know. Good variety here. Everything's 

Speaker 6: FinTech. Yeah, yeah. 

Julie: I walked into that one. When you're having a hard time, who do you call?

Laura: My husband. My husband. 

Julie: Aaron, who do you call? 

Aaron: No, I, I, you meant that like [00:37:00] professionally, right?

Like, 

Julie: I mean, personally and professionally when you're, oh, it can be two different people. You could have one for like when shit is hitting the fan personally. And then one for when shit is hitting the fan. Oh yeah. 

Laura: To be clear, my husband can do nothing for me professionally. Yeah. That's zero.

My co founder, Tommy, Aaron, actually maybe Aaron. I have a short list. Yeah. It's probably Aaron, Charlie, Ma, Tommy. There you go. Yeah, it's a shirt. 

Aaron: Besides my wife, well, like, you know, you should almost just start the podcast with like, here's the default answers for everyone. We love our wives. We 

Speaker 6: love our children.

Yeah. 

Aaron: There's two folks. Some of it's like processing. I have like a small cohort of founder friends. Some of them I've spent too much time on the phone with. Matt Harris Jr. From is someone I spent one, but that's, you know, I haven't talked to Matt in a little while, but it's been when there was a lot going on.

He was one of those just to talk through kind of how the credit cycle was going to play out. And then I have kind of non Fintech people for just general founder [00:38:00] stuff. I'm good friends with one of the founders of WeFunder. And then, A guy named Aaron Dragashin, who started a bunch of serial entrepreneur account who was kind of just an old friend of mine.

And whenever anything in life is upside down, I can call him. And it's nice to talk to non FinTech people and try to have to explain it to them. But that's like three, you know, the Rolodex is a lot longer. There's also just constant chatter of other kind of founder networks. I'm in that if I need something, they usually can kind of quickly pick up the phone.

So I said, being a founder, you kind of other founders will relate. They, we all have this weird sort of something broken in our brain. And in the same way that we all kind of relate to. And I hate to say a collective trauma of trying to do something that other people say you can't do, but.

For some reason, we always keep on trying. 

Julie: What's something about you that Hmm The problem is, like, I'm terminally online, and I have been, like, 

Aaron: you know, we grew up you know, I grew up, I, when I, we [00:39:00] had the internet at home when I was, like, a teenager. 

 I won in fifth grade.

I won the math Olympiad. I was like one of the winners in the math Olympiad for the state of Maryland. I think I had my wife kept the trophy because she saw it in my parents house. And so it's somewhere in the house here. But you could not have found that out online, I don't think. Like, you could have figured out my youth group I'm trying to think, like, through, I started a company in college.

There's, like, a bunch of the stuff that you could have figured out. That's definitely not online, but that's because I was in elementary. That's, like, pre internet. It's not pre internet, but, like, it's pre meaningful internet.

Laura: That's pretty good. I was a great speller. I don't think I won any awards. But I'm kind of bummed.

I think I could have done really well if I competed in like spelling competitions, never got entered. Couldn't find yeah, I think there's a lot of stuff but nothing that interesting. I Think my secret like superpower is I'm excellent at making Meals from leftovers [00:40:00] or like random stuff 

Julie: Well, thank you guys. I really appreciate you taking time out of your days to do this because I know we're all super busy But I really think the audience is going to get a lot of value from it.

So I really appreciate it 

Aaron: Yeah, this has been great. Good to see you guys. Yeah, good to see you too. It's been too long. 

Laura: Whatever. Your hair is so short. I didn't even recognize you. 

Aaron: It was really helpful at Money 2020. I would walk around. Nobody would recognize me. I walked around. I had to like grab people.

Like friends. They'd just walk by me and be like, I know who you are. So yeah. You're 

Laura: unrecognizable. Other than the shirt. I wouldn't know who you were. That's too funny. 

Julie: That's too funny. Well, we'll do a workout Zoom class next week and I'll see you again. We're good.