“Faster, better, quicker, cheaper.” That’s what Salim Naran said about fintech in his Illuminate presentation. Fintech - financial technology, a way for people to handle money using new technologies.
Sal talked a lot about how Canadian banking can’t be disrupted as easily due to all of the governmental restrictions. Canada has an oligopoly of 5 or 6 main awards, and because of that, there isn’t much motivation for new fintech innovation. But what banking needs is a disruption, because of all of the expenses and inconveniences that come along with money management.
The goal of every industrial revolution is to improve client accessibility. In the past, we saw revolutions of mechanization, mass production, automated production, and now, new technologies. as Sal said, “how do we make things easier for us to consume?”That, to me, is the key to entrepreneurship, and not just in the financial world. Client and consumer ease is what drives entrepreneurial success. I think of how the transition to online services has made accessibility so much easier for me, from dictionary.com to shopping from my couch.
Razor Suleman, co-founder and CEO of Elevate, taught us all a few lessons about entrepreneurship. To find a passion, to keep the majority of the equity, and my personal favourite: find a niche. A niche that checks all of the same qualities as Sal Naran talked about. “better, faster, cheaper.” Then you know you have a winner. My dad is a pharmacist, and he found his niche in catering to HIV and AIDS patients. A more popular example would be Lefty’s San Francisco, a store that sells school supplies, gardening tools, and kitchenware, but you guessed it: only for left-handed people. That’s their niche.
I really took away the idea of not worrying about the ‘big guys.’ Razor liked to point out that the big guys are “fat and lazy,” and because they dominate, they have no reason to improve or be more efficient. The small entrepreneur can be innovative and revolutionary, there’s no reason not to enter a field if you can work an angle.
Our team consisted of five diverse girls from four different schools. We tried our hand at dealing with financial issues but came to the conclusion that it isn’t as relevant to us, and we don’t know enough to successfully create a startup. So instead, our team shifted the focus to student finance. And our pitch was the following:
FinanceFriend is a platform that will provide students pursuing higher education with more financial resources to do so. Many students aren’t aware of governmental financial support, as well as bursaries, scholarships, and other loans. Our platform will provide these students with everything that they are eligible to apply for, based on income, pathway, accomplishments, and other factors, such as race and gender. We will partner with high schools to spread the word, as everyone deserves to pursue higher education should they desire to. FinanceFriend will operate using algorithms, making it a lot more affordable than hiring a consultant, therefore making higher education that much more equitable.
I was incredibly surprised that our team made the top three, but we hit this challenge on the mark: FinanceFriend would be better, easier, and cheaper than what’s already out there.
My ultimate takeaway was that there are a million and one problems to be solved, and there is always a way to approach them in an entrepreneurial way. In working with a smart and passionate team, taking the advice of people who have done this before, and hustling, there is a lot that is possible.