Brighte

Busting Startup Hiring Myths

If you are a Fintech leader, you will probably agree that hiring great people can sometimes feel like an impossible task.

Since launching in 2016, Tier One People has interviewed hundreds of Fintech leaders. These frank discussions on the challenges of growing and scaling a startup sometimes can contradict the popular advice from Silicon Valley.  We have researched and analysed the hiring strategies of Google, Facebook, Netflix and other tech firms and see some major flaws in following the strategies for a startup in Australia.

Let’s bust some hiring myths.

Hire for culture fit.

Katherine McConnell is Founder and CEO of Brighte. She is recognised as the Outstanding FinTech leader in Australia and was named in the Top 10 most influential women in Fintech globally. Katherine had this to say about hiring on culture fit.

Today we’re able to attract great people because of the brand, our investors and the fact we are a solid business. But a year ago, no one had heard of Brighte.

Attracting great people to a start-up is very difficult. You don’t have much leverage. Hiring based on values is nice but not always possible. Now Brighte is established we absolutely recruit on values and cultural alignment.

Initially I hired people based on technical expertise. I had to take a gamble on whether the person would work out or not. We just had to build the platform and get it done. The advice I was given was ‘hire slow, fire fast’ but in a startup sometimes you have to hire fast and fire slow. As a leader you have to make tough decisions.


Hire based on proven experience.

Martin McCann Trade Ledger

Martin McCann is CEO and Cofounder of Trade Ledger, winner of FinTech Startup of the year 2019. Trade Ledger is rapidly scaling with offices in Sydney and London.

We don’t focus on people’s experience or their background, we focus on whether or not they would fit well with the team or will they be disruptive in the team. We prefer to hire people with high potential or high propensity for success.

What we’ve found is interesting. People who are under-experienced, properly motivated and show high potential are a much better fit for this organisation than people who’ve got proven experience.

People with high potential fit the way we work. They want to get ahead quickly, they appreciate the opportunity to be able to contribute and to learn. And they understand the value it creates for them as an asset that differentiates them in the market.


Create a culture where there is no fear of failure.

Vincent Turner is Founder of Uno Home Loans. He is a Fintech veteran now on his third startup. Vincent spent five years in Silicon Valley, setting up the Valleys first ever Fintech Meetup. Vincent had this to say about failure.

We are a consumer focused fintech, so our culture is driven by discovery and big ideas. You can conduct focus groups, give customers a prototype, let them observe it, but that customer will act differently when you ship the product. To get to something that works is an act of discovery

The team is encouraged to come up with extraordinary ideas and to test them out. Then we make a frank evaluation of what worked and what didn’t. We don’t talk about failure at uno. Failure is when you are reckless in the way you try things. But an experimentation-led culture, where you can call out what works and what doesn’t, is the absolute mainstay for any customer centric business.

Millenials are hard to motivate.

George Lucas is CEO of Raiz Invest and ASX listed investment platform that helps people save and invest automatically. The app has been a big hit with millenials and George applies the same approach to customers as he does managing his team.

Raiz has gained a lot of traction with Millennials, more than 900,000 people have downloaded the app and we are managing more than $250 million in funds.

We have developed a lot of loyalty within our customer base. Engagement is key and we are always listening to our customers. If you look at our product development releases to date, some examples being Raiz Kids, Raiz Rewards, My Finance and most recently Raiz Super, it has all been driven by our customers.

Maybe the difficulties other finance companies experience tapping into the Millennial market are self-inflicted? Let’s face it, Financial Services in Australia is heavily dominated by middle-aged men. We have seen several instances in the last twelve months where young people feel the people in power are out of touch with the modern world.

Rather than lecturing our customers on whether they should spend their money on Avo and Toast, we are providing them with the tools to save for a home deposit, or a holiday, or their kids school fees. Millennials are no different to any other customer. Just listen, give them what they need and treat them with respect.

We have adopted the same approach with our people who seem to enjoy the challenges of a FinTech startup. I listen and provide my team with the tools to do their job. Then I let them get on with it. Its a very laid back environment, we don’t manage people, no one comes in to work in a suit and tie, we’re not that type of financial services organisation. We have a mutual respect for each other. And I am learning so much from our people. It’s a very young business, most of our people are under the age of 30. And they seem to be laughing a lot, so they can’t be that unhappy!


Startups can’t compete for exceptional talent.

Alex Badran is Co-Founder of Spriggy, Fintech Startup of the year. By adopting a Lean Startup approach to hiring, Spriggy has managed to assemble a diverse group of highly talented people, while bootstrapping the business.

We have brilliant people in the team and a very eclectic mix of backgrounds. My co-founder is a physicist and an electrical engineer. Our CTO has been building apps ever since apps were around. Our CMO is a software engineer, one of our software engineers has a medical degree and our customer success lead used to be a geneticist.

We have managed to hire remarkably talented people who are great people, not just intelligent. They work hard, they care about what they do, they care about the people around them and they care about our customers.

This might sound simple, but talented people want to work with talented people who share the same values and ethics. That’s it. Sure, our people have flexibility, equity and all the advantages of working in a startup, but they are not the key motivators for joining.

Our people really buy into the Spriggy mission too. I love coming to work, and I learn so much from our team, every day. They are just amazing to be around. I am sure it will become harder to hire exceptional people as we scale, but right now, hiring talent isn’t a challenge for us.


So, what is the best approach to hiring for a startup?

We wish there were a rule-book for hiring, but every business is different. The one thing all of our interviews have in common? Each leader took their own course and made their own decisions. None followed ‘the Google way’ or ‘the Amazon way’.

Our advice is to go with your gut feel. Instead of focusing on finding the perfect match, focus on the business problem you are trying to solve. You may find there are alternative solutions to hiring. Or as we find in most instances with clients, the person you think you want is not the person you need to hire.

If you are in the process of hiring and want to get some advice contact Dexter or Joanne – [email protected]

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FinTech Summit

Tuesday 16th October. The 5th FinTech Summit took place in Sydney. An all-star line-up of FinTech leaders and a sell-out crowd made this the best FinTech Summit yet.

The topics of open banking, the rise of challenger banks, the recurring themes of raising capital and hiring talent were all debated. But the prominent themes of the day were integrity, ethics and genuine care for customers.

There was a real sense of excitement in the room, with the audience recognising we are at the beginning of a new era in FinTech. Presentations by UP Bank and Xinja demonstrated the differences between a digital challenger bank and a neo bank.

Using ground breaking technology, Up (challenger bank) have taken an established bank and re-imagined the banking experience based on the premise ‘living not banking.’

Xinja (neo bank), on the other hand are building a totally new bank and new products, using technology to ‘bring humanity back into banking.’

Two very different angles, two very different visionaries but two people united in making Australian banking the best in the world.

A panel discussion with challengers Volt Bank, Athena Home Loans, Douugh and Judo Capital and a final presentation by Martin McCann of Trade Ledger painted an exhilarating future for Aussie FinTech. In 12 months time Australian consumers could be spoilt for choice.


Celebrating the success stories of Australian FinTech

AfterpayDavid Hancock of AfterPay opened the FinTech Summit with a fantastic presentation on customer trust. AfterPay has a market cap of AUS $2.6bn and is without doubt Australia’s greatest FinTech success story to date. The global growth story is astonishing, even Kylie Jenner wants AfterPay for her cosmetics business!

The paradigm shift in risk management, based on trust and customer care, has played a big role in AfterPay’s success. Social platforms, technology and access to data have all enabled the rapid growth and adoption of new business models. His words of advice to the major banks were

“The cost of mistrusting people is significantly higher than the value of mistrusting people.”

Katherine McConnell, CEO and Founder of Brighte shared her journey. Incredible to think exactly three years ago, Katherine arrived at Stone & Chalk with a vision and a laptop. Today, Brighte has written approximately AUS $200m in loans, has $90m banking facilities, with investors including Mike Cannon-Brookes and AirTree Ventures.

The 10x vision for Brighte is to enable the mass adoption of batteries in the home and play a pivotal role in making Australia a clean energy country. Despite all the success and awards, Katherine remains one of the most humble and accessible people in FinTech. It is fantastic to see the continued success of Brighte.


Xinja news and updates

Xinja CEO, Eric Wilson was as passionate as ever in his mission to bring humanity back into banking. We caught up with Eric afterwards where he shared big announcements and a new product release (not Xinja Chocolate.)

Although unable to name names at this stage, expect announcements on high-profile board appointments. The series C funding round is coming to a successful close with lots of interest from overseas investors. Talks with regulators are on track. And the core banking system implementation (a world first partnership with SAP) is ahead of schedule. Hopefully all should be announced at the next AGM planned for November.

So, only one questions remains (quote Billy Zane in Zoolander)

‘Eric, when you gonna drop Android on us buddy?’

Soon!


Values and culture are your business

The afternoon event consisted of 4 break out sessions on open banking, raising capital, regtech and compliance. Yours truly chaired a panel discussion with Kylie Vitale of Volt Bank, Kristen Holmes of Zip and Will Blott of Cover Genius. Three highly progressive People and Culture leaders with a pioneering approach to scaling businesses through Values and Culture. The value of hiring a People and Culture specialist in the early stages of growth is huge.


Open banking and the future of Australian FinTech

Martin McCann of Tradeledger ended what was an energetic event with a rallying call to action on open banking.

“If we make Banking as a Service a success, we could unleash Aussie financial muscle on international markets, on a scale never seen before”

What a fantastic message to end a landmark day.

My closing thoughts? Open banking is a once in a century opportunity for Australians. For the future of Australia and our ability to compete on a global scale, we simply cannot allow open banking to become the exclusive domain of the big four banks. Scott Morrison has asked the FinTech community not to screw it (open banking) up. Today, the FinTech community fired the same message straight back to the PM.

Glen Frost deserves extra special praise for organising another standout Summit and for his continued and selfless support of the FinTech community. Well done Glen!

 

 

Katherine McConnell – Brighte

From corporate career to FinTech leader of the year.
The amazing story of Katherine McConnell.

Katherine McConnell is CEO and Founder of Brighte. In 2015, Katherine was in a comfortable corporate job. Today she is Fintech Leader of the year, running a successful, rapidly scaling business and has the backing of Mike Cannon-Brookes.

I have been recruiting leadership talent for 20 years and no one has impressed me as much as Katherine. She is rightly hailed as an inspiration to female entrepreneurs. But her courage, commitment, vision and focus serves as an inspiration to everyone.

Interview with Dexter Cousins of Tier One People

 

What motivated you to start Brighte?

Katherine: The idea for Brighte came in 2015, it was a combination of two things; deep industry experience (Katherine spent 14 years at Macquarie Bank in asset and energy finance.) And identifying an opportunity in the market to provide a faster, easier way to finance solar panels and batteries, especially for families around Australia.

My family had installed solar and it was an exciting time. There were days where we lived totally off the grid. Some days we were putting energy back into the grid, even making money from our solar set up. Our two kids were fascinated.

However, having solar installed was expensive. I knew that as the cost of batteries came down, solar would become more accessible for Australian families. Even today, solar is still expensive to install so finance is often needed. You pay for solar panels, batteries and the installation upfront, but over time you generate savings on your energy bill.

A payment plan product where you can pay over time wasn’t on the market when I installed solar. And that is how Brighte was born. It was a mixture of personal excitement, and the realisation of a potentially huge market opportunity.

How did you get started on Brighte?

Katherine: I began working on Brighte over a period of a few months. Resigning felt like a much bigger deal than starting the business. Now I have had success, a lot of people come to me with great ideas, but they can’t bring themselves to quit their regular job.

I understand why they find it so difficult. Macquarie was a big part of my life, for 14 years. How do you give it all up for what feels like a crazy dream? The only person who can get you to make the leap is you, but for someone in a corporate role, who’s rational, that’s a really, irrational step to make.

What is it like to go from having a stable job to becoming a business leader and CEO of one of Australia’s fastest growing FinTech’s?

Katherine: Every day has offered a different experience. A lot of what I am doing hasn’t been done before. A sole female founder, in the finance industry, starting a lending business, mum to two kids. At Macquarie I never had a team. Until Brighte I had never managed anyone in a business, no leadership training.

Everything I have accomplished with Brighte, I had never done before, and there’s no guidebook. Of course, other people have launched successful start-ups in their own way, with their company and industry. You can read their experiences and stories, but your own journey is totally different to theirs.

It can be lonely being the CEO. Sure, you have your leadership team, and you can share things with them, but ultimately, you’re the only one who’s across everything in the business.

With so much skin in the game, managing the board, managing investors, it’s a unique position to be in. But the way I think about is this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s like I have won the lotto, it’s scary, but it’s amazing. And it is a real privilege to be backed by investors.



What are your top tips for securing investment?

Katherine: My advice for seed round is this; work really, really hard. Don’t give up, have a plan, and work to that plan. Don’t go in with an open-ended presentation. Be clear and articulate the commitment you are looking for from potential investors.

I learnt early on that you must have a data room. If you want to win investors over, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. We set up the data room with all the policies, processes, everything in there. We had a very slick and professional presentation in place. There were very clear next steps and everything was ready to go, it just moved so quickly from there on.

Did people doubt your vision for Brighte?

Katherine: Some people did look at me funny, as if to say,

“It is a huge vision, what makes you think you can pull it off?”

And that is okay, they have their own logic and rationale and it doesn’t align with your business plan. There were potential investors who didn’t buy into me, they would look at me and say,

“You need a co-founder, you need a tech, you need to have been an entrepreneur before.”

I satisfied none of their checklists on what makes a successful entrepreneur. The only thing they could see was my deep industry experience.

What spurred you on?

Katherine: I don’t believe the stereotypical indicators of a start-up entrepreneur are required for success. I truly believe you don’t need a co-founder. It would make my life easier if I had one, but I knew I had the resilience and the strength to do it myself.

I don’t agree that you need a tech background or a tech co-founder. I also don’t believe that you need previous experience in a start-up. Understanding the pitfalls may accelerate the journey, but my deep industry experience, understanding financials, understanding commercial agreements, perhaps that is more important than start-up experience?

At no point did I think “I can’t do this”. I was focussed and had total belief I would make it work. I had so much belief that we re-mortgaged the house. Eventually I met my seed investors, fantastic people who I have great respect for.

They saw in me someone who had put her life and her family’s life on the line. They could see I came with deep industry experience, a detailed business plan and could answer any question they threw at me. I had identified a clear problem, identified a clear market opportunity and developed a viable solution. It made a big difference.

At what point did Brighte become successful?

Katherine: The day after I left Macquarie I bought a MacBook, sat at my desk in Stone and Chalk with a computer and a blank pad of paper. A year later, we had built a full tech platform, vendor portal, vendor app, consumer web platform, consumer app. We had built a platform with instant credit decisioning, policies. processes and legally compliant.

Within a year we were accepting loan applications on our mobile app. What we achieved in that first 12 months with just three full time people and contractors was huge. The first year was tough.

We have been writing loans for two years now. The business is 60 people and growing fast. The structure is one third sales and marketing, one third tech and one third operations – credit, risk, finance etc. Initially I hired people I knew, approaching them directly. At the start of 2017 I had to go outside my network as the next phase of growth required very specific skillsets.


How do you find the right talent?

Katherine: Today we’re able to attract great people because of the brand, our investors and the fact we are a solid business. But a year ago, no one had heard of Brighte.

Attracting great people to a start-up is very difficult. You don’t have much leverage. Hiring based on values is nice but not always possible. Now Brighte is established we absolutely recruit on values and cultural alignment. Initially I hired people based on technical expertise.

I consider myself genuine and transparent, I work hard, but I am a parent and need flexibility, and that means you must trust people to get things done. I didn’t set out to create a culture, I had to hire like-minded people.

I am a huge believer in diversity and inclusion. I am very passionate about helping and encouraging fellow females. I want Brighte to be a diverse organization, it is easy to say, you must be pragmatic. As an example, it is tough to find female developers. There are three female developers in our team, which is fantastic, but they are very hard to find.

The way we have attracted a diverse work force is by accommodating flexible working arrangements, allowing people to work from home, work flexible hours or by giving extra time off over school holidays.

When you give your people clear outcomes, define what success looks like and outline what contribution you expect from them, flexible arrangements work well.

So, the culture at Brighte is based on finding like-minded people who share the same ethos on working together. We have a team of high-performing people, with a clear focus, clear direction, clear strategies. Everyone is prepared to do what it takes to achieve their goals. The team is so aligned that I rarely get involved in hiring now.

And what does the future hold for Brighte?

Katherine: We are going to keep our head down and keep working. There are new products in development we will be launching soon.  And we continue to improve the Brighte solution, whether that be for businesses or consumers.

We are working on solutions for our partners at the point of sale, making it easier for our businesses to process sales and grow their business. And on the consumer side we continue to develop ways for every Australian to enjoy the benefits of solar.

Read our Fintech NewGen Leadership Series

Female Entrepreneur Week

Tank Stream Labs recently held a national week-long series of events dedicated to female entrepreneurs.

Over 50 thought leaders shared their expertise and sparked great debate. 20 plus events across Sydney, Melbourne and Perth brought together people from across the startup ecosystem. “It was great to see so many amazing women coming together to support each other and learn from one another. All of the speakers – female and male – were very generous with their time and shared great insights.” said Julie Demsey, former General Manager of SBE Australia

Fintech in particular is dominated by males. Only 3% of tech firms are founded by women. Yet, when funded, female founded tech startups deliver 35% higher ROI than male led firms. Start Up Muster’s 2017 Report revealed the number of female founders is continuing to trend upwards, sitting at 25.4% up from 23.5% the previous year.

Tank Stream Labs have set out to tackle the burning question – How can we grow this number and what do we need to do to increase female involvement in what has been a male dominant space.

“Female Entrepreneur Week is such an incredible initiative by Tank Stream Labs, it helps to start great conversations amongst the startup community and empower our current and future female entrepreneurs”. Christie Whitehill, Founder of Tech Ready Women and one of the many amazing panelists of Female Entrepreneur Week.

A highlight of the week long event was a fireside chat with Katherine McConnell, CEO and Founder of Brighte. Katherine’s story is one that left everyone in the room inspired. In less than three years Katherine has gone from quitting her corporate job at an investment bank to becoming FinTech Leader of the Year. She has won investment from Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, Airtree Ventures and recently closed an $18m series B investment round. Clearly, Katherine is forging the way for females (and males) and rewriting the rule book when it comes to becoming a successful Fintech entrepreneur.

Read an in-depth interview with Katherine McConnell.

3rd Annual Fintech Awards
3rd Annual Fintech Awards, Scott Morrison MP guest of honour.

It was a privilege for Tier One People to sponsor the awards and present CTO of the year.

Congratulations to Jins Kaduthodil of Incent Loyalty on winning the CTO of the year award.

Fintech Startup of the Year went to Trade Ledger. Congratulations to Martin McCann and Matt Born who are taking their open banking solution global.

Fintech Leader of the Year went to the outstanding Katherine McConnell of Brighte, also winners of Innovation in Lending.

The attendees were encouraged by a heartfelt rallying call by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison MP, expressing his support for the Fintech community. He made it explicitly clear the Open Banking programme is a Government priority. The PM is relying on the Fintech industry to make the programme a success. If successful, it could well be the template for all future Australian innovation. Scott Morrison has put a flag in the sand with Australia’s Open Banking initiative set to go live 1st July 2019. He seems personally and politically invested in Open Banking and committed to supporting the Fintech community.

Well done to all the winners and a big thank you to Glen Frost for the amazing work he does in providing such a professional platform for the Fintech industry.

The winners 2018

 

AfterPay – FinTech Innovation in Payments

Raiz – FinTech Innovation in Wealth Management

Brighte – FinTech Innovation in Lending

Xinja – Best FinTech Communications Campaign

Look Who’s Charging – Best FinTech-Bank Collaboration of the Year

Katherine McConnell, Brighte – FinTech Leader of the Year

Lucy Yueting Liu,  Airwallex – Female FinTech Leader of the Year

Jins Kaduthodil, Incent Loyalty – FinTech CTO/CIO of the Year

Audeamus Risk – InsureTech Startup of the Year

Checkbox – RegTech of the Year

Trade Ledger – Ashurst FinTech Startup of the Year

 

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