Georgia Fintech Academy

S2 - Episode 15 - Fintech South 2021 - June 22-24 - a preview with Glen Sarvady, Kristin Slink, and Qazi Haq

June 07, 2021 Georgia Fintech Academy Season 2 Episode 15
Georgia Fintech Academy
S2 - Episode 15 - Fintech South 2021 - June 22-24 - a preview with Glen Sarvady, Kristin Slink, and Qazi Haq
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Georgia Fintech Academy
S2 - Episode 15 - Fintech South 2021 - June 22-24 - a preview with Glen Sarvady, Kristin Slink, and Qazi Haq
Jun 07, 2021 Season 2 Episode 15
Georgia Fintech Academy

Glen Sarvardy takes the reins to moderate this preview discussion of Fintech South 2021 which occurs June 22-24th. Discount code FTS21Save25 to receive $25 off the list price. Kristin Slink is co-chair of the conference this year and joins Qazi Haq a recent Fintech Academy alumnus.

Show Notes Transcript

Glen Sarvardy takes the reins to moderate this preview discussion of Fintech South 2021 which occurs June 22-24th. Discount code FTS21Save25 to receive $25 off the list price. Kristin Slink is co-chair of the conference this year and joins Qazi Haq a recent Fintech Academy alumnus.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Georgia FinTech academy podcast. The Georgia FinTech academy is a collaboration between Georgia's FinTech industry and the university system of Georgia. This talent development initiative addresses a massive demand for FinTech professionals and give learners the specialized education experiences needed to enter the FinTech sector.

Speaker 2:

The FinTech academy listeners this week, Glenn serve bodies standing in for me to lead a discussion about FinTech south, along with Kristen slink, the co-chair of insect tech FinTech, south and Kasi Hawk , alumni of the Georgia FinTech academy, but a critical volunteer to FinTech south of FinTech. South . You can understand more at FinTech, south.com and if you're interested in going and you're a student reach out to me directly, I can help you with a free ticket. And if you're not a student, you can receive $25 off by using the past capital F T S 21. Save 25. I hope you enjoy the show

Speaker 3:

As you can probably tell. I am not Tommy Marshall . I am cleanse star body of a one 54 advisers in the technology association of Georgia. I have been a guest on this podcast before, but I'm more importantly just here to , uh , help moderate , uh , for a , a , a great conversation with a couple of other folks who I believe have also been on the podcast before , uh, Kristen slink, the , uh, the head of the FinTech program at the ATDC and , uh , Kasi Haku , who has actually been a , uh , an alumni of the , uh, of the Georgia FinTech academy. And currently I'm currently a consultant that Eli, thanks for taking the time to talk.

Speaker 4:

Thanks for having us Glenn . We're happy to be here.

Speaker 3:

So the main reason we're here today is for, but given both of your roles as part of FinTech south, which is coming up from June 22nd through 24th , uh, Kirsten, you , uh , are serving as the co-chair this year , uh , a daunting task. I know I've been based in , I've never actually had that myself because I've actively tried to avoid it. Cause it seems like it's a such a time consuming effort . So I really appreciate you doing that and Kasi you taking the lead in terms of the coordination of the innovation challenge, which is always one of the most popular features of FinTech south as well. I think this, if I'm not mistaken is our 10th year of doing these a and the second time that we're now doing it on a remote basis, obviously because of the pandemic had been on the stage over the field, rather of Mercedes-Benz stadium for the two years prior to that. Kristen , can you say a bit about , uh , how you have approached this? I know you've had a very strong focus on trying to make this as participative as possible.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, absolutely. So I think we're all a little bit , uh, tired of the zoom meetings and the virtual events, but , um, we really wanted to put focus on making FinTech, sell something that you do not just watch. And so really making it , um , inclusive of everyone that's attending and being able to join the conversation. So a couple of things that we're doing, and one that I'm really excited about is breakout sessions , um , round table discussions that we're doing five concurrently , um , each day throughout the event. So that's 15 total round table discussions where you're not just watching a panel, you're actually participating in the discussion and we have the capacity of bringing everyone onto screen and really making that , um, you know, more of a conversation rather than something that you're just participating in. And then additionally, we have some fun events planned throughout as well, just to make it a little bit more fun and less , um, you know, watching the screen for, for the whole day. So we're really excited about it being very , um, interactive with , uh, the, the attendees

Speaker 3:

Count on , we got to get to your favorite piece. I know you want to talk about the escape room.

Speaker 4:

I am so ape room. I've definitely done several escape rooms in person. I love puzzles and I love teamwork. So just naturally it's something that I love to do, but being able to bring it virtually, I think it's going to be really exciting because like I said, it's, it's problem solving and is also , um, building, you know, team building skills. And so being able to get teamed up with other people in the ecosystem, really across the world, you know, we've got people attending from all over , um, to work together and to do something really fun together. So it's definitely high on my list of things that I'm looking forward to.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I mean, it's a really good point. I mean, the whole notion of escape rooms and why they're so popular for corporate events is it's basically a function of team-building and it's a totally different muscle. You have to flex to be able to pull that off in a virtual setting, as opposed to everybody kind of sitting in the same room. So, yeah. And especially when you're talking about, for the most part, you know, that it's a big crowd. I mean, we're expecting a couple thousand people at this thing, but you're, you know, you may be in a room with a couple of people, you know, and a whole bunch of people you don't. So it's a, it's a, it's an interesting dynamic causing. What about , um, you actually had the benefit, if I'm not mistaken, you attended fintechs out in the past as a student, am I correct?

Speaker 5:

I did. I sure did. And it was really great event to attend as a student.

Speaker 3:

And I know that Tommy is a , put a lot of work in those know , created a partnership where there's a good number of student tickets that have been made available. And I know that's happening again this year, but , uh, can you kind of , from a student's perspective, if you can put that hat on again , uh, how would you suggest that , uh , you know , current students should navigate fintechs out to get the most out of it for their own , uh , experience?

Speaker 5:

Absolutely. From a student's perspective, the one word I would use to describe Penn tech south is access. The whole conference gives you access to information and individuals in the community. So as a student, you're there to learn. So you can attend the sessions, learn about all the amazing things happening in the space, not just locally, but globally as well. In addition, I would highly encourage students to take advantage of the networking piece and reach out to individuals that might interest them, or even just out the companies that they want to work for. For me personally, I was lucky enough to have a job offer lined up with E Y w while I was attending Penn tech south . And I used the conference to connect with other professionals who were in the fit tech space and eventually that connection that I made during contexts out helping get into a project in the FinTech space. When I started at the firm recently,

Speaker 3:

That's a really good point. I mean, you had the job lined up, but it's still wound up getting you the role within that job that , that you were really seeking, which is exactly the kind of thing I would hope would come out of these kinds of events.

Speaker 5:

Correct. And I have to add on, I think for a student, you should create a strategy as to what you want to gain from this conference. As I've mentioned before, it might be knowledge or it might be a connection. So definitely do research on what is taking place during the conference and create your personal strategy and what you want to achieve during those couple of days during the conference. Well, you know, let's, let's step

Speaker 3:

Back for a second, cause we've, we've talked about your journey in the past, and I'm pretty sure that you've discussed this , uh, but you know, to refresh people's memories , uh , I think you've talked about this on the podcast before, when you originally started , uh, your , uh, your university education, you did not come in saying I'm going to do FinTech. That was not like top of mind for you. And I didn't start my career thinking I was going to do FinTech or payments either. Can you talk a bit about your journaling journey and how you kind of wound up in this space? Yeah , yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 5:

So I , as I mentioned before, I've kind of fell into FinTech during my sophomore year. I was fortunate enough to get an internship with one of the payments companies in Atlanta. And prior to that, I had no idea what FinTech was, but the internship made me realize that's something we interact with every single day, the intersection of finance and technology. And after that experience, I realized it's an area of focus because there's a lot of growth that will come about in this space. And I started focusing deeply into the Penn tech space and luckily enough, during my last year in college, the FinTech academy really came about, I was introduced to Tommy and the other leaders in the academy, and I was lucky enough to interact with them and even lead to the initiatives within the academy. I helped start the student advisory council, which is a group of students across university system that helps the academy with strategic initiatives and ideation to assist the students who are involved in the courses. And I highly encourage leaders within the university system, student leaders to become part of the academy and assist Tommy with expansion of these initiatives fall .

Speaker 3:

Krista , why don't we talk a bit about your day job, because obviously you've got other things going on and it's actually, you know , a great extent, very related to what you're talking, we're talking about. You are the head of the FinTech track at the ATDC at Georgia tech, which has a very important kind of historical role. You just went through the 40th anniversary there. Uh, and can you say a bit about exactly how ATDC fits into the broader FinTech story for Georgia?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, absolutely. It all just flips a little bit in saying that ATDC is the first ever university-based incubator in the U S and we've been serving Georgia for the past 41 years. So it's pretty incredible. Um, we fit in very well into the, the FinTech south of France , um , specifically around the innovation challenge. So typically we, we do work with a lot of early stage companies, which are the perfect fit for the challenge and to participate. So we often have a lot of our portfolio companies participating there. And additionally, if they're not part of the ATDC program , um, part of the prize winnings is a full year of accelerate membership , um, dedicated to that company too . So if they're not in our community, they , they definitely get involved after the challenge, which is really great. Um, and we're just here to support FinTech , um, for early stage companies in general in our ecosystem. So it's really important to have ties to the tech FinTech, FinTech society, and then also this event as well.

Speaker 3:

And as I recall, I mean, your , your stable of companies really kind of varies fairly dramatically. Some are really, as you said, very early stage, probably literally still in the garage. Um, and you know, really relying on you some for some pretty fundamental education on how to go about , uh, starting up a company, how to plug into the FinTech market and that heads all the way up to some companies where you're providing them office space room for collaboration, introductions and things like that, right. It's pretty much, it's not one size fits all, I guess is what I'm saying.

Speaker 4:

It's not one size fits all for companies size or maturity, and it's also not one size fits all for a vertical specific to FinTech. Um, our general FinTech portfolio spans across many sub industries . We also , uh, wrap InsureTech into that portfolio as well. We have about 40 companies that are dedicated in FinTech across the three different categories between educate , accelerate, and signature. What span from , um , at least in the , the, the companies that I consider it educate. They have some sort of MVP and initial customer segment that they're addressing all the way to scalable companies. And then you go beyond that into our graduate companies that typically stay , um, you know, engage in the program as well. So one recent one is Greenlight . They are a part of this event as well, and they are recent unicorn in Atlanta. And they came to us in that early, early ideation stage. And, you know, grew with us through the evolution of their company and to what they are today. So definitely a lot of impressive companies that have come out of ATDC and we do help serve, you know, whatever stage they're at. Um, for myself, I'm a former FinTech founder made a lot of mistakes in my own adventure, you know, journey, so to speak. And so I spent about 60% of my time coaching the companies in our portfolio, and then the other 40% of my time is spent really engaging with the community and that encompasses showcasing the company . So making sure that the greater community is aware of all the innovation what's being built here locally , um, in addition to connecting them to such as the innovation challenge , um, potential customers for pilots and even, even some investment too . So it's a very robust program and , and we really do have that dedicated verticals specific to FinTech , um , which is sponsored by USBank L Yvonne today. So thank you to our sponsors, into supporting the earlier stage companies here , local

Speaker 3:

And boy, talk about flexing. I was just thinking, I mean, you can't do much better than Greenlight . I mean, for anybody who hasn't been following along closely, I mean, Greenlight , uh , great , uh, you know, early stage story going back a few years. I remember being in meetings at PHP over at , uh , you know, some of the convening events at the Atlanta fed holds with Johnson cook. Who's one of their founders along with Tim Sheehan . And , uh, I just , uh, you know, going from that day to late last year, they officially became a unicorn with a fundraise that , uh , valued them. I think at 1.2 billion and lo and behold already by like March, April this year, there was another one that had them over 2 billion. So a unicorn times two, I guess , uh , that's quite a , quite a story there. Um, in terms of getting at the next wave of these companies, the very early stage stuff, Kasi , can you talk a bit about what you've got going on and we've got 10 companies competing this year in the innovation challenge, correct?

Speaker 5:

Yes, we do have, we have 10 early-stage companies competing this year for those who are unfamiliar with the innovation challenge, that is a four to five weeks later leading up to the conference where we provide instruction on pitching fundraising. Mentoring Glenn is a mentor this year, and he's been involved for the past few years. We really appreciate that as well as acts as the ecosystems that these companies go through the accelerator and pitch at the end with a chance to win $25,000 and not equity cash. So no, nothing tied, no strings attached to that winnings. And wouldn't , it also gets access to the HDC FinTech catalyst accelerator program. There's a lot of great products to win. I highly suggest for student entrepreneurs who are interested to apply next year, last year, we had a student in front of the FinTech academy, participate Daniel Haggard with Ethiopia. So it's open to all, and I highly encourage everyone to consider it in the future.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Great, great idea. I mean, that , this is, I mean, it's, and again, even within , uh , you know, and that can be interesting in terms of how you set a layer of level scorecard to think about these companies, because those are the 10 companies that compete are, you know , also from very, very early stage to folks who have actually been out raising money. I think we have a limit. I forget exactly what it is these days of how much money you can have raised and still qualify for the innovation challenge, but still there's companies of various levels of maturity there as well. I know last year's winner and Richard was a , has gotten a lot of good traction. Uh , we had another company that was a winner a few years ago, stack fully, or there was recently acquired by Jack Henry. So a good, good track record as well with some of these companies in terms of what's happened to them , uh , after the fact , uh, we've got the , the judging , uh , of these , uh , everybody, the, the six, is it five, six weeks? Would it , what'd you say, Kasi ? I forget what the actual

Speaker 5:

Changes year by year four to six weeks.

Speaker 3:

I know that culminates in a , uh , you know, a competition with a three, four minute pitches, I believe. Uh , and we have a , an expert panel of professional of venture capitalists to narrow it down to their three favorites, those three wind up going onstage at FinTech, south presenting to the full group. And then it is the audience vote. It's an audience choice. Uh , everyone gets an equal vote to determine who actually wins from there. So that's always a popular event , uh , you know , Canada, you know, kind of round off the, the third day of a FinTech south, Kristen , I know we got the world stage. Also, one of the other benefits of doing this remotely is that , uh , we don't have to worry about everybody being in the same room. So we've actually got the different continents reflected. Can you say about what we got with the world stage?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, absolutely. So the world stage, we have dedicated a whole day to it. It's Wednesday , um , where we're featuring different regions across the globe and really highlighting the FinTech innovation , um , there. And, you know, it's just, it's best for everyone to work together and be aware of what everyone's doing and really being able to build relationships across the board has been really valuable. And like you had said, you know, very difficult to do when you're doing an in-person event, but the benefit of being virtual is that we can get people involved on different time zones and be able to just dial in versus having to fly all the way here. So it does really broaden our reach and really broadens our focus on not just FinTech here in the Southeast, or just here in general in the us , but really across the globe as it's all working together.

Speaker 3:

So, as I recall, I believe we have an Asian stage focus , uh, on Wednesdays , one of them. And , uh , so in order to make that work, we do it in our morning and they're able to tap in in the afternoon. Wouldn't be nearly as easy if you had to deal with time zones and the jet lag and whatnot, if you'd flown over here.

Speaker 4:

Absolutely. And they're able to invite their teams and other people in their personal communities as well. So it's just really broadening that reach and that awareness of the innovation that's happening across the globe, which is really exciting.

Speaker 3:

And to your point, again, Kasi , there's an opportunity not just networking with other companies in Georgia, but that working with companies in Europe, Asia, Latin America, et cetera, et cetera, which is great. The , uh , the other one that always jumps out at me and I don't think gets enough attention quite honestly, is the lifetime achievement award, which we've been giving every year since we've been doing this , uh , this year, it's actually a, a , a joint set of honorees, Scott Grimes and Linden Lowe , who were the co-founders of Kartlytics one of the success stories , uh , in terms of, you know, company that at one point was a startup, but is now a , uh , an international brand that also has like a activity in the, in the UK as well. Um, I think of them as a little bit of a, you know, kind of in a microcosm kind of a metaphor for the way companies grow up in , uh, in the ecosystem. And I know that I believe Lynn is as well, but I know Scott is, I believe they both are , uh, um, graduates, alumni, whatever you want to say, have a capital one, which is where this, this , uh , product actually launched. And any thoughts on that? Uh, Kristen , why am I thinking about that the same way you would about how some of these companies kind of come to pass? Yeah,

Speaker 4:

Definitely. I mean, it just goes to show that you can start super small and you can expand to the footprint that Cardlytics has, you know, across the globe. And it really gives a lot of, you know, hope for early stage entrepreneurs that really want to build a lasting, successful, impactful company. And so it's really important to highlight , um , not only just a company that has gone through the entire evolution has really grown and scaled, but also , um , just highlighting companies that are built and homegrown here in Atlanta that become , um, you know, household names and brands that are recognizable across the globe, which is really exciting. We've got a really special thing here, and it's really important to highlight that. Um, and especially with the lifetime achievement award , we always pick companies that really shine , um, and, and really, you know, serve as a great example for other companies that are up and coming in our ecosystem.

Speaker 3:

I remember going back from before the company was actually founded, I knew Scott Grimes, just in passing. I saw him in a couple of conferences and he was working on a product that they referred to as decoupled debit. And it was a different way of approaching debit cards within capital one. And he got that off the ground. He had some other ideas of where he wanted to take it. That was , would not necessarily align with the strategy that capital one was going after. Uh , lo and behold, he came to Atlanta to really achieve his vision. And as I understand it, I think it's well beyond just kind of urban legend, literally worked at it at the kitchen table at his house in Virginia Highlands. And that's kind of where they got started and look where they're at today. So that's

Speaker 4:

Happened more than you think, and also a misconception around early stage companies just getting their start is that you have to be some, you know, tech genius to do it, but a lot of successful companies actually breed from larger companies and recognizing a need and recognizing something that their existing company is not doing. So coming out of capital one and really recognizing that need and taking that into their own hands and developing what they felt the market needed is just a Testament to how very successful companies, you know, are bred from that experience. And in really defining that need, that they're ultimately solving in the end. I've always

Speaker 3:

Wanted to put together a list along those lines, because I know Tim Sheehan as well. I don't know if we actually overlap , but I worked at CheckFree before they were acquired by Pfizer. I know Tim spent some time there as well. And again, I think he was also at a few other kinds of FinTech companies where he kind of saw these ideas of, Hmm , I have , I see an unmet need here that no, one's gone after. I mean, that goes back several years now and that's Greenlight . So, you know, again, the, the unicorn that we just talked about, but then again, as you say, I'm trying to think of one off the top of my head and I can't right now, but, you know, examples of people who didn't come out of the industry, one of the things that's beautiful about it . Well, actually I can think of one CheckFree itself, Pete kite , who came out of the health and fitness industry. Also one of our lifetime achievement award winners going way back in time. Um , and his thought was, wow, it's a real pain in the butt to have to chase down people on a monthly basis to pay their monthly health club dues. Wouldn't it be great if you could just happen automatically, you know, through their checking accounts, he didn't know anything about that, but he met another guy who this is again, based in Columbus, Ohio named Mark Johnson, who happened to work , uh , at different times. I think he worked at the federal reserve, but he also worked at bank one, which is a predecessor of chase bank and said, Hey, you want to work on this project? And that wound up becoming, I think one of the foundational companies, I think I could say in the FinTech space here in Atlanta, when, after they acquired another company, after they had grown and , uh , came down here and realized all the connections in the Atlanta marketplace and decided that this was a better place to actually grow the business.

Speaker 4:

There's nothing I love more than or origin stories. I'd love to, I've always

Speaker 3:

Wanted to cook like a family tree together. And then just to see how all the lines cross and interlinked so often

Speaker 4:

I can move

Speaker 3:

You and I can sit down sometime and see if we I've always had it in my head. But whenever I tried to put it on paper, it gets way too messy, a better way to do it. Causey . Any other thoughts in terms of, like I say , I know there's supposed to be, I think about at least a hundred students who will be attending. Um, any, anything else, any thoughts for them? I don't think there's any specific, I know credit the credit union space at their conference has a thing called the Crashers. And you can, you can , uh , you know , apply for a pass and then they actually have a program, which is nice because you get to meet other people like you, and that's still a form of networking, but you know, that's not networking within the industry. I think you make a really good point. The real value here is to actually get out there and not just talk to other students, but talk to the people in the space.

Speaker 5:

I agree with you there, Glen , and I would just encourage all the students to take advantage of the free tickets. I says, again, free tickets. You have nothing to lose there. So definitely get your hands on those tickets and come to the conference and see all the amazing things happening in this space.

Speaker 3:

Let me, let me just clarify that the cost for students is what free, free.

Speaker 5:

Okay. Got it. Okay. Um , again,

Speaker 3:

I'll let Tommy do the, I'm not sure exactly how he's going about that, and I don't want to step on any toes, so I'm sure Tom , you'll have a few things to say, as we, as we run this, you can give a little more information about how those tickets are being distributed. Uh, but we've also got a , uh , uh, a discount code. If there's anybody listening who is not qualified for one of those tickets and not have Tommy provide that as well in the voice . So right here in front of me right now, but , uh, the , the technology association of Georgia has , uh, has graciously offered to offer a discount for anybody who listens in and enters that at the site. If they go to visit FinTech south.com, Kristen Kasi , anything else you'd like to add? Or we, I think we've, we've covered a fair bit of ground here in 20 minutes.

Speaker 4:

I'm just gonna , I'm just going to chime in because you guys are students, the listeners are primarily students. So just to kind of piggyback off of Causey's experience. I also had no idea about FinTech at all. When I started my business, we actually didn't define it as FinTech until we got into our first startup incubator where we had to choose an industry. So you don't have to, you know, dream about being in the FinTech space. Sometimes you just fall into it. Sometimes it's just something that you recognize . Well , wow. You know, FinTech is all around us and it's a really exciting space to be in. So if you're not part of the academy yet, and you're kind of on the fence to join , uh , no, you don't need to be proficient in technology or finance. There's definitely a lot of resources at your disposal to really dive into the industry. And it's so broad, right? There's so many different aspects of FinTech , so there's something for everyone. Um, it's just a really fun space to be in. So I would just encourage anyone who is thinking about FinTech or exploring that possibility for the future. Um, definitely give it some thought. It's really fun.

Speaker 3:

Kasi , are you a technology guy or are you good at that? I , I certainly am not. I'm kind of curious which way you come at this. Yeah ,

Speaker 5:

That's funny, Glenn . I have always been intimidated and scared by technology, but every role I've had so far has pushed me into technology. So I've just been drawing the deep end to say,

Speaker 3:

Cause that's, I mean, again, kind of to Kristen's point, I mean, and the world's changed a lot in the last five to 10 years in this space. People actually know the phrase FinTech. I mean, it didn't even really exist when I started, but, and maybe at this point we've reached the stage where, you know, people actually do go out and seek out a FinTech role, but you know, up until recently, I would have said if someone came to me and said, I really, as a young person, I really want to get involved in FinTech. I would think, okay, you're either a liar or you're weird because I used didn't think people did that. But I think over time it's been something you fall into, but I think that is changing. Yeah.

Speaker 4:

Especially with the technology piece, I actually did a recent poll on LinkedIn asking people if they felt you had to be technical in order to start a technology company. Um , in my case specifically, FinTech three out of four people said, no, you don't need to be technical. So, you know, things are changing is a lot easier to use. There's a lot of no code solutions. There's a lot of development agencies where, you know, you can really work side-by-side with technology teams to build your concept, build your business. Um, so it definitely Causey . It should not be something that you're afraid of. You should embrace it. And you're doing great so far too . So I'm excited to see where you go with your own career. I will , I appreciate that

Speaker 3:

Back full circle to the, the, the escape room too . I mean, you need different skillsets at the table. Again, I'm not a technical guy and you know , you're going to do far better. If you've got, you know, the technical person, the business person, the finance person, the person who can actually sell in the marketplace. And you know, it doesn't really matter. Who's the first one that actually brings the idea to the table. You know, hopefully you've got a li one, who's got somebody who's got leadership skills and to somebody who has the presence of mind to know that they've got to build out that team to take care of all those skillsets , just like you, probably that to get out of the escape room. Absolutely. Well , again, again, Kristen slink , Kasi , Huck , thanks so much for taking the time and , uh, June 22nd through 24th, see if it ticks out , are you there?

Speaker 1:

You there, the Georgia FinTech academy podcasts are available on iTunes and Spotify to obtain additional information about the Georgia FinTech academy. Please visit our [email protected]