Tech Tuesday: Investment in Core Infrastructure
Meet Vaibhav Puranik. Chief of Staff at Heracles Corp, A Bay area HQ-ed company building solutions to radically reduce cost of capital across the world. Vaibhav is an individual with a true understanding of both the tech and business mindset, a skillset that I truly value. He has played many roles in his career from founder, to head of product, to consultant, to investor. All of these roles has allowed Vaibhav to think about the many angles for the topic we will be discussing today, core infrastructure.
While not the most glamorous of topics, core infrastructure is the fundamental backbone to all things fintech and the future of financial services. While there has been a lot tried and tested surrounding the core for the last 20 years or so, there isn’t a fully baked solution that is fully market ready. There are so fabulous solutions in market for specific things, but there aren’t integrated players that allows for a product build from scratch within financial services thus in many ways limiting what is possible. We have seen success on both the vertical and horizontal fronts, but these players don’t work seamlessly together. Listen in as Vaibhav and I discuss the journey of the core infrastructure and where we go from here.
#TechTuesday Highlight #70: Vaibhav Puranik, Chief of Staff, Heracles Corp
How/why did you get into your space?
I was fascinated by Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction” in the business school, and books like Bill Gates’ Road Ahead, Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital, and Andy Grove’s Only Paranoid Survive and the Netscape Navigator made me double down on the “tech revolution”. “Universal banks” were the in-thing when I started my professional career in Europe. Being an engineer, the potential of technology to permanently transform the staid world of banking & payments. I have been a “fintech” geek ever since first as an operator, then an entrepreneur and investor – We have seen a wave of “unbundling”, and now it seems we are getting into the “rebundling” mode
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
I have always reveled in solving complex, gnarly, multifaceted problems – Be it building a prepaid business or designing complex ML/AI-aided growth campaigns to increase the share of the wallet. I, now, spend my time bringing new tech & fintech ideas to come to life as an operator and also as an investor. My mobile banking startup, Almond, was one of the earliest attempts at “rebundling” -> Creating new financial products that dovetail into the fabric of our life, instead of the other way around. After Almond’s acquisition by Cross River Bank, we put together one of the first BaaS (banking-as-a-service) offerings in the US. I created an integrated banking and brokerage platform for Aspiration in LA, enabling them to quadruple their customer base. Recently, at Carta, I built a commercial banking business with an innovative capital call line of credit product for VCs, and also designed the cash management product for Carta’s secondary market exchange. Now at Heracles, we are building a next generation of lending products that enable consumers to save money by leveraging their assets in a unique way.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
In financial services, technology is the business – I am still puzzled by banks that use the phrase “IT” to refer to technology. I should not be surprised because as late as 2015 banks still thought “cloud” was 2 people in the garage writing code. Software has been eating the world since the early 2000s, but iPhone really forced the industry to simplify its products dramatically – We want to actually get things done, while we are waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. We still have a long way to go – We have atomized the products, but they all still rely on us to put the jigsaw together – Now we need to make them work together to anticipate our needs and proactively solve things for us.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2020 (as it relates to your industry)?
“Vertical” or “Embedded” financial services – I have always felt financial products are derivative products, i.e. they are not consumed on their own, e.g. a loan enables a purchase. Bundling financial products in the context of their use is a critical step in developing hyper-tailored solutions for all of us. Investments in core infrastructure, security, identity & digitization: I still feel the scaffolding for the financial world is broken in almost all aspects, and huge investment is needed to connect things seamlessly for us. It is embarrassing that we can not pay instantly send stimulus checks to needy citizens in 2020, and the SBA PPP was a complicated form-filling nightmare for SMBs.
Who is a person that inspires you in the space and why?
Slightly cliche but I am constantly amazed by the ingenuity and creativity of my colleagues at Almond, Aspiration, Carta & now Heracles, as well as countless industry peers who have always been generous with their time. It is humbling and incredibly invigorating to work with really driven, smart people working towards a mission. Specifically, I am in awe of how prolific of a creator Shamir Karkal is (Co-founder of Simple Bank, BBVA Open API and now Sila Money) – He has been a constant source of advice and straight talk. My co-conspirator at Almond, Ben Weiss has been a steadfast pillar of strength for nearly 15 years. The focus and rigor that my wife, Aditi Agrawal, brings to her work leading risk & analytics at Lendkey Technologies help me curb my tendency to daydream!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your space?
Identify what you are good at; Reach out to people in the industry to guide you – Even with covid lockdown, there are a lot of avenues to connect and network. Be “curious” and master “the details” about the area you want to work in. Tinker – Try to build or write or do things; Make mistakes and learn.
#fintech #product #strategy #startups #investor #angel #investing #building
Have thoughts on this week’s trends or questions for me or Vaibhav? Post your thoughts in the comment section or share them on Twitter. Please include the hashtag #techtuesday and mention me @ScarlettSieber! Until next week. 🙂
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