Laura is one of my favorite people in fintech and has added a tremendous value to the space. I first met Laura back when I was at BBVA, and she had just gotten started at Alloy. Alloy is a platform for automating identity-related decisioning in financial services, including KYC, AML and fraud. The Alloy API allows its clients to customize which data sources they access and the rules applied, to validate an identity in real time so that 98% of users will be automatically decisioned upon on-boarding and on an ongoing basis for high-risk transactions & events.
It has been impressive to see Alloy’s traction over the last few years as they have been working with both fintech companies and banks since their 2016 launch, helping clients to increase conversion 30%+, reducing manual reviews by 95%, and reducing fraud by 50%. American Banker has covered some of their deployments, including those of Radius Bank and of Aspiration, a digital bank.
How/why did you get into tech?
I almost started law school and then realized I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer, so I went back to something I thought was just something fun to study in college: microfinance. I ended up seeking out two founders in Kenya who had started a company integrating with M-Pesa for small business payments (Kopo Kopo), and I became the first employee there. After that, I took a hiatus from tech to learn about fund investing in emerging markets, but found my way back to fintech after that.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem?
I’m on the non-product side of the house. I touch everything from sales & business development to marketing to operations. It’s how we educate the market about our solution, building our reputation, and of course, growing revenue. My role is largely external-facing, so I spend lots of time talking to potential clients and partners, learning about where our product might be useful (or not) and helping tell our clients’ success stories.
It’s the first time I’m a founder here, but it hasn’t changed drastically from other early stage startups where I’ve been an employee in that it’s always just about doing whatever needs to be done. The operational stuff is different — having to create processes and capacity within the organization to scale and not completely burst at the seams.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2019?
I’m excited to see the push for deposits (from both fintech companies and banks) because I’m hopeful that it will result in a much better customer experience for consumers and small businesses. Having this level of competition in customer acquisition is also exciting because it brings together “frienemies” — banks and fintech companies. Fintech companies, traditional banks, and challenger banks are all playing in this space and (hopefully) making each other better.
I’m also interested in seeing the push for consumers to own their data — this is an interesting case of bringing together regulators and some really interesting startups like Plaid, Quovo and Nova Credit. And those who are helping us all protect PII/data — things like VGS.
In non-fintech tech? I’m always most excited by the future of food. I don’t believe we’ll be eating animal products in 20 years, and I’m always interested in who’s out there building new products and tools for the food industry.
Who is a person in tech that inspires you? Why?
I’m inspired by so many people, it’s hard to pick one. But maybe I’d point to Shivani Siroya at Tala, since she’s in my industry and I’ve known her a long time. I’ve gotten to see her since the beginning, when she had a vision & traction but investors shied away, and getting to see her grow her business while maintaining that vision has been remarkable. I also admire Nicky Goulimis at Nova Credit for very similar reasons — she maintains a commitment to impact as they scale the number of financial institutions they work with.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into tech?
It’s trite, but having hustle is probably the most important quality if you’re looking to get into startups. Startup founders value getting things done (quickly, with minimal resources, *not* to perfection) above all else, so being able to make yourself slightly uncomfortable and cold emailing / asking your entire network for intros is really high value.