This week, I am talking to Marcia Chong, a woman on a mission to make financial services and capabilities attainable to all.
As an advisory board member to Village Capital, the vision and mission is close to my heart and I have always been impressed with Marcia’s ability to think outside of the box and continuously bring new and exciting perspectives into fintech. Since we caught up with Marcia last year, she led the Finance Forward US 2019 accelerator at Village Capital. Finance Forward US is an accelerator for early-stage companies solving challenges on financial health, economic mobility and community resilience in the US. One of the great aspects of the startups in Finance Forward is that they truly come from across the geographic landscape. In face, for Finance Forward US 2019, two south-Florida based companies, Xendoo and Worthy Financial, were selected by their peers to each receive $75,000. To have Florida-based companies participate and be the peer-selected companies, shows rising fintech leadership outside of the typical “hotspots” of NY, SF, and Boston.
This year, Marcia and the Village Capital team are back with Finance Forward US 2020 and applications are closing this week, May 8th. For all of you entrepreneurs out there, please be sure to apply here!
How/why did you get into tech?
I got into tech because I want to deploy money towards technologies addressing urgent global issues. I’m a Latinx immigrant and have lived across neighborhoods, cities, and countries where I’ve witnessed and experienced different levels of inequality. I wanted to make sure that communities are not overlooked and that they are an important piece of the story in shaping tech.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
In the tech world, I play the role of convener and facilitator of capital. I support startups and connect them to customers and early stage capital. This is important because investment in early stage entrepreneurs has become concentrated in a few people, places and ideas that make life better for the well off. Entrepreneurs need social capital, networks and support to grow. Ecosystem builders like Village Capital that find, train and invest in entrepreneurs are important in making sure we are not overlooking founders with great ideas.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2020 (as it relates to your industry)?
Very hard to choose one! Here are a few:
Collaboration between fintechs in the Americas: This has been on my sight since 2017 or so. 55% of the companies that participated in Finance Forward US 2019 were actively exploring expansion across the regions from a sales/business development perspective. Over the past couple of years, I worked with companies based in Latam/US exploring how to reach Latinx and other populations across the Americas. I also saw Latam companies feeling the need to travel to the US and Europe in order to raise seed-stage capital. My colleague Daniel Cossío recently wrote a playbook for fintech startups scaling to other countries in Latam. I’d love to explore this for fintechs that want to scale across regions.
Housing and homeownership: According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is no single county, metro area, or state in the U.S. where a full-time minimum-wage person could afford a two-bedroom rental. There are many other stats on housing challenges and financial health. I’d like to learn more about solutions that make housing options more affordable and accessible and about ones addressing biases in data. Also interested in solutions simplifying the homeownership process across all the people/entities involved. One of our Advisory Board members, Luge Capital noted that there are 10 entities, including buyer, seller, buying agent, selling agent, mortgage broker, lender, lawyer, appraiser, home inspector, and contractor.
Solutions for people as they age: According to the U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study by MetLife, 52% of employees at larger firms expect to postpone their retirement due to their financial situation, with the percentage of people rising each year. People need support addressing financial needs as they age as well as support managing the needs of their families.
Who is a person in tech that inspires you? Why?
Noramay Cadena from Make in LA and Toolbox LA inspires me. She is a national leader in tech and inclusion. Not only is she Latinx, she was a teen mom, engineer at Boeing, and now a VC with her own fund, incubator, and STEM foundation. She’s also humble and genuinely cares about uplifting others. We need more people like her building spaces to elevate others.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into tech?
My biggest piece of advice, especially for women and people of color, is to not be afraid to work through the “imposter syndrome” and to ask your mentors and peers for support. Imposter syndrome is something that can impede us from elevating ourselves and others who need to be a part of the system that supports us.
Another piece of advice is to find communities that seek to build and elevate you.