Meet Kelly Fryer. Connector Extraordinaire and one of the pivotal pieces of the backbone of the fintech ecosystem that is New York City. It is rare to spend time in the space and for Kelly’s name not to come up. When you think of people who provide true value to the ecosystem and give much more than they take, you think of Kelly. Over the last 4 years, Kelly has acted as the Program Director (ie COO) for the Barclays Accelerator New York, a top-tier FinTech accelerator for early-stage startups.
Every year Barclays Accelerator invests in 10 fintech companies and helps them get their businesses to the next level. With more than 170 alumni companies, the Barclays Accelerator is one of the strongest early-stage FinTech portfolios globally, with a current portfolio valuation of over $1.4 billion. With such an impressive portfolio, I knew it was time to highlight the incredible Kelly Fryer. Check out our chat below.
#TechTuesday Highlight #62: Kelly Fryer, Program Director, Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars
How/why did you get into your space?
I got into FinTech completely by happenstance! The 2008 financial crisis happened while I was in undergrad and I wanted to make sure I came out of school employable, so I picked Cost Accounting as my major. I was pretty close to graduation when I realized that being an auditor or an accountant was definitely not the life for me. Luckily though, Bloomberg LP hired me straight out of school to work in their Global Data department – I understood financial data and banking, so it worked out well. My job grew from data analytics on to managing special projects, specifically around using technology – like Machine Learning – to make teams more efficient.
The shift to focus on venture capital and startups was very intentional. I was graduating from my MBA, and while everyone around me was getting management consulting jobs and brand management roles, I knew I wanted to work hands-on with startup founders. My passion in life is helping others to reach their success, and I’ve always had a curiosity about entrepreneurship ever since I was little (fun fact: I used to make business plans for fun when I was 8 years old). So helping startup founders seemed like a perfect blend of the two. I connected with Techstars during school and was so driven by their founder’s first values. They just so happened to have a position open running their FinTech accelerator program in New York, and now I’m in my 4th accelerator class with the Barclays Accelerator, powered by the Techstars program.
I’m a big believer in timing when it comes to your career – the right thing will serendipitously come at the right time for you. Although, it’s never easy to be patient!
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
I help early-stage FinTech founders plug into a network of mentors, future customers, and investors so that they’re setup for success in growing their business. The reality is you need a strong network and knowledgeable guidance in order to build a successful startup, but for various reasons, many entrepreneurs don’t have access to either one. I see my job as surrounding founders with that community of experts – whether it be mentors who have been there before and can give you candid feedback or the bank that is a game-changer for your partnerships strategy.
My role is also very much at times a sounding board, a reality check, a shoulder to cry on (literally sometimes), and a devil’s advocate. Founders need someone in their corner who they can be completely open and vulnerable with to help navigate those tricky times and celebrate the big wins, and I love that I get to be that person for them.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
FinTech has seen a real evolution over just the past couple of years with large tech companies quickly coming into their space if you look obviously at the behemoths of Apple, Amazon, and Google. We’re in an era of “it’s all FinTech”; everyone is in the financial services game now. You’re seeing more and more niche products focused on their own small slice of the market as it becomes so difficult to differentiate in an ever-widen field. The trouble is that it also makes it significantly more challenging for any real winner to emerge.
Because of that, we’re now at this point where both sides really need each other. FinTechs need the incumbents and the incumbents need FinTechs. On one side, partnering helps early startups jump over the massive hurdles of distribution or capital, and on the other, it helps big companies get access to technologies that they don’t have the core competencies to build in house and new customer acquisition. It’s shifting the dynamics of the industry.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2020 (as it relates to your industry)?
I still think there are a lot of opportunities open with using alternative data sources for decision making. On the B2C side, that may be using someone’s Netflix account, school transcripts, social media usage, and other data points to build a credit history or make a lending decision. On the B2B side, that could be using media sentiment, environmental and safety records, or supply chain policies to assess risk and fraud.
From a broader standpoint, financial services and banking still have a lot of workflow and operational needs that can be improved by technology. AI and predictive analytics that can be applied to trading automations or lending models. Better customer management tools to more robustly understand a client’s product usage, needs, sentiment, etc. for better engagement and proactive marketing. Data management solutions to integrate siloed or inconsistent systems and enhanced data querying. Enterprise technologies like these may not be the sexiest tech out there but can have significant benefits in the financial world.
Who is a person that inspires you in the space and why?
Marla Blow – former Founder & CEO of FS Card and now at Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth. Marla raised over $30 Million in venture capital – part of the, unfortunately, small club of black female founders to raise over $1M – and over $150M in debt finance while running FS Card, and then sold the company in 2018. She is so open and honest about her experience building the company, and her story is very relatable and human – doing what a founder needs to do to keep their business afloat. Every time I speak with her, I’m instantly empowered and inspired to go do something big.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your space?
Keep at it! FinTech is not for those with thin skin. You have to deal with licensing, regulations, getting bank partners, raising capital. You’re going to hear a lot of no’s along the way. But, the ones that make it and do well, know how to be resilient & move beyond the no’s. They continue to listen to their customers and use them as their north star in order to build a valued product.
Anything else we should know about you or you want to include?
Applications are closing soon for the 2020 class of the Barclays Accelerator New York so be sure to apply ASAP. Request a 1:1 meeting with Kelly and her team today!
#barcaccel #businessunusual #Innovation #Technology #Startups #VentureCapital #Accelerator #fintechbankpartnership
Have thoughts on this week’s trends or questions for me or Kelly? Post your thoughts in the comment section or share them on Twitter. Please include the hashtag #techtuesday and mention me @ScarlettSieber! Until next week. 🙂