Hey, Andreas, how are you doing today?
I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
It’s our pleasure to have you. So happy that we got connected finally. Where are you based out of today?
Indeed, indeed. I’m based out of New York. The company is based out of New York, and I live in the city, too.
that you’re in the office now.
Andres Klaric (00:23.912)
I’m in the office. Yeah, this is the world headquarters. Yes.
Okay. I’m a big fan of context. I think whatever our lives are today, most of that is because there’s so much context that has happened in the past years, decade or whatever, and those events that has happened over the course of that time makes you whoever you are today. So talk to us about your background, where you’re from, your journey.
all of that stuff and what’s the earliest context you have of your life.
Andres Klaric (01:02.448)
Yeah, no, that’s a great question. We’re the sum of efforts, right? I’ve never seen myself as a self-made person whatsoever. I think there was a lot of sweat, tears, love that had to happen in order for us to have this conversation, right? So I was born in Tennessee, but I was raised my entire life in Bolivia, hence my accent.
I come from a family, my grandfather was kind of a race car driver for fun. My dad works at a dealership group here in the US and has been in the auto industry for a while. And my first job at a high school was selling cars. I essentially helped my parent, selling cars at a dealership in Nardou, Virginia. Then I spent 10 years in Wall Street investing in technical services. So I was a salesman.
Andres Klaric (01:59.376)
I know a thing or two about SaaS businesses. I think even before I went into private equity, I did work in investment banking. That’s kind of where I started my career. Our customers at that point were banks, so insurance, asset management companies. So it’s kind of the toughest type of customer you can have out there, because when you’re presenting to a banker,
on financials from a bank, a banker pitching to a bank, it’s a very distinct type of, the rigor is much higher. So I think at that point, I started to recognize the importance of technology and the importance of like, I mean, I went to college in the context of the financial crisis, right? So banks, I always top of mind, especially if you’re an immigrant, you also see banks as connectors, right?
Andres Klaric (02:53.344)
the money your parents sent to their loved ones back in Bolivia or anywhere else outside of cross-border payments. I’ve always been fascinated. It’s kind of a way of love. And that’s kind of like a little bit of the early days and what shaped the early days of my career.
Okay, thank you. What was growing up in Bolivia like?
I mean, Bolivia, it’s amazing to grow up in it. I was, I’m a late eighties baby. And growing up there in the nineties, it was pretty idyllic, I would say. I mean, we also have huge contrasts, right? So I do remember in the early nineties, having cholera was still a thing in Bolivia, right? So that was top of mind. It’s a country.
with big contracts from an income perspective. And just seeing that play out really marks you, right? Like, booms and busts, ups and downs of the democratic process, even the whole notion of a bank run, right? In the context that we are today, like, seeing bank runs there is like a very common occurrence.
or at least much more common than it is in the US. So that shapes your character. You’re much more, I would say, frugal. You kind of learn to appreciate all the things that you kind of take as a given here in the US. And I think that makes even more special the opportunity to live here, the opportunity to make your path here, because you do recognize that.
other geographies, you just don’t have the same set of opportunities. And I think coming to the U.S., being an American citizen, really opened a lot of doors for me throughout my career.
Yeah, I’m sure it is. And I think on the opportunity standpoint, it’s absolutely like second to none. There’s no place on the planet that provides you, especially immigrants people, same level of opportunities that US does. So how did you end up working at Wall Street?
I would say you always hear about people that are in that space, right? So very early on as a kid in high school, you have role models, either friends or family or friends of friends that end up working at a bank. And I thought, hey, like, that sounds like an amazing character building journey. You hear about how demanding the investment banking is.
You think I want to go through that level of pressure. And I mean, they always say, right, like pressure makes diamonds, right? Not that I turned out to be a diamond, but at least I went through the pressure process in terms of like building that and acquiring that toolkit to be a proficient participant in the financial market. I think that that was very important. I, I,
I think I’m part of that kind of last generation for which investment banking was the top desired job. When I think about folks that graduated two or three years after I graduated college, that’s when my tech started rising, right? So it was a different era, but I’m super happy that I got to do it. I think what banking was for me at that point, too, was…
did recognize the effect that it had on people. I mean, as I mentioned, post financial crisis, you saw how like the whole notion of our financial system collapsing really showed, I mean, we knew it, but it made it very tangible for everyone that having strong banks, a strong financial system was fundamental. So partaking in that industry and learning from that.
from like the best in class in that space was what I wanted to do. And it was, thank God the opportunity opened up and I was able to spend a couple years in that space.
Yeah, one thing that always fascinates me, and I kind of ask all my guests this question, like anybody that I know also has the same question, do you think that there needs to be a certain personality type in order to be a good investment banker? Do you think so? Like you need to have a certain trait or something? Like personality in terms of traits or something?
A good percentage what? Uh. No, I think you need. You need very distinct fellows are like it’s not. But. I do think that like you definitely need to be good at the stamina needs to be higher right? Like you are going to spend long grilling hours there. Um.
I used to not drink coffee, but my days of not drinking coffee were counted after I started banking. You need to be really eager and ready to kind of put the hours there. But I wouldn’t say that there’s a cookie cutter personality that works there.
There’s certain schools that like they tend to get more folks there. But I think it’s more aligned with, hey, usually people with, uh, they’re willing to spend this, this amount of hours usually signal that throughout their career and they end up having, having, having similar paths, right? Um, I do, I do think that the best advice to everyone is just to really
start early as early as you can and invoice to the universe pretty much that that’s kind of the path you want to go through. For me like starting late in high school early in college setting up that path was fundamental right so there is no such thing as starting too early and making it a goal that everyone
that’s what you want to achieve. And I think that probably applies to any career out there and not only to investment banking.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I am from product world, so obviously a lot of the interest lies in SaaS and all of that. And you mentioned something about investment in SaaS, something like that, right at the beginning. So where did you invest, what product did you invest in and what exactly was the criteria you have in mind when you start investing in those companies? Like what were you looking for in particular to invest?
Yeah, I even to this day, I still invest but like, I would say, when I was more institutional working for funds, I had the opportunity to like invest across the, the, a variety of industries I first started with in the commodity space. So I got to see like multiple products and projects across the world. I looking at investing in sugar technology.
land farming and on the tech space I got to see a plethora of distinct products like business services, searching businesses and the I would say switching from more tangible industries more like heavy industrial or like big to technology businesses at first it seems
What is it here? And if anything, investing in technology is quite amazing because you have all the data and everything is there, right? Like all the metrics, everything is measured in technology. So you can actually slice and dice things in a way that you can add to another industry, right? Like for example, if you’re investing in real estate or let’s say farming, you can get some data on like what the yields are for that particular crop in that particular.
piece of land, but it has some historical information on rain and water and all that. But for technology, you just get everything. You know how many dollars you spent on something. You know how many leads you got. You know how much they’re paying. Everything in there is so granular. So your ability to value that business or the tools you have in place make it…
much, the context is much richer. And I think that investing in tech, it becomes much more technical, much more, I mean, you know that everyone else has that information. So it’s building an entire idea around the opportunity besides all the data that you have that it becomes increasingly important versus in other fields. It’s
cutting the data and trying to get extra data. But here is more, you have the data, what can we say that is differentiated versus all the folks that have the same amount of data points.
Yeah, do you think it’s easier to find better deals in technology compared to other hard core industries? Like it’s easier to invest in these companies?
I think it depends. It depends on how, because as technology is getting more complex, there, I think we’re starting to get, uh, it’s not only finance, but it’s also a highly technical view on lenses that like an engineer lens on what you’re actually investing on. So it’s, it’s having the, when you think about AI and everything that is happening today, it’s not.
it’s almost when you bring in someone that understands hardware, right? Like it’s getting so technical that it’s not only a financial analysis, but also how good is this technology, right? Um, and that is adding a layer of complexity that, that I think makes, uh, it still, it still keeps it at the art, uh, for that level, right? I also do think that like investing as a whole,
it has probably had access to some of the technology that we’re seeing as disrupted today for much longer, right? Like when you think about hedge funds and all of them, they’ve been using this, but like in a very proprietary way, right? Like they just don’t tell you what type of technology they’re using, right? It’s a closed garden on how they invest. And now we’re seeing this more B2C like chats and all of this. But I think that a lot of those…
items of technology, of course, in distinct ways, had already been adopted in different flavors across the financial industries.
Yeah, do you think AI is going to help investor investment funds invest smarter or something like that?
To the extent that they can develop their own view and use it as a differentiation, yes. But I do think that if they all have the same set of tools, I do think that that kind of commoditizes, right? So I imagine most of them are spending a lot of time in developing internal tools that really gives them an edge.
Because otherwise, it kind of becomes commoditized. And you don’t, I do imagine that across boardrooms around the world, like the idea is how do we use this and how do we get an edge from this in ways that no one else can.
Yeah, have you seen any AI startup so far, because it’s just like a lot of noise, a lot of things that are going on in that particular industry. Have you seen any particular startup that caught your eye that you think, oh yeah, that’s the one that is a good investable business in AI space?
Yeah, I have to admit, I mean, you see all this news, right? And if there’s something that happens in your founder journey, and I don’t know if you ever heard the analogy of the, the hedgehog and the fox. I think most want every, not everyone, but I think I used to pride myself for considering, considering more of a fox. They try to be like, really know a lot about it. Know very little, but a lot of, about a lot of things.
I think when you become a founder, you become much more of a hedgehog. I mean, you need to keep that fox on, but you become solely focused on your business. So of course you need to pay attention to what’s happening in AI because otherwise you’re going to get disrupted. But as far as really scouting the entire universe of AI, I will be doing a disservice of saying, hey, I thought this was cool. Of course, I am using ChatGPT. I’m using all the 50 flavors of chatbots out there.
to make our lives easier, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you, yes, this obscure company out of X City is really the one that’s going to kill it. I wouldn’t be the most qualified person to do that.
Yeah, one thing that I think, and exactly the same thing that you mentioned from the founder standpoint, a lot of the founders, they’re working on some amazing ideas. Like some of them are working on blockchain, and we’re gonna come to that later on. But a lot of them are working on blockchain, a lot of them are working on some other supply chain products or something like that. And now it’s just like since the start of ChatGPT and all this noise, like whatever is happening, and everybody’s aware of that, a lot of the people are just…
They’re trying to figure out a way to incorporate AI into their product. They actually think that if they do not figure out a way of doing that, they’re just going to get obsolete or something like that. I don’t believe that is true in many cases. What do you think about that?
I think in our space, we need to definitely have a view, a distinct view on our customers. If we don’t have a view, then we are at the mercy of the competition. And I think it’s very important to have a perspective on how we think AI. Of course, I do think that in certain categories, there’s probably less need of AI.
for it right away. But not paying attention. I mean, we are across as a civilization, right? Like I do think that, I mean, I do remember when a couple of years everyone was talking about crypto and all of those things, but I think there’s a wide recognition. I wouldn’t call it unanimous consensus, but I think it’s fair to…
label the what we’re seeing in AI as something that it’s going to be groundbreaking and our lives in the next five to ten years, not sooner, are bound to see significant changes, hopefully most on the positive end, but we just don’t know, right?
Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned crypto. So one thing that I always wanted to ask from somebody, especially who’s worked on financial services, who have been part of the Wall Street, what was a sentiment in Wall Street in general about crypto when the whole thing came out and then Bitcoin hit like all time high? Because we get to read a whole lot of news and this is like people are not in favor of crypto. A lot of people are not in favor of crypto.
So what do you think about that? What was the sentiment was?
I mean, I was not there. I was not part of Wall Street, I would say, when Bitcoin hit that all time high. But what I recall, in general, I think it was perceived as a joke. And at least up until I left Wall Street three years ago. So of course, I keep an eye on it. I live in New York.
It’s not that you cannot ignore and you have friends and everything. I do think that peak attention was the last two or three years have been like the, the all time high of people actually thinking about it. And the problem was that applications never caught up with, with the actual promise of, of, of, of crypto as a whole. I still think that there’s,
plenty of space for it, right? Like when you think about what central banks are doing and like just reality is that there is a space and like the whole promise of a currency for the internet, I still deeply believe that there’s a use case there.
God knows what the final result will be. But I think a baseline has been determined on what banks want to do with it. Of course, the promise of blockchain and private blockchains continues to be a prioritization. And you saw a couple of hedge funds, private equity folks delve into this space.
some of the media in the last 12, 18 months has made it still a little bit toxic of a topic for folks to talk about, but the use cases remain there. I mean, going back to the things that we were discussing earlier, if you are an immigrant, you definitely recognize, the American financial system is so much more sophisticated
most if not all of the other financial systems out there, like there’s very few exceptions that perhaps surpass the US system that you understand the need for a decentralized solution.
Yeah, exactly. And one thing that you mentioned actually was like cross-border payments or something like that. I think that is, to a greater extent, I think that is one of the bigger use cases of crypto is gonna be. This is just like, you’re not sending money or something like that, because it’s like, it’s a pain in the ass, you know, if you just have to transfer like, I don’t know, half a million or something, legally, that’s just like the paperwork’s gonna blow your mind out. Okay, that’s good to know.
I want to pivot a little bit to what you’re doing today, because you obviously left Wall Street three years ago, something like that. So what are you doing today? What keeps you busy now?
Yeah, so I’m the co-founder of Fuse. I started this business alongside a classmate of mine that I met at Harvard 80 years ago. We stayed in touch and decided to join forces to build Fuse as the name of the company. So what Fuse does is a loan origination system. It’s essentially everything, whenever you’re applying for a loan, that entire application process is powered
by an orchestration layer that in the industry is called an LOS or loan origination system. So we kind of, we landed on this space. We first started at B2C, a business to direct to consumer business, and our partners started asking us what type of technology we were using, right? And the more they asked us, the more we realized that there was a pressing need for lenders out there to have better technology.
And what were the key things that were pressuring people to adopt better technology solutions was the emergence of new solutions out there that were not compatible with the loan origination systems that they were utilizing. And the adoption of new technology was being slowed down by this gatekeeper, so to speak.
So we thought, hey, like, wouldn’t it be great if we share the orchestration layer that we built, meaning this LOS, and make it accessible to other lenders, right? So we started signing up lenders, and at that point we realized, hey, like, we have way more revenue than we’ve ever had in our prior business in terms of signing up folks here. I think we should definitely pivot this business in that direction. Of course, you cannot do
a B2C, a B2B play. So we had to be brutal and I tell our board and our investors that that was the direction that the business was going to take. And it’s been an amazing journey. Of course, we would have never ever realized the opportunity in the LoS space had we not built that B2C business before. So it was all that those learnings were huge in terms of being.
practitioners in the lending space before, instead of just building something and hope that they will come, we actually built something that we found useful and we were lucky that plenty of other lenders found it useful too.
Yeah. Did you guys raise money or something? Because you mentioned investors and partners. How much did you raise and when did you do that? So, I’m going to start with a question. So, I’m
Yeah, we raise venture money.
We raised multiple investors, venture partners in the city. We don’t disclose them out, but we raised millions of dollars in terms of, yeah.
Yeah, because I think one other thing that we were going through during that fundraiser ground, especially right now, and maybe you can say Q3 of last year up until right now, funds are drying up. People are not willing to invest anything. So it has to be prior than that. On the same B2C business and then transferring and pivoting to B2B business, when did you actually realize, okay, B2C is like, no.
this is not something for us and I really love when you mentioned that you guys have to be brutally honest with yourselves and you have to cut it off, like okay, this is not working regardless of do we love it, do we not love it, that’s a different debate altogether but from a business standpoint we just need to pivot right away. So that was I think a great, great initiative but how did exactly that happen? So you guys were working so hard on B2C and all of a sudden you just like shift to B2C, yeah. So can you walk us through that?
Well, yeah, so first and foremost, like you have this moment in which you recognize that there’s a pain point that multiple lenders have. Then you unearth this piece of technology that you didn’t know existed. Right? Like I, frankly speaking, even after almost 10 years of Wall Street, there’s parts of that value chain that just by virtue of being like really
deep in the weeds, you realize there’s this part that is fundamental. It’s kind of like putting apart the engine of a car and not an electrical car. We’re talking about internal combustion engine car. Yeah. And we discovered, it’s like, wow, this part of the lending process is fundamental. Especially on…
The mechanical one. Yeah. OK.
on this new digital era in which speed is of the essence, and having the best tools and adopting and iterating and testing and doing all those things is fundamental and just pretty much stable stakes. How can we actually do those things? So finding out that we could actually build a better layer that the incumbents was a nice surprise. We didn’t…
We just run into that. We were lucky that the first set of lenders that we were working with appreciated that technology and gave us that vote of confidence. And it is a snowball effect because then you figure out that a good number of the lenders that you saw that first batch of technology, no other folks, and most of them kind of use similar technology.
just kind of finding out who’s using horses and like selling them cars, right? And that’s, that was that process, I would say. I mean, there’s a lot of distractions and temptations along the way. I mean, there were opportunities to expand our consumer business with other set of technologies. But we thought like, hey, what is the business that we can build?
that it’s going to be long-term sustainable, it’s gonna create the most value for consumers, and it’s ultimately going to create the most sustainable success for investors and ourselves.
Yeah, I’m sure of that. One thing that pops to my mind is, so usually when you start building out any product, there’s two major parts of that. So one is obviously the validation. So you kind of validate the idea, and which still is a huge pain point. If you talk to any founder, I think, especially anybody who’s starting out for the very first time, validation is like a nightmare for a lot of people. And second thing is, because to a good extent,
people stay away from validation mainly because they get married to the idea and they think, oh, okay, if the idea does not work, that means they just need to figure out another way. They just need to pivot. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable pivoting. So that is one. The other thing was finding the right audience. Figure out the right people, figure out the right customer, and you just build one thing for them rather than just straying around and building something for everybody. Because I think a lot of people that do-
they’re building products today, what they do is they try to build a product for everybody and eventually end up building it for nobody. So yeah, that’s how it works, right? So, you know, now that it’s been a couple of years, and I think in our audience, there’s a lot of first-time entrepreneurs, first-time founders, you know, young people who are coming at a corporate job or something and they’re thinking of starting their own business. So,
Yeah, no. Yeah.
What advice do you have for them when it comes to starting a business, especially when it comes to finding the product market early on and then finding the right audience?
Yeah. Yeah. I think that there’s a lot to be said about finding a right co-founder, but we can expand on that later. But I do think that the best advice for some might be the worst advice for others. But to be specific, I think it’s critical to realize that ideas are super cheap.
Right? Like you can, you can come up with ideas, a billion ideas per like in a short span. So being, having a process and sticking to like that discovery process and, and, and getting conviction and being brutally honest with yourself. Right? Like I grew up with parents that were drilling on me, the whole concept of like, you can lie to others, but not to yourself. So having that
inherent kind of smell test in which you just know that something is not going to work. But follow a methodical process, right? Wake up every day. What are the key questions that you want to answer for that particular business? Launch websites. Really like…
Launch as many dummy websites as possible. We were in stealth mode for a couple months and we launched a bunch of businesses You can do all of that and think like what is what the what does the customer want? Versus what do I think the customer wants so you can go from both places of a bill what they want or like See if they want it right and try to do The clothes the cheapest MVP you could do of each of each idea you have and
Get to meet that customer. Don’t have any assumptions. Just really go and meet them and meet as many of them and follow a process in which you start reading your ideas. Like how’s the go-to market motion? How are your email campaigns working? What is your LinkedIn outreach working? All of those things, little by little, translate into like, oh, what is the signal that I’m getting for each category? Because…
You might think, hey, I want to do a copy of this very successful company. They just raised a series area or series B, but maybe that market motion is already gone, right? But there is the, there, there are this other avenues that you need to explore and like, be brutally honest with yourself. Sometimes, uh, the idea that you like the most is not the one that is going to work. And then you discover other ideas in that process. Uh, but I cannot stress enough the importance of
process, right? And having a method to like the madness the starting of businesses, right? Like that is key setting like timelines on when do I need to make the decision by, right? Founders need to make decisions and they raise capital or the whole journey is just to make decisions and not delaying them.
And I think you totally agree to that. One thing that you mentioned around the ideas is like ideas are cheap. Executions are like probably worth everything. So you can have a great, great idea and toward execution probably gonna end up with nothing. Contrary to that, you can have a mediocre idea with great execution, you’re probably gonna be worth millions, if not billions. And I think execution matters a lot, right?
Yeah. And being the right zip code, frankly speaking, being, and it goes back even earlier in the conversation, we were talking about it with the sum of efforts, like a good market, it’s undeniably the most important thing you can pick. Like you can put, I mean, it’s kind of, to use a soccer analogy, you can put Leonardo Messi to play golf, but like it’s still like
It’s not where he’s going to be successful, right? So having the right market and just following that fast water of a good market is fundamental. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. If you’re in the right market and you’re on top of that, you combine right team and right execution, that is dynamite. If you get the market wrong, it’s very hard to recover from that.
Yeah, 100%. I think a lot of things that you mentioned is spot on. So a lot of the founders who end up doing something good, if you talk to them, in the essence, they are like the scene making machines. They’re just like, they wake up every day, and their entire job is to make decisions. And they just do not delay them. It’s just not like, OK, I just need to let somebody go, and I’m going to just wait like three months before I can realize, do I need to let them go? They just cut it off right away.
just go. And the other thing was picking the right market. So people are brutally honest about that. OK, we just need to pick the market. These are the people we’re going to target. These are the people we’re not going to target. That’s out of the question for us. OK, there could be a billion dollar potential out there or something, but we’re just going to stay focused. But the most important thing, I think, that you mentioned for any founder who is listening to this thing is self-actualization. A lot of people do not have that.
People kind of stay in that weird limbo, so to speak. They have weird beliefs, so to speak. They think whatever the problem that they’re solving is what everybody wants, but the reality is the problem that you’re solving is probably not a problem for anybody else. It’s just probably your problem that you’re trying to solve. Again, even if it is, it’s not a big enough problem that people are gonna pay you for it.
And a lot of founders that they just go from working at corporate or whatever, build something, spend crazy amount of effort without realizing what they’re doing in that point in time and they’re just like, oh, we just failed. So they just go back to the same job thing again.
Yeah. Yeah. I think I do think that a lot of people one of the reasons why.
As a founder, you need to embrace failure. And you need to really recognize that you’re not always going to be right. But you shouldn’t be terrified by the idea of failure. I wouldn’t necessarily celebrate every failure, but at least trying is very important. And I think that a lot of people that have the aptitude to do something, they don’t have the attitude to really
push for things, right? Like because they are so scared of failure. And I think once you fail, it’s a very liberating feeling because you’ve actually gotten to see like your biggest fear and it’s, that was it. Like, and then you realize you’re, you’re survived, you’re still alive. You still have the people that love you. The idea, the whatever business or whatever, whatever it was that you thought would be failure.
it ends up being kind of, okay, it’s how fast do I get from this? How fast am I going to react? What are my learnings? And what can I do better from this point onwards? And I do hope that people listening to this is that they know that even when they get to that past that point in which they actually completely feel that horrible feeling that failure could be, then you actually
stand up and there’s the next day and you survive, right? Like it’s, and you actually come back stronger and with a renewed sense of purpose and what are the things that matter in life.
Yeah, totally agree to that. You mentioned one thing that I’m recently, I think somebody wrote a newsletter or something like that. So we’re just like going through that. And then been thinking about the same topic for quite some time. And that was founded the right co-founder for your business or for your startup. So I saw that not only you guys say that you guys are co-founder of Fuse, but you’re also a co-CEO. That’s like the first time I’ve heard that.
So talk to us a little bit about, firstly, how to find the right co-founder for yourself, because that’s like unbelievably important. Because I think of co-founders like, these are the people you’re gonna go to war with. You’re gonna go to trenches with these people, so you need to have the right chemistry, the right level of trust. You just need to be aware of all sorts of things with those people. So question one would be, how do you find a great co-founder?
We’re putting exactly the cheat sheet, the code sheet that there is.
I do think that in our space, we need to make it good software. You need to have someone that has technical capabilities. And Microfonder Mark, he’s phenomenal at that. So I do think that there’s a demand for having that clear, separate set of hats that everyone wears. So when we were the site, I started on my own. But when Mark joined…
I saw it was a no brainer for me to like, to like, because our roles were so distinctly separate and that I think like him leading one side of the house and me leading the other just just made complete sense. What I was very happy with Mark is just the fact that like, there’s an absolute respect and trust for each other that that that
that you learn with time, right? Like we met eight years ago, we started working on this two years ago, but there is, from a professional standpoint, there’s like a clear separation between like our personal and professional lives. And I think that what we bring to the table is an absolute transparency, right? Like I do think that what it helped us is that we knew each other, but we were not best friends, right? Like I think it would be very difficult.
to start a business with your significant others or are we very close friends? Because telling each other the truth translates into like, but we have this friendship or we’re family or we love each other. Having that distance really helps us being able to like always be transparent and put the company first because at the end of the day, the company is the vessel for our dreams and we need to make sure that this vessel
continues in the right direction. In terms of the division roles, as mentioned, is key. And I think investors look at that too. They don’t want to cook in the kitchen. And the fact that there’s like, that really helped us. And if anything, during the pivot process, that was kind of like, hey, we’re just doing different business. How are we gonna do everything else?
And I do think it’s an opportunity to fall in love again. Right? Like you’re starting a new business. It’s kind of you renew your vows as an organization. You say like, hey, and I told Mark, right? I wouldn’t do this with anyone else. Like I building in our business and it’s hard enough. If I’m going to do a business, it’s just going to be with you, so to speak. And having that renewed a sense of purpose on thinking, hey, like, I have the right co-founders.
is a huge sense of relief. I sleep like a baby because I know I have the privilege of working with someone of his capabilities.
Yeah, I totally agree to that. How many co-founders do you think a startup founder needs to have? Is it like two, three, or as many?
I just know the two co-founders set up and I think it has worked well for us. That’s personal preference. You always hear about great outcomes for solo founders. It’s hard to say. For that one, I do think that…
probably better to have a co-founder than running a solo. But that probably comes from my own bias and experience, the same way when you think about organizing a family, I have a sister and I just see a world in which I raise a family and I only have an only child, but that’s just my own bias on how I was raised. So I do think that it comes down to preference, but from what I’ve read,
I think the stats are clear that it is better to have at least one co-founder from a mental health standpoint. I think from an outcome standpoint, I saw some stats, I don’t remember perfectly, but it ends up being just slightly or just almost a wash between one and two.
Yeah, you mentioned mental health, and I think, and I see actually a lot of founders suffering from mental health. I’ve been a victim of that. Not a victim, but somebody who’s been going, who went through all of that as well, because there’s so much pressure, there’s so much that you need to do, and it kinda gets lonely. That’s the nature of the job is. So compared to your previous job, because that was like a difficult job to have, right? Difficult hours and stuff like that.
So which job is like more challenging? The startup that you’re working at now or the Wall Street from a mental health perspective?
I do think that being a founder is harder, but at least the level of satisfaction and I mean it’s a quantum higher, right? It’s multiple times the level of it is your baby, right? So it comes with its pros and cons. But I do think that like I’m glad.
I went through that journey because it prepares you mentally to handle situations that are more stressful and require a distinct set of maturity. But I think the most important thing, even if you’re staying in Wall Street and you’re never finding the business, is staying in touch with family, right? Because that is your biggest support group, right? Either your partners, your friends. But most probably, like…
siblings, family, that is your biggest source of support. And they’re always there, right? Like they’re the constant. And having them really makes everything possible. We’re in this journey of life. And sometimes we forget that it is the people.
that we meet along the way that makes us who we are. The businesses will come and go, and so are the people, but the experiences, those connections, the love and joy that we get from meeting other humans, it’s probably the most important part of that journey. And the mental health, I think it’s a byproduct of how good those human connections are.
And sometimes when founders get a little more on the blue side of things, I think it’s because it might be a little self-absorbed by the roles. And reality is we all have this beautiful thing called time, and we can allocate those five, three minutes to go home and remind yourself that those human connections still exist.
Agreed. That’s so good to hear that, you know, especially on the co-founder side that you kind of have a great friend and a partner, you know, who’s running with the business. Coming to the financial industry, actually. So how do you guys plan to disrupt this whole traditional lending industry, so to speak, with like your next gen?
you know, loan origination system, LOS, like how do you guys plan on doing that?
Yeah. So obviously we have a mission, right? And our mission is to like really, uh, I mean, humans, like in the relationship with money is, it’s, it’s long, it’s complex. And it capital, like it’s the blood work of everything we know, right? Like capitalism is, it’s, it,
For all the pros and cons, it’s a wonderful creator of well-being for humans. Just see what everything has happened in the last 200, 300 years. In capitalism, it’s pretty much the engine behind innovation and all of that. So banks are those microcosms of the economy. Depending on who they lend to, they’re throwing rockets into the high
those particular spaces in which they have influence. So if they do not have the accurate technology, they are not going to be able to serve their customer basis, which could be companies or individuals. So for us, we think that by virtually providing them better technology, the financial system is better off. Like it brings efficiencies and it lowers the cost of doing business for them. And at the same time, it enables folks to get much
better clarity on like, am I going to be approved? And it makes the dynamism of the system much better. We do think that like the US is a natural place to start. I mean, when you think about all the geographies, some of them like they never had in Loess so they’re starting from the advantage of like starting from zero, but at the same time being able to get better technology. Whereas the US is more in a situation is mixed, right?
They were at the forefront, but now the technology is a little bit behind in certain relative to other geographies. But we think that there are certain angles in which we have a unique claim to that particular real estate. So in the consumer lending categories, the speed is of the essence. So a product enables lenders to lend much.
in a much more efficient fashion, right? It enables them to access more integrations. It enables them to like customize the views that they have much better. It also empowers non-technical people, which is very important, right? In the economy that we live today, reality is you’re not gonna double your number of engineers in a year, right? So, and guess what? The banks are not only competing with Facebook and Google for…
for engineers, the wave is moving more in the direction that technology talent is gonna get more expensive. So having those teams internally becomes, it’s very important to make the work that they do much more tactical versus solving the technical debt that the financial institutions have accumulated. So it’s much better to bring in expertise, but expertise that it…
that enables you to adopt other technologies that doesn’t add to your cause, but just creates an opportunity to be at the forefront, be more efficient, be more customizable, be much more flexible.
Okay, amazing. How many banks do you guys have on the platform? Like the one that you know working with you?
Well, we have multiple banks, finance companies, spin techs. It’s only the US, right? But we’re super happy with what they are. They have distinct flavors of lending that they do. And the reality is, from a growth standpoint, we’re doubling pretty much every quarter, if not faster than that.
Amazing. Wow. Do you think like there are some banks out there or financial institutions out there that see you guys as a threat in some way?
I mean, of course I would love to be a threat, but I think we’re at that stage in which they have their own set of problems and their other priorities. But of course we are confident that we’ll make our own impact. But I do think at this point it will be unnecessary boasting to see that everyone is losing their sleep over us. But of course our intention and our ambition is to do so.
Yeah, that was just a fun question I thought because you know a lot of the time you know you do something That’s where the banking there are a few people that are on your side And there are a few people who always think that you know there’s gonna be a threat or something like that But that will be a great problem to have for you, right? Yeah
Yeah, exactly. I want them to lose, whenever they’re losing their sleep, it’s because I’m starting to sleep better.
Absolutely, what a great conviction to have. A little off topic from banking standpoints, especially with the rise of cryptocurrencies, the blockchain technologies, how do you see the impact on traditional lending practices and how you guys at Fuse are going to adapt these technologies or changes? Or do you guys have any plans of adopting?
you know, blockchains or something.
I think blockchain for sure, there’s an opportunity there, right? You would do it at the service to yourself, but you don’t think about those things as a potential use. I think on the crypto side, it’s a whole different level. But our tool in itself, it’s agnostic. If you’re, I mean, you could be lending someone buying a boat, someone buying a car, someone getting a student loan, someone getting a commercial loan.
um, lending against a portfolio, uh, if we are stocks or portfolio, uh, uh, uh, alternative assets, it’s something that is certainly our solution can power.
Okay, that’s helpful. One thing that you know that I recently come across was around security and privacy and all of that. Especially in cyber security incident that’s happening in FinTech industry. So what are you guys doing in order to make sure that there are whatever cyber security problems that are out there in FinTech, you guys can solve that. How do you guys take care of that?
I think we give lenders the access to the best technology they want to use. So our LOS, this orchestration layer that I mentioned, think about it like an app store or your phone. You can actually use best-in-class lenders have access to all the technology they want and to actually own the relationship with all these vendors in such a way that they can adopt it, they can test it.
the highest level of security. At the more basic level, of course, as an organization, these are table stakes where SOC 2 compliant, type 1 and type 2. That enables us to serve this customer base that it’s a multi-billion asset that they’re holding in the multi-billions of dollars.
Yeah, do you guys have any plan of coming out of the US and like probably expanding it to all over the world?
There’s been conversations, obviously like the US in itself is a massive market, so we will pay attention to the space, but the reality is that the technology doesn’t recognize borders, right? So I think that it’s something that next time we speak, probably we’ll have some announcements there, but for the time being, we’re very focused on the US.
Sorry, you broke up there. I couldn’t hear you.
Okay, so I’m saying is there any announcement that you would like to share right now? Or we just have to wait for the next time? Okay.
No, nothing. No big announcements. We’ll wait for the next time.
You know, one thing that I wanted to know, in the moment that you said you were working in FinTech, so one thing that I wanted to know from personal, you know, very selfish reasons, this industry, I think, financial industry, is, FinTech industry is due some major disruption that that needs to happen, especially from the technological standpoint. Something like Uber did with taxis, or A&B and B did with the real estate, and you know.
Not really, it’s more like…
Yeah, it’s more like a hotel industry or whatever you call it, hospitality industry, yeah. So do you think Fuse is positioning itself for such a potential shakeup, where you guys are going to disrupt the whole FinTech lending industry?
I mean, we do have the ambition to like have a meaningful impact in this space, right? It’s a multi-billion dollar market. The technology, it’s everything now, right? It almost feels like an unnecessary thing to say, right? But in the same way that other elements, technologies and everything, right? So it’s…
Lenders need to have a strategy around it. It’s core to who they are. And as automation and efficiencies become top priority and they already are, adopting solutions like ours is something that’s going to fuel this entire system. When you think about core, when you think about payments, when you think about LoSs, all this, these are like trillions of dollars in tech spend that we’re thinking about. So.
We certainly do have that vision that our goals, the LOS space is a beautiful access point into a very large set of opportunities. And like tech spend in the financial sector is a gigantic opportunity. So the only thing is that I would say, caution against comparisons with those, the industry you mentioned, is how regulated the space is, right? So…
the speed of innovation is a little bit harder. One thing is taxi medallions, but very different is Basel II, right? It really takes time. And you need to be patient. It’s a long game here. But we’re privileged and lucky to be serving this space. And we look forward to everything we can bring to our clients.
Yeah, is there anybody else who’s doing exactly the same or somewhat of the same work out there in the industry, like your closest competitor? Or you guys are the sole player in the industry, at least for now.
I mean, there’s legacy players out there in incumbents that we’re trying to disrupt, but we would like to believe that we have a very differentiated view and that little by little they will start paying attention. And hopefully, for the better of our clients and industry, that they start copying the things that we’re doing because it’s really, it would help the industry as a whole. I mean…
You want to have your personal impact, but at the same time, if we think that the things that we’re doing are when people start following through, it’s going to be for the better, for the improvement of the experience for everyone out there. Right. Like not only like financial institutions, but like all the customers that are served by them.
Yeah. How do you measure success for yourself and for your company?
For myself, I’m better than I was yesterday. Simple as that. I am the only benchmark. From an early stage, when I was a young kid, I do remember you need to be just the better version of yourself than you were yesterday. And for a business, it is key metrics. I don’t think we’re too much of a special sauce, but it’s very important to like the
the level of satisfaction of our clients, the quality of the product that we deliver, and the impact that our product is having in the end customers that they serve. I think those are key KPIs that we are obsessed with.
Okay, again, very personal question. Why do you guys don’t have a huge social media presence? Like, why is that not a preference? Especially nowadays, especially in 2023, yeah.
Yeah, it’s that’s that’s probably announcement that’s about to change. I do think we do have. I come from finance, right? So very media shy like don’t talk to anyone that kind of stuff. So that’s something that we decide that we’re changing. And we some of the things that we will not do as much, for example, as we try to put our engineers on.
not to put much on LinkedIn, right? Just to make sure that just the talent doesn’t go away. And like, but in general, I think that you’re gonna see a lot of changes there because I think it does help us spread the gospel of fields and the technology that we’re building in there.
Yeah, how big of a team that you guys have for engineering and everybody else included.
It’s around 20 people that we have.
Everybody’s in the US.
We’re distributed all sorts of places.
Okay, totally. Okay, so one question, which is one of my favorite as well. How do you build a great team? Because part of being a founder is you need to hire right people, you need to find smart people, and you need to let go of the people that you’re not good or comfortable with. So how do you guys build a team that you’re so happy with and you guys have seen really great success early on?
I think once you take the venture route, you have this broad recognition that you’re shooting to the moon. You’re not building a small business that it’s going to cash. It’s not a lifestyle business. Once you choose to go the venture route, you are trying to build a multi-billion dollar organization. And in order to do so, in the very beginning and even later stages, I think you have to build a mentality that…
uh, we’re, you’re building, uh, our decision of that scope and size and that you require people that are, that are signed up for that. Right. So going back to the banking days, right. It’s, uh, it’s that type of, uh, high stamina, put in the hours, be efficient, communicate well and that they have that alignment and that desire to make a massive dent in the universe.
That’s the type of folks that you get. I agree with you. It’s very important to communicate transparently with folks and be very honest about the ones that are good fit and the ones that probably are not gonna work here. But it is key to make that distinction from very early on in your journey of what type of speed of organization we’re going to be and what type of people can move at that speed.
right? Because that’s the goal and what scale you want to get to. You can build a small business that is highly profitable, but it’s more of a lifestyle business. We are just not a lifestyle business.
Yeah, absolutely. I think one other thing that I wanted to share, especially when it comes to hiring first few employees, first five employees or something like that. So a lot of the founders that I work with, they’re like, we’re like solo entrepreneurs. We’re just bootstrapping every single thing. And there’s this weird notion going on in the market is if you’re bootstrapping a startup,
That means you cannot find a good talent. Why you cannot find a good talent is because you just obviously cannot pay for them. And it’s just like, you know, people have this thing like so twisted in their mind, especially founders, first time founders, that they don’t realize the importance of having a great first five hires or something like that. Like they actually think that they can find a mediocre debt or something like that, just because they do not have enough money and they are not willing to give enough equity or like whatever.
So they find or they hire somebody who is mediocre person, mediocre dev that they’re not happy with from day one, but they hire him regardless of that. And then the part that they build is a subpar product. And then later on they get to realize that they made a big mistake. So one thing that I want to learn from you is when you start out a business and you’re low on cash, how do you attract
great employees, superstars or something.
I mean, it sells, right? So it’s the same thing. I do the diabetes, finance, and legal side of the house. So if you cannot convince other people to join you, you’re not gonna be able to sell anything, right? So a business lifeblood is their ability to convince other people to either buy your product, buy your vision, or buy the concept that you’re, or the strategy and all those things, right?
I started selling very young in my life when I was 18, 19 years old as a car salesman. So it’s very important to articulate, convey, and always have that mindset that you need to convince people. It’s very important. And not taking them for granted. Employees, your loved ones. That goes back to… I mean, I do wake up every day thinking that…
that you need to kind of earn the trust of people again. And like, of course you’ve invested in relationships again, but you need to always be kind of reiterating that vision, telling them why is it that you’re doing what you’re doing and kind of show that gratitude that they’ve chosen you as, because they could be doing a billion other things, right? So, but at a very basic level,
just if you’re gonna hire people, you should really look very hard in the mirror too. And it’s, am I making a mistake? Am I being exciting enough? It’s probably a lot of it could just be a signal that the space that you’re looking at might not be interesting either.
So we actually have a ritual on the podcast. Since the first episode of the podcast, so what we do is we ask all our guests a question, and we don’t share that with the audience right away for our next guest. So every single time there’s a guest, we ask a question for the next guest without knowing who the next guest is gonna be.
All right. So the question that the previous guest left for you is, if you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
It will have to be anywhere in the world.
I think this one, this is a… I’ll probably pick a place that has high traffic. So I know that the highest traffic airport on earth is Atlanta, right? So I definitely will ensure that it’s somewhere that it will be seen. But why, and I love planes too, so that’s why it came down to that. And what would it say in that?
let’s say, the life just keeps getting better. I do think that I remember when I reflect on being younger, I never look at it as in like, oh, it was much better. I do think that there’s a beautiful nature of the present moment that I hope I never lose, but.
The best moment you’re in is the moment you’re in. And being able to be alive and enjoy this and have this shared experience is just, I don’t know, that in itself, I’m always marveled by just how amazing the opportunity to just be sharing this wonderful experience with seven, eight billion people on Earth and just making it.
all work for all of us and that something along the lines of, I just don’t have a specific saying but something that will celebrate the simplicity of the now.
Thank you, Mudassir. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for the opportunity. And I had a blast. So best of luck with the podcast and everything you’re doing.