Financial IT Services Startups

The Off Ramp (366:366)

In 2007, when I graduated from University of Illinois, I was intrigued by what’s Wall St all about, what do bankers do, why are all the engineers suddenly becoming bankers. Plus, my then bf and now husband, was himself working on the Wall St. As a result, I moved to Big Apple, joined the big Citigroup in the big Wall St, spent 3 years working within a unique (literally since it was acquired from Knight Group and wasn’t a native Citi team) entrepreneurial team under an ingenius team lead. But as is customary, big companies are not a great place to harbor startup culture and the aura fizzed off. Although, I can proudly mention that my team has some of the most amazing tech and business leaders and working as a self-fulfilling unit, produced one of the most rapidly growing and successful products within Citi.

I have seen inside of Wall St tech galleries and in general, they are not pretty. Time and time again, they try to and are successful at enticing top university engineers and CS grads with handsome starting packages but can rarely keep them satisfied primarily because Wall St will always be about banking and technology, merely, a lever to build algorithmic trading platforms, high speed execution engines and something that can be blamed for flash crashes. Having known many friends in these firms, I concluded that only Goldman Sachs maintains a savvy and efficient technology divisions where engineers can remain satisfied working just within technology and not feel compelled to ‘switch to business side’ for any worthy prospects. Of course, this might be helped with hefty bonuses and raises rather than pure professional satisfaction. My point is that any hardcore software engineer looking for intellectual tech satisfaction will have a hard time sitting in the IT divisions of these mammoth Wall St banks and consequently, these divisions are usually filled with less aggressive, stability-seeking family people who are happy with low risk, stable and moderate rewards. Consequently, under the guidance of non-tech-savvy IT MDs, many IT projects are bloated, never completed on time, expensed heavily on useless outside consultants and grossly underachieving. So, although banks need to embrace technology rapidly in a wise direction, not all of them are able to manage it well. And this is a great news for financial services startups, which brings me to the point behind this post.

I strongly believe that these financial IT startups are most likely to have successful exits because:

  1. Wall St. can never have enough good technology solutions, it always needs something better and faster.
  2. It is much harder for IT managers in these banks (who, mostly, are out of touch with actual coding experience and hence, depend on others for sound technology judgments) to build class products in house due to stupid politics, bureaucracy, inability to hire right people at right time and even if they can, inability to retain them.
  3. IT managers have money to acquire and don’t mind spending this money since they anyways exceed their budgets when developing solutions internally. Due to the pressure from business side, it is considered safe to buy a proven product as opposed to undertaking the project in house.
  4. This also explains why some smaller financial tech solutions companies are successful by building reliable IT products and licensing/selling to bigger banks.
  5. Since financial startups require some hard domain skills and financial knowledge and are not as easy to start as social or general purpose products, competition is lower.

So, from my understanding, financial services sector is very lucrative for startups and I wasn’t surprised to hear Owen Davis (NYC Seed) announcing that big banks’ CTOs and New York VCs have joined hands to create a techstars like incubation program for financial IT services startups at today’s NY Tech Meetup. Further, this is one area where New York will always have a lead on Silicon Valley. For more information, visit http://www.fintechinnovationlab.com/

  

MBA for entrepreneurs

I can’t fix everything, originally uploaded by Street_Spirit.

I thought now is a good time to wish luck to all 2011 MBA applicants as well as fellow MBA students since our official Fall session starts this Monday. Let me not blow it out of proportion but I am quite excited to be a student again especially an MBA student for I see lot of action lying ahead rather than just theory and exams. I am also excited because I think I’ve laid a good groundwork of what I want to achieve professionally and hopefully it will result in a more holistic experience at school. In past one year, my interest in entrepreneurship has increased leaps and bounds. To this effect, I planted seeds for 2-3 ventures in India in my last month’s trip to India. I will admit that the consequent thought of postponing my MBA plans did cross my mind fleetingly but after some deliberation, I find the pros of MBA outweigh it’s significant monetary and time investments. So, I am dedicating next 2 years to school and focusing on my ventures. I am hoping these dichotomous roles will inherently complement and feed each other.

Some quick words about my so-called venturing experience:

Continue reading MBA for entrepreneurs

  

Perseverance

Perseverance, originally uploaded by DufferLong.

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
Newt Gingrich

I could not agree more with Gingrich’s definition. Ideas are not easy but motivation can easily fuel them. However, motivation wanes with time and if ideas do not succeed by then, they are dropped in the graveyard of obscurity. Only persistence can keep them nourished in adverse conditions of failure. I hope the above image and quote and these little words of mine will help revive few of those starving ideas from back of your mind.

  

The chronicles from India

Namaste (and this is the authentic one, not some oriental person trying some voodoo in Lost!) from India.

Every time I come to India, people scare me or warn me about vaccinations, water etc etc. I am yet to fall sick after eating roadside pani pooris. My immune system very sweetly supports every patriotic beat of my heart and I am very thankful for that!

I was as excited to see the great Rann of Kutch as I was for Grand Canyon and it was worth every minute I spent in heat standing on the sultry white salt under my foot. Walking on the Rann was like walking on a spongy water bed. The water would ooze out unabashedly as soon as I put a little more weight on my foot. The white salt glistening in afternoon sunrays kept me mesmerized till the heat broke my trance. I got to see a very small strip of Kutch but it was adequate to trigger my imagination into picturing the rest.

Long ago, the Rann was covered shallow with Arabian Sea but eventually water evaporated leaving behind a vast reservoir of raw salt – creating a huge salt-marsh. Kutch expands to tens of thousands of kilometers, even reaching out to the international boundary we share with Pakistan. Flooding easily in monsoons and cracking its heart open in dry summers, Rann could beat the best of natural wonders anywhere in the world.

  

Time for Vegas

Fountain Music, originally uploaded by NatureWalk.

5 years in USA and not been to the Holy Grail? Alas, yes. So, what better time than when I am going All-In in life 😉

Looking forward to a shot at Roulette, 102 degrees F and the surreal beauty of Grand Canyon. And few surprises too!

Here I come, Las Vegas.