Anthony Strike – full transcript of podcast

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Helene Panzarino [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of banking on air I’m Helene Panzarino and I’m your host for this episode. At Vacuumlabs, a solution-based tech powerhouse, we believe that the future is in communities when it comes to digital transformation and financial services. If you’re interested in hearing more about FinTech, digital banking or payments, please don’t hesitate to subscribe or to attend one of our virtual events. 

As ever I’m not alone on this podcast. And on this episode, I am delighted to say that I have two co-hosts  or guests with me. I’m joined by Michael Callas, who’s the Chief Strategy Officer at Vacuumlabs and leading the charge in the United States and Anthony Strike, who’s the founder of SteadiPay who’s based in the United States. We have a bit of a flavor, as you can hear to this episode, we’re taking it home. So exactly so that we can spend more time talking about some of the amazing things that we’re doing in the United States. Michael, I’m going to ask you if you’ll start off our podcast today and introduce Anthony and get us rolling.

Michael Callas  [00:01:06] You  got it boss. Great to be with you,  Helene, I’m an avid subscriber of course, and love the work that you’re doing with us.  So Anthony and I are friends. We met a few years back now in LA at a party for Greek entrepreneurs, right Anthony? 

Anthony Strike [00:01:20] That is right.

Michael Callas  [00:01:21] And I think that after the  14th or 15th bottle of wine was opened, you and I went off to a corner. And  we were debating the pros and cons of banking as a service in the US and how much needs to be accomplished there.  

Anthony Strike [1:40] We were the only two FinTech people I think there that night. It was definitely an interesting  scene and a lot of fun. 

Michael Callas  [00:01:44]You’re so right. And I remember back almost a decade when I first met Helene Panzarino. Remember Helene? In our early twenties. And we’ve had an amazing conversation about my grandmother’s credit union in Brownsville, Texas. Remember I told you the story, right? That, I remember going to the bank as a kid and my grandmother was a teacher for 37 years in Brownsville. And she went to the Brownsville Teacher’s Credit Union. And the same woman had been her banker her entire career, Gloria Villegas. I think that what the small bank, what that credit union kind of energy can bring to an entrepreneur looking to scale is a reminder of why we do what we do, why we serve our communities and then the age of digital. Our communities are everywhere.  So therefore it’s even more imperative to stay focused  on that customer centricity.   And that’s really exciting. And actually, Anthony, that leads me to asking you to tell us a little bit about SteadiPay and your journey. 

Anthony Strike [00:02:32] Sure! Our journey has been a winding one. SteadiPay started as a personal finance app. It was born out of my wife and I just sucking at budgeting and wondering every month, what the hell we spent all this money on credit cards?  And in fact, my wife made the comment to me one month. She said, it’s just so easy to swipe a card and worry about paying it off later. I  wish the money came out of our account right away. I thought, yeah, but you could just use the debit card,   being a good husband and just of course, finding a solution immediately.   And she said, no, you wouldn’t get the rewards, went to London for free on the miles last year and I’d like to get the rewards, but not have to worry about tracking how much I’m spending and worrying about some big payment at the end of the month, surprising us. We were reasonable users of our card. We paid our bill off in full every month, but it just felt like, this thing was sneak attacking us each month.  That solution didn’t exist in the market as that I was aware of and I decided to go build it. So  we built this tool to let you, as you spent money on your card, we pulled funds aside and paid it down for you and made sure you didn’t overspend, but still earned your rewards. That was a nice little product, but two things happened simultaneously. Number one, we got to a few thousand users and we started hearing from a number of our customers who were small business owners asking if they could use the card on their small business finances.  And this was really curious to us. It didn’t jive with the initial reason that we had built up the product we thought, why would a business want to pay sooner? They seems like they’d want to pay later. But the truth was that managing cash and the timing of cash and your card limit and all this were these complex, annoying things that small business owners didn’t want to have to manually manage. And it was our first little clue into just how many manual processes and legacy technologies and friction points, a small business owner has to deal with  in just managing finances.    Cashflow is the lifeblood of a small business and understanding how many dollars are moving in and out of your business is the most important thing you need to do as a small business owner. But it’s also not remotely why you got into business and it’s also a big manual chore.  So it has this challenge of this cashflow management has this challenge of being so critical, but so far away from what the business owner wants to do, and also being so much work. And that became a real obvious opportunity for us to take the technology we’d built and pivoted over to support small businesses.  The second thing that happened was we started to really get firsthand  understanding of just how freaking expensive it is to scale a B2C finance app if you didn’t hear on blocks. So we really had no qualms and jumping ship on that growth route and have not looked back since starting to focus on this new direction. It’s been very, it has been a very wise company saving pivot. 

Michael Callas  [00:05:06] It’s marvelous. 

Helene Panzarino [00:05:07] Could you mind if I ask a question at this point on that onto ?

Michael Callas  [00:05:11] It’s your show Helene. 

Helene Panzarino [00:05:12] It is my show… Listening to you, Anthony, I’m thinking about how many…   I’m always working with FinTech, the fintechs, whether that was on a program before helping them raise finance and every conversation where you’d say, listen, B2C is going to be really tough. So that, 400 million or that much money you’re going to have to get in there to build up the community and get things going. Think hard about it. Particularly now, where early stage funding becomes more difficult and later stage financing in this current uncertain situation is a bit easier. And secondly, that B2B solution,  there’s something in a founder’s mind that makes it harder to do the pivot because you’re, I guess, because you’re passionate about the group that you set out to work within the first place, right? In this case, it was you and your wife, you know what I mean?  Know, you said you realized that it was a lot easier to scale it, but there must have been one of these moments where like we’re not raising finance or we’re going to struggle before we get anywhere to break. Even before you even start talking to a bank about licensing or anything else. 

Anthony Strike [00:06:10]  Yes. So the pivot to move to small businesses, I’m not sure we were convinced so it would be easier to scale, but we probably thought it might at least be more cash efficient .  There’s a lot of other challenges involved in small businesses. And in fact, the financial tools targeted at SMBs, especially the smaller side of SMBs, that’s a pretty new space evolving. In the past ,  most of the FinTech tools that have hit the market with a few notable exceptions, like bill.com have really been pushed to the extremes because of business model temptation. When you look at consumer, Yeah, it’s the margins suck it’s hard, the pure scale of it is appealing. So rather than go chase a few million small businesses, you can go chase tens of millions of consumers and small businesses to be frank,  it’s not much easier to acquire them than it is retail customers, and they don’t churn much less. You get in some way of looking at it the worst of both worlds, you get the worst of consumer with the complexity of the business scale.  So a lot of businesses say I’m just going to focus on the consumer plus you have a lot of founders coming at it from their own personal pain points, like I was instinctually jumped into a consumer solution. On the other side, it’s just a lot more appealing to go chase a big enterprise customer, where if you land one deal that can get you your funding round and if you land three more, that can land you the next funding round and a few more and you can be profitable.  Now landing those deals with that, of course can be insanely hard, but that just means that a lot of businesses looked at SMB and said, wow, it’s got the hard  sales cycles of potentially SMB and annoying churn problems and acquisition issues that you face in retail. So why would we spend time here?  But the truth is that some of the technology advancements that have happened recently, some of the go to market strategies that have emerged have made it so that  targeting SMBs is I think a really good business.   And you let one group get far enough behind in technology solutions and eventually the demand is going to make it worthwhile to solve this problem. All that has played a role in making SMB a much more interesting space to play right now, but still, it’s still hard. 

Helene Panzarino[00:08:05] it’s a space which is obviously close to my heart. I mean, my own personal journey in helping just over 20,000 companies raise finance in the last 20 odd years means to me that they’re very precious to me, which is the other reason that I liked the smaller banks, because I think this is their moment with them as well. And having had four of my own companies and done a couple of exits, I feel the other side of it also. I wanted to ask you,  we can talk about the pandemic bringing SMEs, SMBs to the fore because the community banks were able to get a lot of the money from the stimulus packages into the accounts of the SMBs, probably 9 billion. The first 9 billion came out of the Midwest and to SMB accounts in the first  lockdown that we had. So again, do you feel like this is a moment for these banks to be able to engage much more genuinely and on a longer-term basis with this community in the way you’ve experienced working with them?

Anthony Strike [00:08:58] I would really love to say yes, but frankly,  the COVID related stimulus packages are probably a one-time blip that worked, meaningfully changed banking relationships between small businesses and banks.  I think most small businesses got money from banks where they already had a relationship, or if they did get it through a channel that they are a bank that they weren’t already having a relationship, I don’t think that was enough to make them fully switch their accounts. I think it might help a few banks here and there gained some customers, but I don’t think it’s a sustainable change or shift in those relationships, which is too bad because community banks really went too bad for small businesses in this case.  But ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to be a meaningful shift, 

Helene Panzarino [00:09:37] So interesting and one of the reasons I think that…  One of the outcomes let’s say, or one of the things that was highlighted, a weakness that was highlighted, was there the clunkiness of engaging with a smaller bank on the UX side, but then in other areas. Now you as a founder made the decision to work with another FinTech, for example, with us,  in building out as you were going to scale and we see a resistance, so we have seen a resistance in some of the smaller financial institutions and other credit unions to take that leap of faith to make that step to work FinTech to FinTech. So I’m curious to see from your perspective, at what point did you realize that you had to get some outside help or that it would be a good idea and how did you have the conversation with yourself that said, it’s okay to let go and to get some external assistance as I scale?

Anthony Strike [00:10:27] We were under no delusions at any point that we were going to be able to handle this all on our own. Without getting too long key on particular banking as a service platforms and what all that is. When we were in BKC, we were facing a choice about a new product launch that we had to go through and particularly we wanted to launch a high yield   bank agnostic sweep account for small businesses. We wanted to be able to let small businesses put any cash they had on hand to use even for a short amount of time, even for a small amount of dollars and get the best rate on the market without having to switch banks without having to navigate a bunch of tech. We made  a really simple bank agnostic sweep account, but we needed a bank partner that we could sweep those funds to who would give us a high yield rate and  we learned firsthand about the challenge of the banking as a service space, which is that if you or me as a FinTech, I’m dependent on a company like,  Synapse for  my banking as a service platforms and my banking relationships, then I can only innovate to the extent that they innovate. I can only bring products to market that they have capabilities for. And that’s why I think you see a ton of the neobanks be relatively undifferentiated on product. It’s because it’s very hard to create something when all of them have some banking as a service platform operating underneath, but with relatively few exceptions. So we couldn’t get a banking as a service provider to give us a rate that would be meaningfully differentiated. So we started to look for a new bank partner on this front and this actually, this has a story that speaks to your point about community banks, being a little unwilling to work directly with fintechs. We talked to tons of banks. And we got so close, so many of them, but they just couldn’t pull the trigger on saying, Oh, you know what? We feel comfortable engaging with you directly, rather than having some banking as a service provider, handle all the ledgering and KYC and all that stuff that we feel comfortable with, not to file generation, all those annoying things. Right around the same time we discovered Move  move.io, which is an open source notch resource that Wade and team have been building for awhile. And at the time it was relatively unknown.  but someone we met through NBC Casey actually introduced us to it. And that gave us a tool to start managing, not to files an ACH generation ourselves, if we could find a bank partner that would partner directly with us. So we’d solve one portion of the banking as a service problem, but now we just needed a bank that was willing to do it.  And this is where the other side of it comes in, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.   My co-founder Chad, who is a wonderful guy  has a good relationship because his kids play with the kids of the head of treasury at Axos bank. so we were able to go to Axos bank and have a conversation with someone that it would have taken us a long, long time to have a conversation with without that relationship.   And as a result of that, we were able to get access, to sign on to support this product and so through move, we were able to create our own  essentially internal banking as a service platform to  manage ledgers, manage not-to-file generation, do all of our KYC. We partner with alloy on that front. We partnered with the VGs to manage  a lot of the security stuff and we pieced together these different vendors that could produce Our own solution here, but that’s a heavy lift, especially on the ledger side, especially, understanding the critical nature, all this data that is a really heavy lift. For as much as time as we’ve spent in this industry, we did not feel like we have the ability to just tell any old developer how to do this. It was right around that time that we were talking with Michael and Matej about your guys’ capabilities, your experience in the FinTech space, your knowledge, your experience having specifically built out ledger management software. It was really a fit that had hit that right time and it was just a great fit where we said, okaywe found a partner that has expertise in building these really critical heavy lift things that we need to build right now.   So anyway, that’s a long way of saying we did not feel like we could build this, but we knew we had to and without making this too salesy and pitchy and advertising with Vacuumlabs, it was like a hand in a glove or glove on the hand for us when it came to delivering on that.

Michael Callas  [00:14:16] Checks in the mail. Anthony, thank you.

I think I remember exactly the meeting that we had at Money2020. 

Anthony Strike [00:14:26] We were sitting in what was it, yardbird across the street, across the way from that place in Venetian, where everybody walks in and out?

Michael Callas  [00:14:33] It was insanity. And I remember what was the Mexican joint. I forgot which one it was, but I remember we had the nachos and basically Matej and I  just ate, while you draw what you needed. We can do that.  I think that you’re a great match for us because you challenged us.    We don’t really know how to do stuff. We know how to do stuff that’s qoute unquote simple.  But when our engineers can be challenged, then everybody’s one.  I think that’s why we stay very boutique and that way we can focus on folks like you that have a vision  that can’t be delivered by the existing platforms out there.

Anthony Strike [00:15:09] Yeah, right? Yeah. that was our concern with most of the other shops we talked to is that they were really going to be learning this almost behind learning curve from us. And that was a little nerve wracking to sign a deal for that. And so the fact that you guys had some expertise in places that we didn’t get the straight, I think I walked out of that meeting and went right over to Donald Hawkins, and now he’s got his own neobank going back. I walked over. You got to talk to these guys and if I remember right, you guys ended up working together too, right? 

Michael Callas [00:15:34] A little bit. Yeah. You’re good. We love, yeah. We love, think his vision for banking, his community is spectacular.

Anthony Strike [00:15:41] They’re doing great job. 

Michael Callas  [00:15:41] They are. Anthony. I don’t know if I would take a step back because Helene and I are both lovers of banking as a service. My own ship of banking as a service goes back to BBA banking in Spain, right? Like I’ve been, I feel like I’d been rooting for this industry for a very long time.  Really in my late twenties.  And, I’m curious, do you think that a platform can be built for the US to actually service founders like you? Or is the mix of existing platforms and kind of a really good, engineering team to kind of put it all together the solution.

Anthony Strike [00:16:13] What I would love to see in market and maybe if SteadiPay just totally craps out I’ll try to build this if it’s not in the market yet.But what I would love to see…With you of course   What I would love to see is a marketplace for different financial tools for a Fintech to build.  Right now, if you go to Synapse, you are locked in on Synapse and if you go to Q2you’re locked in with Q2 and there’s not a lot of picking and choosing what you want and I’ll use an analogy. So like  what Alloy is doing with KYC and KYB, they’re bringing together a bunch of different vendors, they’re applying, some leverage at scale to get deals that make it at least cost neutral for new customers and making the KYC KYB, a one-stop shop thing. I think there’s going to be real opportunity for that with specific financial tools. And I think there’s going to be enough community banks willing to provide these ala cart services  that would pipe into a marketplace like this, that a Fintech could be focused on  just providing really good UX for its customers and then on the back-end, you could see 5, 6, 10, 15 different banks plugging into different elements of this. Now there’s friction here because no bank wants to just make itself dump pipes, especially one single dumb pipe for one single product. But I don’t know that they’re going to have a choice because there are enough small banks out there who are willing to lend their charter in order to stay alive and relevant and maintain you know access to customers that you could probably piece together  10 community banks that would be willing to provide different financial services on an Alla cart basis and allow a FinTech to build a really more customized platform.  And that’s what we were gone with.  Move, I think it could be a huge. facilitator of this and they just raised some crazy money from some great investors and are really going to be putting some cool stuff out there in the market with ledger management software and things like that, that they don’t have out there yet.  That’s where I think the opportunity is. 

Helene Panzarino [00:18:03] On, along that line. and I would agree with you and I think that’s not, probably not too far off in the future in the US. What’s do you feel the role of regulation and regulators? Where we’re in the transition now obviously we’ve now Brooks is not with the OCC anymore. Jelena McWilliams at the FDIC is only there until 2023, but we do have this now listing that the FDA has put out if you’re on the list, then, you can, if you’re a smaller bank, you can be reasonably assured that you’ve passed a few tests as it were to engage. Will regulation like open banking, which is now seeping in everywhere else as well have an impact on that concept that you just explained?   

Anthony Strike [00:18:40] I’m sure it will. I frankly just would need to do a little more research on what the technological implications are of this sort of marketplace approach. Before I had a real intelligent answer for you there.    I think open banking is if it’s going to  look like it does in the US like it does in Europe, it’s going to be, it’s going to be a long time before that happens. I think we’re much more likely to see large banks  getting their APIs polished up and owning this themselves and some technology providers building on top of that.   I can see alternatives to plaid coming in that are more  friendly to the banking APIs. I can see a lot of stuff happening that facilitates this, but from a regulatory perspective, I just think they’re going to be playing catch up the whole way. So I don’t, I really don’t know. 

Michael Callas  [00:19:24] I agree Helene. I think, in Europe, obviously we live through, the UK decided to make all the back to the standard all these things, right.  And even now we’re still waiting for banks to catch up, some of them.  While some have been trailblazers, be the among of them. I think that the thing I love about our homeland kids, is that it’s industry demanding this.   And so it’s capitalism at its best and needs to catch up with these needs. And it more to the point, I think, the marketplace is dreadfully in need of innovative products.I think that we’re going through the obvious Robin Hood moment that has been an absolute shock to watch.   All this stuff happening. honestly, it’s what the hell?  I’m on the board of FELS Group out of Frankfurt, Germany. A similar platform to Robinhood, however BaFin certified (the German regulator), right? So playing by the rules, there is just,  absolutely how it’s built.  I think about the underserved population of SMEs and in the States,  that is an important contingent.  I think that we need to respond better and that’s certainly a big reason why we’re focusing so much on the Americas at Vacuumlabs. I have always said I’m going to go home and do something special.   and some COVID slowed that down a bit.  We’re going to be there, and yeah. Anthony, obviously part of our, we’re investors in your company, we believe firmly in what you’re doing and your insights are really interesting   because we’re in a bubble in Europe, in Asia, Asia is open banking. It’s nuts. It’s amazing what we can do in Asia.   The most important capitalist country in the world needs to catch up or set or begin to set the standards. 

Anthony Strike [00:20:53] It’s a good example of  the capitalism can create its own problems of course. a lot of the issues that are here are being driven by the fact that regulators didn’t get involved earlier and let capitalism  run its course.  But we’re here now, and this is where we are. I think,  as a FinTech founder, trying to build things where I’m not beholden to some banking as a service provider that’s going to limit me, I’m invested in seeing tools come to market that regulators  view as giving flexibility and access  rather than limiting those things. I think what I’m talking about as far as marketplace for, financial tools and Plugging into more APIs and broadening that is access friendly, and regulators would generally like that but who knows what we’ll see where it goes 

Michael Callas [00:21:35] Transparent and accessible to them. Those are the two sort of pieces that really just love.

Anthony Strike [00:21:39] For us in America is that, anything that helps small businesses, it has just immediate momentum behind it when it comes to government and regulatory stuff. I think as we can generate proof that this FinTech stuff is meaningfully helping small businesses  that will really help our case. Now a lot of small business financial tools are really nascent and so that, real proof is  not there yet, but it’s going to get there and I think that will really support it. 

Helene Panzarino [00:22:02] It’s a really good point as well because sitting on this side where we’ve been doing this for a few years and with the advent of open banking in 2018, you almost ask yourself, is it a fad? How many SME banks, how many neobanks, how many challenger banks can you spin out for SMEs? Do you go very niche and become: I’m the supply chain bank for this SME fashion industry. Where do you draw the line in that way? And then as an owner, how do I distinguish as an SMB owner, which way I’m going to go and will that create too much choice create paralysis. I always say this when I’m home, I go down the salad dressing aisle in the supermarket, and I come out with oil and vinegar. Cause I’m so confused. I just revert back to what I know. So there’s a danger of having too much choice, having it become almost superficial and net without a voice of authenticity, which means that SMB owner won’t move to that offering. So learn from the mistakes here.  

Anthony Strike [00:22:58] I think there’s a couple of things that I’m going to try to talk through without making myself sound like an idiot.  First of all, I think that the niche thing is a question of how many are venture backable? That’s one separate question because I don’t, I think, no, not many. I think even the ones that have been venture backed, you’re going to struggle to make the returns that they want to make. But however, I think there’s, as the cost of starting a quote unquote, Neobank or a financial services company goes way, way, way, way down. I mean like exponentially lower than it was 10 years ago. It will become increasingly easier to build a niche financial services provider, whether you will call it a neobank or an embedded finance provider or something, but very niche, maybe it only offers one or two basic services that a particular vertical needs. Look at the creator economy and influencers. Their banking needs are fairly limited and focused. It’s in this weird blurry range between small business and individual. And there are a number of really cool  companies. I hesitate to call them neobanks, but companies popping up that offer financial services in that exact space. I think that you could start to see a world where there are a lot very niche, financial services, providers functioning as a sort of defacto bank for specific verticals that just offer exactly what that vertical needs.   And then you’ll inevitably see the great bundling. So we’re in the unbundling phase here on financial services where things are getting niche and then there’ll be some rebundling but I think in the near term, the cost of creating financial services or embedding financial services is getting to the point where it’s almost  like not like starting a website, but not that far off. 

Michael Callas  [00:24:33] No, I think you’re right. I think you’re totally right.  Like a lot of these niche banks, right,  the marketing and the approach to the community is great, but I don’t see what’s under the hood that actually differentiates it.  So if you’re trying to go after underserved communities,  And your KYC provider kept,  basically get anybody approved for the platform, you’re basically just doing nothing.   You’re getting people’s hopes up.  And they’ll be right back by the prepaid card at Walgreen, which defeats the entire purpose.  I think that we’re, the US has got a whole lot sharper is working with companies that understand how to solve those niche problems. And those are things happening around the world.  If you just look to Thailand,  or Indonesia, how they’re solving these, Bangladesh.   And I think,  more of what’s happening in the guts of these neobanks needs to be really understood properly and solved because we can solve any problem or almost any problem with technology.  And I think that enough there’s on a focus here on understanding how data identification, how that actually works. If I can bank from zero 38000 people in Thailand,  and they have a 4%  monthly payment rates,   How can I not use that, those same tools to go after parts of the States that are underbanked? Right? or unbanked. So to me, I think we need to do a better job as an American sort of FinTech.  family actually know families artists functional teams,   but actually look at how the rest of us are solving these problems because  they’re not insurmountable .  Whoever does that stuff first will actually win the Bendigo bank game.   Not just trying to go after the easily KYC,  folks with jobs. that’s simple. Yeah. 

Anthony Strike [00:26:09]  We really don’t need any more high net worth individual financial tools that has been solved.  The challenges of underserved communities are pretty widely discussed in the FinTech space at this point. And, I’m by no means an expert there, but I can talk about some of the customers we have, they’re small businesses who,  we have not had very many issues with  validation of customers. There’s a whole separate ball game of  these people don’t even have banks and dealing with people who are in that group for us. And we’re talking about small businesses,  it’s a question of. what are they currently using? What are the tools that they need? And what does quote-unquote under-banked look like. An under-banked small business is someone who’s just keeping a bunch of their cash in their Venmo account or their PayPal account or the Stripe account. And are those tools giving them the flexibility they need to grow their business?   A lot of companies out there that  we talk to our doing decent amounts of revenue and it’s just  sitting there in those types of accounts.  If all you’re doing is letting someone deposit and withdraw cash that’s fine. But if you start talking about how do we lend to these companies? How should we give them merchant cash advances? Should it be term loans? What’s the right solution in lending there? Now you get into these new questions of underwriting and how can we underwrite in a way that doesn’t put the individual at risk, but also keeps risk off  the company’s balance sheet. And that’s where I think our industry has a lot of work to still do, to solve the quote unquote underbanked part of SMBs. Less about them not having a bank and more about them not having access to tools to really grow and improve their business from the places they do bank. 

Michael Callas  [00:27:36] It’s almost like a complete circle then Anthony to what we said earlier about the small bank approach  brings us full circle because we’re talking about how those smaller banks have that personal touch.  And what you’re basically trying to do is to extend that personal touch to a wider network of SMEs,  Where in the old days, or, 10, 15 years ago, you walk into your small bank,  and you had a conversation, with the banker,  with your hometown banker.   I think it’s where like the best digital, right? Is actually digital touching,  Is actually the closeness. And that’s a fascinating bit. You know, team that actually brings us full circle, to the comment that I think Helene made earlier about sort of community banks and,  being that high touch,  very personal connection with you and your business. Anthony? I think we’ve talked about this more than once. 

Anthony Strike[00:28:24] Yeah. What a lot of community banks differentiate themselves on is that relationship they have with the business. They know the intricacies of the business, they know the family and community and dynamics and all of that.  But ultimately what that’s for is about making sure you have the right financial tools.  That relationship is meant to deliver, okay, this kind of loan is better for you than that kind of loan. And so what we’re trying to find is the chance to tell a small business, here’s what your cash looks like, here’s what’s going to happen in the future. Really understand that and then have the type of insight that community bank could have to point you toward the right financial solutions. We did more than 300 customer interviews and talk to more than a hundred accountants who support small businesses and as we were researching how to make this product work, and one of the things we came away with really clearly understanding was that  it’s not enough to just give the small business a forecast or data. There are a lot of forecasting tools in the market. There’s a lot of FP and a tools,there’s a lot of things that help the customer see their data. But that was that should be the starting point for the small business where you understand their current cash situation and data or financial needs. And you don’t just dump a forecast on them and say, okay, here’s your data, go figure out what you need to do. They need help. Like the community banker would do in the past. Understanding what the right things to do are. And so what we’re working on building out now in SteadiPay, we’ve put together the front end of that and now we’re working on the backend, which is identifying what buttons the small business can push, what levers they can pull financially to improve their cash situation and point them toward the right solutions to do that. And maybe we’ll build those solutions in house with you guys, like we have with our treasury management tools. And maybe we’ll partner with some of those in places where there’s great solutions already in market, but we want to have a portion of that role of having deep insight into the business. Ours is based on data rather than an in-person relationship,  but using that deep understanding to help you find the access to the right tools for your business. 

Michael Callas  [00:30:21] I love it. Love it. So Anthony, thanks so much  for that and spending some time with Helene and me in our  “born in the USA” version of banking on air.  Anthony, wondering if you have any advice for a FinTech founder starting today, 2021 in the US. 

Anthony Strike [00:30:37] Oh, geez. I still very much feel like I know only the most superficial amount of stuff about the FinTech world and  frankly, nobody should be really taking advice from me on how to start a FinTech company yet. But, but if I did have to give some advice, I would say I don’t feel like you’re stuck using the same tools and infrastructure that the companies who built themselves up over the last few years used  Doing that  will leave you undifferentiated. Take some  not financial risk with your customer’s money, but take some risk around your product architecture and try some new things that are coming onto the market. There’s some awesome stuff. There’s a bunch of companies in the Phoenix and Unit and bond are all doing cool new things. Move is obviously, we’re big believers in Move. There’s a lot of people to handle heavy lifts on other things like regulatory requirements and PCI compliance and KYC and KYB .  So don’t look to pass success stories to help you figure out how to structure your product. Do the research to understand what’s new in the market, cause that’s where I think you’ll be able to differentiate.  And the other thing I’d say is don’t start a PFM 

Michael Callas  [00:31:41] For the love of all that is Holy, do not start a PFM. A hundred percent.

Helene Panzarino [00:31:45] That’s very good advice. So people make sure you take that on board. It’s been excellent advice throughout the whole of this conversation. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having both of my guests on tonight as we’ve taken on journey around the U S and we’ve come back over to Europe and we’ve taken our experience back over, and we’ve all agreed that SMB stroke SMEs are vital to financial services and we need to serve them better because they are going to help us come out of our current situation and turn the corner. Thank you to Anthony Strike of SteadiPay and Michael Callas of Vacuumlabs and to everyone for listening. See you on the next episode. 

Michael Callas [00:32:19] Thank you Helene

Anthony Strike [00:32:21] Thanks guys. 

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Vacuumlabs provides teams of flexible software engineers and designers with years of experience building fintech, online marketplaces, and digital products. Every step of the way, Vacuumlabs experts collaborate with clients, so that they can move fast, learn and iterate as they build world-class products together.