Sreemati Lalgudi about gamer changers & opportunities in fintech
Sreemati Lalgudi is the head of product management at Qbrick, the North Star of video technology. Her background is in payments industry and engineering where she has been working for 5 years. She is superenthusiastic to see young talents on Startup Weekend!
How did you start your career in fintech?
I started my career in a very traditional way. I did my masters as a software engineer, but I have to say I had a very agile career path. If I didn’t like a theme too much, then I felt like I could experiment a little bit more and tried to fulfill different roles. I love technology but I also enjoy working with business. That’s why I am in product phase, because there you can make ideas happen and you can still work with technology and business. So this is how I shaped my career to
When I came to Sweden I tried to find a job and I happened to start working for a mobile startup where I got involved in payment methods.
Why do you think there is so much buzz around fintech?
I like payment industry very much. Even though it is very standardized right now, there is still so much room for innovation. Right now we are for example tackling how the mindset of consumers regarding finance is changing. They are not ruled by institutions anymore, but they are ruled by convenience and efficiency. They are ruled by: “Here is the problem, let’s solve it!”
That is why I think that payment industry is so interesting, since there are so much evolution to happen. There are a lot of structures and standards which are good, but they don’t necessarily confine the consumer. Technology should not be complex. We can make these things easier and the same time giving consumers what they need. For example banking for the non-banks, blockchain technology, all this to make things less complicated and to embrace simplicity in the compliance side. I think those are the sides where we should innovate and to find the problems of consumers and solve them.
Which area do you think is a game changer in fintech right now and why?
Actually I see two. On one hand I see Klarnas and iZettles getting along. They are working in a space where they say: “Hello banks or financial institutions! This is how you have been doing things! Now we are doing them differently!” They are making things easier for the consumers and for the businesses in between the banks and the consumers. So the first opportunity / gamechanger lies when you start defining your ways based on the needs of the market and the consumer. On the other hand, look at Stripes and Braintrees. Braintree is a spinoff of Paypal and what those guys did very good was that they simplified the technology behind. So, simplification of the complex technology is definitely the second game changer now.
Who is the Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg of fintech on your opinion?
I think we have a lot of them. But the guy who invented bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, might be THE one. He took this idea to make the currency as a gamespace and make payments secure and standardized across the world, which is fun.
Continuing question about Elon Musk, do you think that there will be banks on Mars?
I think there are going to be virtual banks. But what I also think we should not limit our thinking. The idea of startups is not to build a spaceship, but to aim for the spaceship. If we can solve the technology need and the challenge where payments can happen without challenges between countries, then why not? It is still not simple, but once we solved that, then Mars will be the simpler question in the pile. But we will get there, definitely.
How on your opinion will Trump influence startup climat?
Please don’t let them Trump it! I know that it is crazy. There are Swedish startups that are going global and the first place they expand is the US. If that community feeling at startups start to become difficult, then it can become challenging.
I hope that the new government will realize that it is a healthy thing that globalization is happening and startup communities are growing on this shared knowledge and economy in general and in fintech as well. Working in payments industry I see that there are so many different startups and that is affecting how things can be made simple for consumers. I hope that the new US government won’t make it challenging for them.
What can US banks do in this situation?
I think that banks per se could learn from Swedish banks. Swedish banks are traditional in many ways, but what they have done very well was that they came together and did a lot of innovation, like Swish. I don’t know if everyone is aware of that, but the technology behind it, was simplified and standardized. So even though these banks are competing each other, they are still working together to innovate. This is one way to do it.
Another one is that banks need to change their way of thinking and start to understand their customers’ needs and not dictate them as they have done before. Banks need to make it easy for innovators to create a platform. Then the banks can still be there, because they have the infrastructure, they can just let the people run with it. The health care is doing this and if banks need to replicate that, then we could create a shared economy in fintech, which would be beneficial for all of us.
How would you pitch fintech to a 6 years old kid?
“There is an app for your piggy bank.” This is where the fintech industry is heading to. A 6 year-old understands iPhone as much as a 60 years old. Why? Because of its simplicity of use. And if someone can create something that can be used a 6 years old and a 60 years old, that is the thing. There is an app for everything. People will forget that they had piggy banks. There are many parts of the world, where people don’t use cards too much — when I go back to India, I always have to remember to take out money. We adapt to everything, we do what is the easiest.
What message would you send to you in the past, let’s say you 20 years younger?
I would say: don’t be afraid and don’t follow the norms. If you think that you can do things differently, just pursue it. You will both fail and succeed, but failure is not a full stop, but it is the progression to the absolute path to success. Just don’t be afraid.
What advice can you give to Startup Weekend participants?
I remember once I was participating in Startup Weekends with an idea. I really pursued it and everything was good, but sometimes you might find bottlenecks. The thing that I have learned is that if something is technology based and you are in control of it, then it is simpler to implement if you are focusing on those ideas. Those ones that require the connection of physical equipment and technology can take longer time. You need to be able to take a chance on that. Those ideas that can be onboarded quickly are better first, because otherwise there will be more factors that you can’t be controlling. So that’s my advice.
Are you using bitcoin from time to time?
I do not use bitcoins, but I am very interested in it. Bitcoins make the technology simpler, but I like working on ideas that make everyday life easier.
Can you imagine a world with only cryptocurrencies?
I can, because I think if you can solve the problem of cryptocurrencies being used in every channels, whether it is mobile, laptops, desktops, then it can work.
Any last notes?
Just don’t stop trying — one percent of ideas will be successful, it may be your idea that you have, or could be one out of the 100 ideas that you have tried. Just try fast, use lean methods, go and validate and make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. And when you do mistakes, do it cheap. You will reach that one percent of the ideas, just keep on trying. You should just keep pursuing your dreams.
Use this weekend to onboard your ideas, but also learn from everyone, because this is a platform, where you can really take an idea to execution very quickly. The idea is not only to win, which you can also aim for, but to learn. Startup Weekend is a place for you to fail fast and cheap. Have that mindset to learn from your peers, mentors and the process in general. And don’t forget to have fun, because it is awesome!
Check out the interview with Sree and prepare for Startup Weekend Fintech on the 27–29 January in SUP46!
Hurry up and register for Stockholm Startup Weekend Fintech on January 27–29! More information about the event and registration here: http://www.up.co/communities/sweden/stockholm/startup-weekend/10233