As well as being a serial investor and entrepreneur, Monica Brand Engel is the co-founder of Quona Capital. Quona invests in technology companies that radically improve the quality, access and affordability of financial services for underserved communities in Africa, Latin-America and Asia.
What attracts you to the FinTech sector?
If you care about poverty alleviation, if you care about making global economics more inclusive, and if you care about getting a return on your investment, FinTech is the single most powerful lever you can use: it’s the oil that greases the economic engine. Financial technology allows people outside the traditional economic system to start a business, to build a house, to pay for education. That’s a powerful motivating factor both professionally and personally.
Why did you invest in Azimo?
Azimo is the poster-child for what we want to do. It is the embodiment of our ideal company to invest in, for the following reasons:
- It is using technology to radically improve access to financial services for those who need them most.
- We invest in teams. I cannot think of a single person I’ve met at Azimo who isn’t incredibly technically competent and smart.
- Azimo’s customers are largely in the countries that will drive the next wave of financial inclusion: places like Nigeria and the Philippines. That’s hugely exciting for us.
- Great co-investors. The other VC firms that invested in Azimo are the A-Team. You want to be investing with people like that, it’s where the smart money is going.
What makes Azimo different from other companies in our sector?
The tech is world class. We looked at all Azimo’s competitors as potential investment opportunities, but when we scratched the surface we always found holes underneath the shiny marketing. With Azimo you know there’s quality under the hood. Also, the team doesn’t rest on its laurels. It’s a healthy culture in which everyone brings their A game, because they know that what they’re doing is so important.
What do you worry about most where Azimo is concerned?
I worry about well-funded or long-established competitors who are trying to force out better, safer and more competitive products through the sheer amount of money they spend on marketing and advertising. It goes back to what I said about shiny exteriors papering over the cracks of a weaker product. That said, it’s ultimately the quality of the service that wins the race, not marketing dollars. I believe in meritocracy and I want to make sure the best team wins. That team is Azimo.