Business Insider Leaked Our Brutally Honest Pitch…Here’s the Rest.
You may have seen an article on Business Insider regarding my pitch to investors. I’ve been following “Fintech Frank” for a while and it seems like he’s even more resourceful than I expected! In any case, here’s the full pitch….and some context.
Li Jiang’s article on his 8 questions he asks every startup is a must-read for any founder or team currently raising money. The questions pry into the very ethos of a given startup, while giving an investor the information and insight they need to make a wise decision. If you haven’t already done this hard work, the questions he asks are also a fantastic forcing function for you as a leader to get to the heart of what you’re building….and why.
At Exeq, we don’t have everything together. We don’t know the future for our product and platform. We don’t know or control the external circumstances around our company. But what we do know are the answers to Li’s questions. I love answering them, so I thought I’d answer them here publicly to give people insight into what we’re working on, and the answers to at least eight of our one-hundred-thousand whys.
Why are we building Exeq?
We believe in a world where technology helps facilitate economic growth….without a single actor dictating the economy. We believe in a world where the distinction between offline shopping and online shopping is not blurred…but gone. We believe in a world where small businesses continue to exist and grow, and can even thrive off of data.
We believe in a world where consumer spending decisions aren’t just habit-driven, but data-driven. We believe in a world where it is just as convenient to shop offline as it is to shop online. We believe in a world where technology no longer creates an artificial boundary between a consumer’s finances and lifestyle.
Why are we building this company?
Because we believe that the world described above will be created and shaped by a platform that connects consumers & merchants: Exeq.
Why do people want Exeq more than any other product?
Here’s the reality in the consumer fintech space: the low-hanging fruit is there, and has been picked. The value propositions of bill management, automated savings, robo-advising, are being executed upon. In some cases, quite well. But ultimately, the companies tackling these items are connecting consumers to banks: they cross-sell financial products to monetize. While this is admirable, it’s not going to be the ultimate direction for consumer finance. It’s operating with an existing paradigm, rather than trying to foresee where the digital economy is going, and how it crosses over into the real world.
Here’s an obvious reality for you: people absolutely love spending money. They love finding new places, new brands, new restaurants, new experiences. Consumerism is alive, well, and healthy for society. Why is there no “fintech” for this sector? Savings in handled. Investing is handled. But spending? Not so much. Being able to see your spending at merchants, being able to see where your social networks are spending, and seeing what the next-big-thing is in your area are all value propositions within our consumer application. By combining financial and lifestyle data, we’re able to build a consumer product that enables consumer behavior…responsibly.
Offline merchants are caught in an awkward time in American history. There is more wealth being exchanged now than any time prior. But this wealth is going to a small number of companies, many of which have a minimal offline, real-world presence. The convenience of online commerce is taking a larger and larger share of the created wealth in this country. And it’s choking small-to-medium-sized businesses. These SMBs don’t ultimately need new POS systems or better inventory control. They need customers. They need data. They need to know their customer….and their potential customers. They need access. Exeq will provide merchants with this data and access in a way that hasn’t existed prior.
Why is now the right time to build Exeq?
The writing is on the wall across multiple trends that converge in our favor:
Online and offline is merging quickly. In general, just take a look at the VR/AR sector. In the commerce sector, shift your eyes to Amazon. If offline and online weren’t converging, would they be opening bookstores, investing in food delivery services, and buying grocery stores? They see what we see…they just want to gobble it all up, SMBs and second-place finishers be damned.
Brands, and connecting with brands, has never been so important. Millennials shop brands. They buy Sweetgreen, Kith, Outdoor Voices, Glossier. Millennials are already connecting with their brands, but not in a systematic way.
Preexisting financial and lifestyle tools are outdated and out of touch. Mint is owned by a 30+ year old company. Banks are terrible at product development. Yelp is hated by consumers and merchants alike. Foursquare’s products have been so fragmented that it’s hard to tell how to use them anymore.
The digital economy is still being defined. It’s time to change the way we think about what transactions are, and can be, in this new economy. Retailers need data to compete. Consumers want convenience. People are becoming more and more comfortable with their own data being used, securely and anonymously, to provide significant value to their daily lives.
Why is this team the one to do it?
The Exeq team not only has a proven track record, but a unique combination of industry experience (from places like LinkedIn, Tapad, Jane Street, Addepar) and demographic relevance. We know how to build large-scale systems that handle financial data…but we also know millennials because we are millennials. We understand our demographic, we understand financial technology, we understand platforms, and we will not be out-hustled or out-executed.
Why isn’t everyone already working on this?
Simple answer? Because it’s hard.
In addition to having two different populations that you’re serving (consumers & merchants), you also have extraordinary data normalization problems, not to mention the significant product , security, and design challenges of combining lifestyle, social, and financial data.
The personal finance space (the initial space we’re in) is crowded, the lifestyle space is difficult to break into, and building a platform in any vertical is a capital-intensive, time-intensive endeavor. It takes a particular kind of courage to tackle the problem set that we’re tackling.
Why does this platform get more powerful over time?
The answer to this question is fairly obvious. Economies are made up of people, making aggregated actions & decisions, as indicated by data in transactions. With social and financial data in a single place, we’re able to build a real-time model of the everyday economy. We then in turn use this model to provide value & convenience to both consumers and merchants.
The implications of having a platform that connects consumers and merchants are also obvious: we could then move from analyzing transactions to facilitating them….in a way that doesn’t interfere with how SMBs want to run their business or how consumers want to use their own finances.
Why will you do this better than a bigger tech platform company?
Building this platform is our core business. We are laser focused on solving this set of problems, whereas preexisting tech companies have other priorities equal in scope & size.
Brand association regarding financial data. It would be quite difficult for Facebook, Google, etc to retrieve financial data in a significant way (despite their best efforts…Google Wallet, anyone?). In the same way, it’s nearly impossible for SMBs and/or large retailers to give their data up and work with a company like Amazon, where their monopolistic ambitions are written on the wall.
Why should I invest in your startup?
Because you have a fiduciary duty to your LPs to make the best investments you can. We’d fall in that category. ;)
On a more serious note, the answer’s simple: if you don’t see the shape of the world in the way that we’ve described above, then you shouldn’t invest in us.
We want partners that not only believe in what we’re doing now, but where we’re going in the future. These partners see the growth of the digital economy as an extraordinary opportunity for influence and investment, and they believe in our vision, our team, and our platform. If you found yourself mentally assenting to the points made above, if you do some research on our team, if you take a look at what we’re doing as a company, and you love it, then you should absolutely invest. We’d welcome it. Otherwise, let’s just stay friends.
If you’re interested in connecting on what we’re up to, drop us a line!