Wharton FinTech
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Wharton FinTech

Christina Melas-Kyriazi, Partner at Bain Capital Ventures — Finding the Next Generation of Mission Driven Founders

In today’s episode, I am joined by Christina Melas-Kyriazi, Partner at Bain Capital Ventures. Previously, Christina served as Head of Product for Consumer Foundations at Affirm, and Senior Product Manager at GoFundMe.

Christina and I cover a range of topics, including:

Christina’s early career:
After completing her undergraduate degree from Standford University, Christina began her career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. While she enjoyed her time in finance, she wanted to learn how world-class companies were being built, and decided to join LinkedIn. At LinkedIn and back in the Bay Area, Christina caught the startup bug. She later joined Shift, a better way to buy and sell used cars, as one of the company’s first employees.

A few years later, Christina decided to get her MBA from Harvard Business School. Christina credits her time in business school as a spark for her interest in fintech. She distinctly remembers hearing Wences Casares, founder of Xapo Bank, speak to her class in 2014. After the conversation, Christina asked herself:

“Why is it that you can see someone on Skype anywhere in the world, but you can’t send that person a penny?”

After her MBA, Christina moved full steam ahead in the fintech industry, first working for GoFundMe and next for Affirm.

Helping users tell their stories at GoFundMe:
Christina described GoFundMe as “a storytelling platform” with a payments layer built on top of it. She highlights three key macro conditions that led to GoFundMe’s success:

  1. Social media allowing powerful stories to reach the masses
  2. Payment providers making it easy to accept online payments
  3. Rising healthcare costs and lower social safety nets within the U.S.

Developing financial products for the underserved at Affirm:
During her time at GoFundMe, Christina came to empathize with users who are underserved in the current financial system — around 25% of the U.S. population. She decided to join Affirm in 2019 to create better financial products for these users. While a lot changed structurally at Affirm during this rapid growth phase (the team grew from 400 to 2000 employees), one thing that never changed was the company’s focus on its mission — building honest financial products that improve lives. Christina believes that this mission permeated everything that Affirm did from top to bottom, and this mission driven approach has shaped Christina’s personal investment philosophy. Finally, Christina describes the urgent changes Affrim made when Covid-19 hit, including helping customers repay flexibly. During this time she shifted her own focus towards the more foundational components of the business, looking at fraud management, user journey, account management, and more.

Transitioning to Bain Capital Ventures:

“I want to back the next generation of mission driven, passionate founders solving really hard problems.”

Christina loves the “0-to-1” phase of product building — a time period when founders are forced to think deeply about users’ needs and build elegant solutions for them. The domain-centric approach that the BCV team uses allows Christina to focus on early stage fintech and eCommerce startups. During her first few months on the job, Christina has focused on meeting as many entrepreneurs as possible. She describes the job as “feeling like a student again” with the number of new opportunities, ideas, and challenges she’s been presented with.

What she’s excited for in fintech moving forward:
Towards the end of the episode, Christina mentions a number of verticals she’s excited to see grow over the next 3–5 years, including:

  • Embedded fintech products that enable all companies to become fintech companies
  • Faster and cheaper B2B payments, especially for those in the creator economy
  • Continued development of consumer fintech helping individuals save and spend in fiat and cryptocurrencies
  • The continued democratization of fintech products, expanding access to private market investments

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Christina Melas-Kyriazi:
Christina joined Bain Capital Ventures in 2021, where she focuses on early-stage investments in fintech and commerce.

Christina was previously Head of Product for Consumer Foundations at Affirm, where she led a team of product managers to enable a delightful, frictionless customer experience from account creation to loan servicing. Before Affirm, Christina was a Senior Product Manager at GoFundMe, where she worked on growth and new product areas. Earlier in her career, Christina also spent time in business operations at LinkedIn and as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.

Christina is an active angel investor and an advisor to early-stage companies. She has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Economics from Stanford University.

Christina grew up in Los Angeles, CA and now lives in San Francisco with her husband John and son Theo. She loves running in the Presidio and skiing.

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About the Author:
Anirudh Singh is a second-year MBA Candidate at The Wharton School, where he is part of the Wharton FinTech Podcast team. He has a passion for economic development, venture capital, financial services, and all things FinTech. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, feedback, and opportunities at singhan@wharton.upenn.edu.

If you like this episode, you may also enjoy:

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Anirudh Singh

Anirudh Singh

Wharton MBA Candidate, Fintech Enthusiast, Early Stage Investing