What Fintech Innovation Lab Gave Us

FinTech Innovation Lab Jun 26, 2020

In five years we will look back and think it was crazy we ever gave a full table of data to analysts to do their job.

In my career as a data scientist, I’ve personally had access to hundreds of billions of data points in healthcare, finance, and national security. Frankly, it felt uncomfortable to be granted access to mountains of sensitive data. No wonder it can take as long as 18 months for users to get provisioned access.

I left Stanford a few years ago to cofound DataFleets with Nick Elledge and solve this problem. DataFleets is a privacy-preserving analytics API that unifies private and distributed data for safe and rapid access. It acts like an analytics firewall between users and data. With DataFleets, data analysts, scientists, and engineers can perform data transformation, machine learning, and business analytics without any row-level access. The approach eliminates security threats, accelerates access provisioning and compliance, and unlocks new datasets.

This is a big undertaking, and even though our team is stellar, we know we can’t do it alone. Enter Fintech Innovation Lab: the Tesla of accelerators.

Mission Accelerator: Fintech Innovation Lab

The FinTech Innovation Lab, founded by Accenture and Partnership Fund for NYC, is a “highly competitive, 12-week program that helps early- to growth-stage enterprise technology companies refine and test their value proposition with the support of the world’s leading financial service firms.”

With a 2% acceptance rate, FIL offers a highly sought-after stamp of approval. But it is so much more than a brand. It is a formalized structure that serves tailored introductions deep into Wall Street and Hartford. Maria Gotsch and Sunny Parikh seem to know everybody, but they help you like you’re the only person in the world. Every time they gave me an intro I was confident I was speaking to the right person in an organization, even in the most byzantine of bulge bracket banks. FIL also provides largely unlimited access to regulators, experienced entrepreneurs, and other mentors such as Accenture who have proved helpful.

With Demo Day yesterday, DataFleets has completed this year’s FIL program. While the relationships and value of FIL continue for years, it seems this is a natural place to pause, reflect, and acknowledge the things FIL gave us.

First, the quantifiables:

  • 62 sales meetings with 130+ technical and business stakeholders at 7 leading banks and insurance firms (our FIL “pairs”). These have led to multiple POCs in discussion and in the pipeline.
  • 7 meetings with regulators and relevant consultants, including FINRA, CFTC, and the former superintendent of the NYSDFS.
  • 20+ soundboard meetings with FIL leadership on how to improve DataFleets’ messaging.
  • 9 classmates who form a community of entrepreneurs dedicated to advancing each other’s success: Alkymi, Arthur AI, Broker Buddha, Clausematch, Knoema, Sigma Ratings, Skyhive, Summer, and True Flood Risk.
  • Access to FIL’s vast distribution channels, including 20k+ Twitter followers, 16k+ LinkedIn followers, and the Accenture network. FIL also provided media services via MarkMedia, who helped us develop 2 professional quality presentations that we will repurpose into marketing videos. Here’s one below!
  • 6 introductions to prominent Fintech investors that resulted in indications of interest and offers for investment from both institutional VCs and angels.

Second, the takeaways:

  • Improved messaging. Our sales deck and talking points almost seem unrecognizable they’ve improved so much. For what it’s worth, I’ve found the Challenger Sales approach has been more effective for DataFleets than Solution Selling.
  • Repeatable use-cases. FIL calls surfaced dozens of use-cases. More importantly, they helped us hone in on which use-cases are most repeatable across customers and industries, and therefore which we should pursue.
  • Sales and user personas. FIL gave us sufficient customer-facing time to inform in-depth personas, which have proved pivotal to revenue and product development alike.
  • Empower your people. FIL not only accelerated our GTM, but also the maturity of our team itself. The scale of customer interactions required I delegate tasks I would normally coddle. One of our team members ran point on all FIL logistics, giving me time to focus on the weightier matters of messaging and product.
  • Details matter. Customers recognize and appreciate quality, and usually that comes down to their subconscious recognizing minutiae that product and business development teams spend hours consciously considering.
  • Org charting solutions are so helpful for mapping sales opportunities. They clarify understanding of organizations and make clear where knowledge is lacking. (Who does that person report to, again? And which team has the budget?) I recommend Lucidchart.
  • Ultimately, leaders treat their team the way they treat themselves. If I’m too hard on myself, I’ll be too hard on my team. Alternatively, if I’m kind and reasonable with my self-expectations, it manifests in my leadership. Stress from a busy accelerator like FIL brings many things out of the shadows. Good and bad. It doesn’t show your true colors so much as your rare and hidden ones.
  • Humor is a distraction and has no place in business… :)

Thank You, FIL!

FIL has transformed DataFleets’ customer traction, fundraising candidacy, and overall maturity. The program’s structure and professionalism are truly world-class. They no doubt have risen to the covid occasion — the program hummed without missing a beat. Even though the program has “officially” ended, I have confidence FIL will always be there if I need a soundboard, and introduction, or a friend.

I am so grateful FIL and DataFleets are partners. For any entrepreneur considering whether accelerators are worth it, I honestly couldn’t tell you. FIL is in a league of its own, and it is definitely worth it.


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