How a Seattle fintech entrepreneur built a network of support across multiple organizations
Seattle is home to a handful of fintech companies, including money transfer startup Remitly, but it’s not known as a fintech hub. And the city has venture capitalists who write checks for millions of dollars every year, but few focus on fintech.
âFinding the right people to invest or advise you is difficult in the best circumstances,â said Nate Derby, CEO and chief data scientist for Stakana Analytics, a marketing analytics company for credit unions and community banks.
So what should a Seattle fintech founder do when operating in an environment that isn’t the best? Build targeted networks across multiple organizations, Derby said, to get the mentorship and access you need.
Three years ago, Derby, who is gay, joined StartOut, a nonprofit that helps LGBTQ entrepreneurs make connections and access resources. The contacts he made through the national group led Derby to present his startup to donors in the Bay Area and Boston.
But despite being a gay entrepreneur, he doesn’t run a business targeting the gay community, so he sought additional support elsewhere. He participated in the Founder Cohort Program with the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) where he met other founders doing similar work in analytics and met helpful mentors. The program “changed her life,” Derby said.
He now hopes to access the resources that become available through a recently announced partnership between StartOut and Amazon Web Services. Through a mentorship program, AWS is pairing experienced startup founders and experts with at least 50 StartOut members over the next year. AWS also provides more than $ 1 million in credits and assistance to cohorts and members of the StartOut Accelerator through AWS Activate, a program for early stage startups. Derby asks for help through Activate.
âStartOut’s ongoing research does a great job highlighting the gaps in opportunity that exist for LGBTQ founders. We believe that with our reach and the global team of startup experts we have assembled, we can play a role in their closure, âsaid Bob Van Nortwick, Global Startup Leader for AWS.
âIt’s a great partnership and I’m surprised they haven’t done it before, but I’m extremely happy they are doing it now,â said Derby.
Derby started Stakana in 2015. He has raised capital with the support of friends and family and is currently recruiting. Derby expects the startup to reach 11 people over the summer, after years of being a team of three or four.
Stakana worked with a bank in Washington and a credit union in Illinois to develop products to help small financial organizations analyze their customer data to shape their marketing efforts. The data may suggest who is at risk of switching banks and who is better for a credit card or mortgage. By partnering with financial institutions, Stakana designed products tailored to customer needs, Derby said, before offering analysis services to the entire market.