The duo behind the automated debt management mobile app Qoins has scooped the top prize at this week’s Fintech South. Co-founders Christian Zimmerman and Nate Washington took home a $50,000 no-strings-attached check as winners of the Fintech Innovation Award Challenge, which took place during the two-day conference.
The Innovation Award Challenge, organized by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), was a unique opportunity for companies to take part in a unique resource. Qoins was one of a selected number of startups accepted into the Innovation Award’s Education and Mentoring program that offers relevant educational sessions, mentoring from industry veterans, as well as access to a network of industry leaders based in Georgia.
The Atlanta-based startup was one of four teams to move on from pitch night at the Mercedes Benz Stadium football field stage where Fintech South took place. Audience members who voted through their smartphones selected Zimmerman’s (co-founder and CEO) pitch as the overall winner.
The app has been making waves as an innovative solution to pay off debt. With Qoins, users can mindlessly and seamlessly pay off their debt using spare change.
In fact, Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, and Nate Washington, who’s African-American, stand out in other ways. Fintech (much likes other areas of the financial services) is a relatively homogenous sector dominated by white males.
Geekz Watch Show featuring interviews with Christian Zimmerman and Nate Washington
Still, technological innovation presents the perfect opportunity for those who feel left out to use their ideas to implement change.
“I think historically when you look at minorities and underrepresented people, they seem to make up a hyper percentage of the unbanked and underbanked,” said Washington, co-founder and CTO of Qoins. “The best people that maybe have the best insight to solutions for their own communities are those people.”
“You can’t take someone who’s never experienced poverty and expect them to find a solution for people who are in poverty, “ adds Washington. “They don’t have the inside knowledge that people in those communities do on why they are not using traditional methods. So I think that’s really important.”
Whether it’s people from disadvantaged communities, minorities or women, numerous studies show that diverse teams are good for business. Diversity of thought creates better business decisions.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Fintech startup Kabbage has been able to achieve a rare feat- unicorn status. Co-founded by Kathryn Petralia, Rob Frohweins and Marc Gorlin, the billion-dollar company has always had a woman in a seat of power. Rob Frohwein currently sits as CEO and Kathryn Petralia as President.
Sharing her thoughts on diversity in tech Petralia told UrbanGeekz, “In general, I just think the world needs more diverse companies that serve more markets. I think you’re almost doing your community a disservice if you don’t keep going because there are people who need that service from you and you can deliver it in a unique way if you understand that market specifically.”
In a session with both co-founders, Petralia detailed how her company overcame hurdles and lots of rejection. She highlighted how not underestimating your company’s value, asking investors what their objections are, and above all, being persistent got Kabbage to land the confidence of investors. With this same advice in mind and the current climate, minorities and women can get ahead in tech.
“Right now is a great time to raise money for minorities and for women because a lot of firms are looking for diversity in their portfolios and they’re being measured by that and the investors in their funds are looking for diversity, so I think things are getting better and it’s important to just keep trying.”