In this episode, Miguel Armaza sits down with Anish Acharya, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), where he invests primarily in financial services and adjacent technologies.
Prior to joining A16Z, Anish held multiple leadership roles at Credit Karma and before that he founded two different startups — SocialDeck (acquired by Google) and Snowball (acquired by Credit Karma).
In this episode, we talk about:
- His transition from operator to investor
- The evolution of his investing approach
- Why all of his best career decisions have mostly been focused on people
- The importance of product management and how founders should think about product
- Why he believes there’s a huge opportunity in fintech for the GenZ generation.
- And much, much more…
Anish is also a passionate DJ and loves to spin records, so as a bonus for our listeners, we have included a few minutes of his latest mix at the end of the show! Make sure to find him on Soundcloud.
Anish has been building and investing in tech and fintech companies for over a dozen years. As a serial entrepreneur having launched companies during times of crisis and boom times, he has experienced many types of challenges. Launching SocialDeck in 2008, he recalls it was almost impossible to raise capital in the middle of the great recession, yet it was fairly easy to acquire millions of customers with a quality product. However, founding Snowball in 2014 presented a very different challenge. Capital was easy to come by, but it was incredibly hard to gain customers — “in a way, that was a more frustrating challenge, because the motion that you really have to have mastered these days, and certainly those days, is marketing. Whereas 10 years ago, you could actually win by just having a better product.”
Snowball was eventually acquired by Credit Karma and Anish joined the company and held multiple senior product roles over the following years. But when A16Z come knocking, he knew it was the right opportunity for the next step.
The Future is Fintech
Joining A16Z was an easy decision. Not only did Anish thoroughly enjoy the many conversations with the team, but he also valued the specialized approach the firm had been taking on financial services, in his own words “I think some FinTech companies can be evaluated the way you would a traditional consumer company or an enterprise company. But there’s a lot of nuances that create exceptions to the general rules and I felt like Andreessen was a place that really got that and really had built a team and a strategy against it. So I like the approach. And I like the people”. In fact, since our interview, the company announced the closing of two new funds for an additional $4.5 billion, with a meaningful percentage earmarked to be invested in consumer, enterprise, and financial services technologies.
Having joined A16Z in August of 2019 means that over 50% of his tenure at the firm has been during COVID times. And, despite his initial fears at the beginning of the pandemic, Mr. Acharya has never been busier. He tells us they are seeing an enormous number of fintech startups and things have sped up across all stages and types of companies. They are also seeing companies with a lot of diversity in areas like deep fintech, pure-play consumer propositions, and a lot more international startups from every corner of the world.
The Gen Z Opportunity
As Anish thinks about the future of fintech, he argues there is a massive and untapped opportunity to serve the Generation Z (people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s). He explains there are two principles driving their interest in FinTech. First, growing up with technology and being digitally native has made them a lot more savvy and aware. “they can smell something that’s inauthentic or manipulative from a mile away. So they have a great sort of desire for transparency”. So a lot of the historical business models with hidden fees make them very skeptical. Additionally, the path to financial progress for this generation looks very different than it did for Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers. Buying a house, investing in the market, and having a job for life until retirement are foreign concepts these days. So Gen Z’ers will actually have to find their own way to define and achieve financial progress. This reality makes them a lot more open-minded to try new and innovative approaches. With all that being said, Anish sees a big gap in financial services being offered for Gen Z and is convinced there is an opportunity for startups.
Future of Fintech
Looking back on his founder days and the struggles between raising funds and acquiring customers, Anish argues this is a favorable time to build a fintech startup. The bar from incumbents has been very low for a long time and customers are starting to pull back. This means it is a lot easier to get users in fintech than it is in other categories. In addition, investors are increasingly excited for fintech and we are seeing a lot of interest in the category both from generalist and fintech-focused funds, better said by Anish “FinTech is exciting because it’s both easy to get users and easy, or at least easier, to get investors than it is in other categories.”
Anish Acharya is a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz where he invests primarily in financial services and adjacent technologies. He currently serves on the boards of remote payroll and compliance platform Deel and construction technology company Mosaic. He has also led investments in Runway and Silo, amongst others. Anish joined Andreessen Horowitz in 2019.
Prior to joining a16z, Anish held multiple roles at Credit Karma including the General Manager of Core Product and General Manager of U.S. Card, which he helped scale to over 100MM members and nearly $1B in 2019 revenue. Anish joined Credit Karma in 2015 via the acquisition of Snowball, a notifications startup he founded a year earlier.
Prior to creating Snowball, Anish founded SocialDeck, a social-gaming company that was acquired by Google in 2010. He went on to lead various mobile product efforts as well as invest at Google Ventures. Anish graduated from the University of Waterloo and lives in the Bay Area with his family.
Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) is a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that backs bold entrepreneurs building the future through technology. The firm is stage agnostic, investing in seed to late-stage technology companies, across the consumer, enterprise, bio/healthcare, crypto, and fintech spaces. a16z has nearly $16.5B in assets under management across multiple funds. See portfolio companies here: https://a16z.com/portfolio/.
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