How this former Square Cash App Investing Chief Compliance Officer is democratizing access to capital and fixing a broken financial system
I spoke with Christian Maynard-Philipp @christianmp, former Chief Compliance Officer at Square's Cash App Investing and now CEO of a new startup democratizing access to capital for diverse founders. She has gone from financial policy making to wealth management, to multiple FinTechs, with a few acquisitions along the way. She most recently helped build and launch Square’s Cash App Investing, and has helped build, launch, and scale operating infrastructure at early and later stage FinTechs. She’s now working to execute a new vision as a first-time founder and the CEO of The Good Investor, a capital-raising tool for diverse founders and small business owners.
How did you decide to take the plunge and found your own company? Were there any initial obstacles that stand out?
I began with an idea for a product that I found very compelling; it was the solution to a problem that I cared deeply about. The more I researched and understood about the market and the potential opportunity, the more I felt that this particular product had to be created. However, I couldn’t quite get over the feeling that I was missing some mystical experience or resource that I needed before I should start a company. I had deep expertise building FinTechs and launching products, but founding a FinTech felt out of reach.But the funniest thing happened. As I devoured entrepreneurial books and case studies in an effort to identify the magical qualification that separated me from successful founders, I realized that there was no one-size-fits all founder resume (consider reading the book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, if you need some convincing). The more I researched, the more it became apparent that maybe I was even well-prepared to lead a startup. I could do it.You can do it too. I think my initial reservation had a lot to do with representation. Throughout my travels in traditional finance and FinTech, I had never worked for or with a female founder or CEO. When I thought of founders, I did not see myself. Of the many lessons that 2020 has taught us, one is certainly that the world needs more women in leadership positions. Maybe you’re like me, waking up at 4 am, thinking about doing something more, but not feeling quite like you have everything you need to get started. If that’s you, I vote that you execute on that big idea that’s been waking you up at night, step up for that leadership role even though you don’t feel 100% comfortable doing so, and build the startup, anyway.
What are some tactical steps for those thinking about taking the plunge?
I don’t think that there’s a one-size-fits-all method in terms of getting started, but the following steps were necessary once I identified the product that I wanted to create:Research: Deep-dive the market, your potential competitors, and the overall need for your product. Do you see clear segments of the market that are ripe for innovation or is your vision a new solution to a long-standing problem? Talk with your would-be customers to better understand their unique needs and the potential product-market fit.Protect Your Startup: In my experience, invention assignment agreements have become a pretty common new employee onboarding staple. If you’re working full time and planning to also begin building your startup on the side, hire an attorney to review your current employment agreement(s). Your attorney should be able to give you proper guardrails regarding what you can and/or cannot do while still employed. This will help set you up for success and protect your billion dollar idea for the long-term.Plan: Map out the steps required to move your vision from ideation to execution. This does not need to be the most detailed plan initially. For instance, what resources, in terms of human capital and funding, will you need to create an initial prototype or in order to get to a place where you can raise money to build the minimum viable product (MVP). Create a plan and a timeline, identifying the resources needed to execute such a plan, and start filling in the blanks where you are able. Are there people in your network that would be willing to help you in an area where you do not have expertise or introduce you to others that have that expertise? If not, start networking. In the current COVID-19 era, networking has become even easier.
Companies such as Elpha and Lunchclub enable you to meet new people that are generally eager to lend their knowledge and support, virtually and for free. In my experience, it’s also a good idea to create a support system that believes in you and your vision, especially when you’re operating outside of your comfort zone. This bench of support could include your best friend, a parent, spouse, or close colleague; my bench has helped me to stay on track when I’ve felt discouraged. You will invariably encounter people that love your idea, and others that will find everything that’s wrong with it or you. Look for the constructive feedback from those that aren’t sold and use it to improve, but don’t take it as an indication that you and your vision will not be successful and/or that you should slink back into safety. Encourage yourself, regroup with your bench of support if needed, and keep moving forward.
What are you working on now? How did you come up with your startup idea?
Inspired by current events, I am building a new type of capital-raising tool for every day small business owners and startup founders. I see real value in being able to invest directly into my community, startups led by diverse founders, and companies that are going after problems with innovative solutions. The time to invest in new ideas and leaders is now. Reach out anytime if you would like to learn more about what we’re building, raising capital, or if you would like to chat generally about taking big, uncomfortable, but necessary leaps in life :D.
Article originally published on Elpha
About the Author
Jessica Li - Harvard Graduate | Growth Marketing @ ZAGENO | Head of Content @ Elpha (YC) & Harvard in Tech | Venture Scout, Angel Investor, Former VC