(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Here is my interview with Laura Spiekerman, Co-Founder of Alloy,which helps financial service companies reduce fraud and risk by enabling them to safely onboard more “good” customers.
What makes you do what you do?
I want to help enable the next generation of financial services, which should be for everyone, on any device. Even with the spread of web & mobile, many people aren’t being properly served by traditional banks. By focusing on compliance infrastructure, I’m hoping I can help developers, entrepreneurs, and product leaders deliver the best financial tools to people in the US (and globally).
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I became interested in mobile financial services during a semester abroad in Senegal, where both mobile phones and micro finance were taking off at the time. I then joined a payments startup in Kenya, then moved back to the US to do impact investing at Imprint Capital (now Goldman Sachs), where I looked at a lot of financial services companies and funds. Eventually, I got the startup itch again and went back to being an operator before venturing out on my own in 2015 to start Alloy.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
At a previous company, my current co-founders and I were constantly asked by our customers for help with their identity/compliance issues. We started looking around for solutions and realized there weren’t any good ones on the market. We decided it was a big enough opportunity, and somewhere that technology was clearly part of the solution, so we took a leap of faith.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have many people who have helped me out in various ways — particularly women, many of whom have been generous with time and introductions. I have quite a long list of people to whom I owe favors!
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Unfortunately, recruiting is most effectively done through networks, which contributes to the lack of diversity. We’re quite small, so have only made a couple of hires, but they were through our networks and we love people who have previously been founders/entrepreneurs – that, more than skills or resumes, has impressed us.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
We consciously aim to support it, and yet have fallen victim to hiring through our networks, so largely white men. I’ve been disappointed we haven’t broken through that yet, and I plan to institutionalize some of the best practices for diverse hiring as we scale.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
For me, being a hustler is paramount. As a founder, you spend so much time trying to get something done the most efficient, quick way possible, and you’re constantly asking for help, or money, or introductions, or all of the above. You have to be willing to fight with limited resources. At the intersection of financial services, this is especially hard to find, because being scrappy is not an inherent quality of those who have spent time at financial institutions.
Advice for others?
Take as big a risk as you reasonably can, and then give it your all. Don’t worry about the outcome, because although statistics would tell you you’ll fail, and you might, you’ll still learn more, forge important relationships, and develop significant insights in an industry that you couldn’t at a “regular” job. And lastly, be confident. Or fake it till you make it.
Marion is a leadership and development coach, entrepreneur, writer, and angel investor. She has over 20 years of experience in coaching, teaching, mentoring, training, and investing. She holds a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University.http://marionneubronner.com/