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FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12): Road to Fintech IPO: Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa

NCFA Canada | Oct 13, 2018

FF Ep 13 Ali Pourdad 1000 - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa

Ep13-Oct 13:  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First

About this episode:   On this episode, NCFA show host Manseeb Khan sits down with Ali Pourdad the CEO of Progressa who recently closed out an $84 million dollar round. They talk about P2P loans, loan services operating within the blockchain and why being people first business matters. Enjoy! (see Transcript)

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest:  ALI POURDAD, Co-founder and CEO, Progressa (LinkedIn)

ProgressaLogo0516800 - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa

Bio:  Ali Pourdad has been CEO of Progressa since its inception in 2013. Under his leadership the Company has raised over $40 million of investor capital and invested over $2.0 million dollars in its proprietary "Powered by Progressa" decision engine for Canadian Enterprise partners looking to enhance collections strategy in a positive way. The company has grown to over 110 employees in Vancouver and Toronto. Ali has decisively positioned Progressa for its next generation of growth by recently executing on several initiatives, including creating one of Canada's most popular Exempt Market Bond Offerings and securing an $11.4 million Series A financing .

Prior to co-founding Progressa, Ali worked in both corporate restructuring and audit & assurance, with the bulk of his professional career at PwC, where he managed top-tier engagements of financial firms. Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Ali holds a Canadian Chartered Accountant degree and a BBA in Finance from Simon Fraser University. He began his professional career at a young age, co-founding a leading IT services firm with locations in Edmonton, AB and Vancouver, BC in 1998. Ali is also a regular contributor to Business in Vancouver's weekly radio technology panel and was named to BIV's Top 40 under 40 in 2017.

 

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Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan:  Hey Everybody Manseeb Khan here. And you are tuning in to another episode Fintech Friday. Today I have the amazing the incredibly talented Ali Pourdad CEO Progresa. Ali thank you so much for sitting down with me today.

Ali Pourdad: Thanks for having me.

Manseeb Khan:   Yeah so Ali could you just give the audience a little bit about who you are and essentially who and what Progresa is.

Ali Pourdad: Sure. I'm happy to. I think for those who are not aware of myself or Progressa I have a background as an entrepreneur. I've been there for about 20 years. This is my second business I had to get out of high school. Pre Dot-com which shows was my age. This is my second life. We started Progresa back in 2013 in Vancouver . Me and my co-founder originally started off as a straight consumer finance lending business. And sort of quietly behind the scenes we were building software. And today. I would say we're sort of a full-blown financial technology company and we have a lending business. That drives a significant amount of revenue but we also. A multitude of software offerings for our major Canadian enterprises. We solve problems for Canadian business.

Manseeb Khan:  Yeah that's incredible. So, this might be a silly question, but I guess we'll make you a little bit more different than Money Mart and any of the other loan services out there.

Ali Pourdad: Sure. Yeah but you don't see companies like money mart or other loan services, companies as a competitor because. We don't we don't go direct to consumer like they do. So. A company like many of markets has branches, HYG online but there are really seeking consumers and going directly at consumers for lending products and offering them. Credit where they actually paying cash in their pocket and not necessarily helping them  helping them. Progressa fundamentally different. All of our customer acquisition comes from other businesses. And we're typically solving problems for those businesses and probably problem for those consumers. And what I mean by that is our software is setting up and offering a number of services. But the main purpose of at least  two thirds of our software solution. Revolves around enterprise collections and try to have a healthier and more of a holistic approach to the recover money as a Canadian enterprise so. That would be an example of you know a young lady or a young gentleman who's going through a tough time in the past that. They owe. You know Roger or TELUS money. Progresa is the company that will come in and help facilitate that recovery for those enterprises. Help them recover money but also offer a better experience. To that young lady or that young gentleman who might be going through that tough time or stressful time. Ultimately. What that means is that larger TELUS, Bell, and other enterprises that use Progresa. Will have better net promoter score. Better. Which is better customer satisfaction. And ultimately manager their risk better for them. There's been real demand for differences between that and traditional lenders. All of our loans for example the customers will actually not seeing money, we're helping pay their debts and pay down the debt. And leaving them into better financial life.

Manseeb Khan: You guys also do. I mean I've from looking from your website and from some of your past blog posts you just do go a little bit more deeper than credit scores. You start building I guess a customer persona. And just like a characteristic of like who this  person is their past history someone is not in and of itself is pretty incredible because now the loan is a lot more  personalized, it's a lot more individualized`.

Ali Pourdad: Yeah exactly and that's a very good point. I mean we do have a proprietary technology that we built over the years. Technology is quite different than what's out in the market today, what's out in the market today is, you put it very well it's not personal. It's very generic and it's very archaic. And so, it leaves a lot of the population in a position where. They can't be helped even though they might be financially responsible or living within their budget. You are doing all the right thing but. On paper it doesn't reflect that. That's where Progressa shines that. That's why we've been successful even quietly growing behind the scenes because. We'd be making major investment. And that technology that allows us to evaluate these consumers just fundamentally differently and give them credit for things that might you might not necessarily see as a traditional lender.

Manseeb Khan: So, you recently raised the 84 million dollars round which is absolutely incredible. Previously you raised a 10-million-dollar round. You took a much more alternative approach compared to the other startups out there. There were a lot more loud a lot more bullish. In a sense they have the mentality of You don't need banks, we don't need do we need the old world because we're building the new one right. We don't need your guys help you guys look much more silent a lot more tactical route of quietly building partnerships with banks and credit card companies. Could you talk a little bit more of that approach and what that approach looks like and what would your advice look like to other startups on collaborating with banks and other institutions.

Ali Pourdad: Happy to answer that question. I would say there was always a very well thought out plan in the early days when we first launched there was a lot of fintech’s out there that. We’re making quite a bit of noise in the marketplace. A lot of that noise revolved around either taking down the bank or replacing the need for banks etc., etc. . And you know in the Canadian marketplace we have an affiliation with the bank that's going to be quite hard to displace. And we saw that in the early days. So, you know what we decided to do is just invest in. Trying to tackle bank problems. What are the things that the banks are trying to tackle and how can we? Help them be more successful. That was a fundamental decision we made early on. We did it quietly and without making noise because. Frankly we weren't ready to scale the business and have been a business that had both. Technology and lending. You're not going to scale until you have scalable technology and you can't have scalable technology until you have a track record behind with. Very chicken and egg. You have the built of a little bit slow and steady or you risk blowing up your company. And that's what we did. And we now reach the point this where we that we have a very strong foundation as you mentioned. We raised a big round that round the reflection of. The sort of the order that we chose to tackle problems. And investors saw that they saw that we hadn't blown up our business and that. We're you know conscience of investors capital. And they doubled down and supported that next stage. You know my advice entrepreneurs considering building disruptive technology you really need to evaluate what your road map looks, what's you path revenue. Or if you have a better revenue try to disrupt banks or try to work with banks. Sometimes both can be achieved at the same time and. That's the route the Progressa chose.

Manseeb Khan: Some of the investors mentioned that you've actually from day one you started operating the business as it was a public company. You know you talked about how you guys built the very strong foundation. Could you just give us a little bit more detail of what that foundation looks like and how you pretty much just muted out everybody else and just put your head down and just build Progressa.

Ali Pourdad:  Sure. Yeah, I mean I know my background in between my first business and Progressa sort of pivoted professional services I became a chartered accountant I worked at PWC for a number of years. Really built up my professional skill set so that. I knew that one day I go back entrepreneurship and I really wanted to have a good tool kit. To build a business in a proper way. You can help businesses any number of ways a lot of entrepreneurs get lucky, some of them blow up their businesses. I knew that this type of business was going to be successful I need to build the skill set. So, with a professional a background I very quickly started to build the team and the right spot. And we focus on things that we knew were going to be needed to rebuild capital. Making sure we have proper financial reporting, making sure we have things like insurance, making sure you know we have good controls, getting audited financial statements and so on and so forth. And we made all of those investments right off the bat. To raise money in the Canadian marketplace. Well there's a lot of heavy regulation. You know the government securities regulations in each of the provinces. Is there to protect investors and rightfully so as a company that you know had a strong report below like we do. We had to have all of these checks and balances in place . In order to be able to successfully raise money. Today, that got an easier because we're more on the radar. But as early stage startup when you're going through these things. Such as one of one of the things you might not think about that makes  will make life easier for you. Make those investments. So, you know allocate capital to proper lawyers. Allocate capital to make sure you build your finance team. Have that reporting to share holder reporting as well it's very important in the early days. To keep you're a shareholder in the loop people and keep them happy. Because you might be going back to them for more money and investors are happy to see the right track to a great growth story. But you've got to deliver what you say.

Manseeb Khan: So, I guess sticking with the same chicken and egg analogy that you previously mentioned you want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you start bringing on investors and everybody right.

Ali Pourdad: Yes exactly. I mean we would I mean nowhere we're 6 years in, and we bootstrapped for the first couple years we've totally bootstrapped the business. I don't remember having a management team up until two and a half years into the company. So, we were probably. 20, 26 people before I hired my first other senior manager. You know Ali was HR, He was the CFO. He was legal. I did. I'd basically over just over 20. Individuals in the organization. And tell that point you know as an entrepreneur when you reach that point and your business is run rate is reaching a point where you. De-risk the investment. To the point, we have reached that. You know we've got to the point where the business has started to prove it or start to prove that. Even if we do start to make the right investments and people and scalable technology that we could build something big. Once we had the core competency of the central bank when we take. Both decisions. You know I would be going any other way. in any  entrepreneur that's looking to start a business today. Simply understand you're core competency first. Do that. Make the investment and understanding that before you build. Anything scalable on top of that. You want to make sure that you're building on the right foundation because you'll still move faster you pay your investors a lot of money

Manseeb Khan: You guys are also gearing up to go public by the end of 2019. So. Again just talking about the huge round that you just raised. What got investors excited? Was that a marketing experiment?

Ali Pourdad: To give credit to the investment bankers that were involved in our fund raise they did a good job positioning Progressa of the Canadian marketplace. Listen we may go public, we haven't officially announced anything, but the reality is that a lot of the market driven. we're executing on growth right now. The business is reaching record run rate on revenue and the bottom line and it sets us up to go public nicely. That's what our Board decides to do and our shareholders support. We do have a number a lot of shareholders. They were already about 200 shareholders are Progressa today. So, you know as a small business with 200 shareholders everybody has to be on. The same page about a decision like that. There's lots of avenues for late stage private companies to. Create liquidity for investors if that's their plan. My personal plan is to continue to execute on our strategic plan that our board has signed off on. It's ambitious and it grows this business into a very credible player in Canada. One thing that you mentioned earlier that all sort of reiterated that we had. Very much flown under the radar for 3, 4, 5 years and now we're trying to get on my radar. Where you can fully expect that. So, we're going to be. Doubling down quite hard on that side of things and therefore you know we're going to be more on the radar than ever before. And that's very much a function of launching our technology offering publicly. And you know all of our technology offerings that we made all these investments in. Have supported a growing lending business. But today they're ready to support. Other companies and support them and help them achieve their business objectives. And  you can expect to be hearing a lot more about Progressa as we roll up those products in the coming weeks.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I'm super excited just to see like what's going to be like the changes that may or may not happen now that you guys are going to be a little bit more on everybody's radar. So how are you going to keep the team and Progressa motivated healthy and productive and how do you see I guess the environment changing I mean I a rumor going public?

Ali Pourdad: Yeah, I mean there's different challenges for us as a Toronto and Vancouver company as they try to make. There are two very different cultures. I think.,  The first point is that you have to put the people first if you want to grow your team in a healthy and productive way. you make investments and bringing the right leaders in the work of younger teams that motivate them. But you also have to keep an eye on market trend is that you know you're out there especially in a large organization like we are. They're always talking they always have their eyes and ears on their friends that other organizations to stay competitive truly competitive you need to have a proactive strategy with your employees and not reactive. You know as it relates to Progressa today we really doubled down on people we've made serious investments in our senior H.R. people. We just went on Merit Finley the senior executive from over venture just literally started and this last week, really big win for a company like Progressa because you can't navigate this late stage try this. Potentially IPO scenario without a person like that. The IPO that just leads to bigger and better things. I mean I would expect our team to increase in size modestly. But I our H.R function that really where I would be focused. If you were to IPO, you suddenly now have different challenges and risks. And you need to keep people first That have a people first philosophy. As long as that  doesn't change, and you double down with  everything else. Then post IPO should look really good.

Manseeb Khan: There are a lot of startups that both have either office in Vancouver and in Toronto. I guess your best advice to them would be just double down on people focus on HR and just be there for every single individual in the company because they're the people that are going to help build your amazing building and your business right.

Ali Pourdad: Absolutely. I mean are companies are complex, as an entrepreneur you may not see that on day one. You may be just doing everything and happy to do it and that sort of learning things on the fly. But as you build out teams and build out processes start making investments and technology becomes very. Sort of evidence to how complex it is. And., I think. You know my advice obviously try to simplify it as much as you can and keep things simple for yourself and for your senior leaders that you bring on. Businesses are inherently complex and if you don't keep people first they get  burnt out They don't grow. They get frustrated. You really have a people first mindset to drive that. We haven't always had it right. Progressa it's not something you get right. Right away, you sometimes make mistakes you hire the wrong people and you just need to iterate just like iterate technology iterate on your team and get it to a place where it becomes scalable. Because it's not just technology scalability that. Drives businesses like fintech its's people scale ability. Have the right people at the right times. And. You have to know when it's the right time for those people to move on. These companies evolve very fast. I mean you know in the early days you might double, triple, quadruple revenue year over year. If you maintain those run rates for two three four years. And haven't paid those investments in people get burnt out really fast. And so. That would be my advice.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I love that people scalability. That's incredible. So, I guess you have mentioned that a little bit early on like how much harder it is for Canadian  fintech companies to get Canadian investment money. What is your perspective on the regulating sector. So, for example consumer loans. Do you feel that the government is including regulators? And do you think they're striking the right balance between investor protection and enabling market innovation?

Ali Pourdad: Yeah, I mean I think certainly some regulation is needed across the board. Otherwise you know you get your in situations a country that things don't make macro sense anymore. The best example would be in 2008 there's no lack of regulation that caused banks in the US  to have aggressive underwriting practices and that turns into major problems. So, you don't want that. Sort of worst-case scenario. In Canada. You know people I think people would be quite surprised to understand there is a fair amount of regulation out there in consumer loans. We know we have a very heavily regulated mortgage-based payday loan base. And even other types of lending were very heavily regulated. You know in my view household debt to income ratios are quite concerning in Canada. That is, you know that could easily be correlated. Other things that may not be a regulation issue simply could be. You know high real estate prices the low interest rate. Those are very hard things the regulators control. So, balance is tough  question the answer from an investor standpoint I do believe provincial governments have worked hard to find that right balance investor protection and enabling innovation. You know a major issue that we continue to have in Canada though. Is that these provinces that security regulators aren't harmonized yet and that may. Make things complicated for starts to navigate and innovate quickly.

Manseeb Khan:  Touching back on what you said you guys have invested in a lot of the technologies right? Do you see the future with digital banking by offering a full range of services. And if so I guess what technologies you are most excited about and that you think is going to have the most impact.

Ali Pourdad: Yeah, I mean I think we're already a lot of the way there in Canada. I think our  major banks have fairly strong digital banking offerings themselves. And so, you know there's lots there's a there's a lot of room for disruption, but I think the single probably the single most important legislation required to. Fully complete digital banking roadmap for all Canadians and probably the one I'm most excited about. Is the open banking concept? And that's something that governments started to get wind down in the year they. Have already started to empower consumers with data. Once the banking data is back in the control of the consumers and not the bank. Then you really will have a truly digital banking environment with a full range of services. And you know the ability to unlock full potential. And until then you know you know I think Canadian fintech’s will continue to innovate. You know again Progressa we play behind the scenes we try to play it with. Predicates. Where that. Adds value to a bank and credit cards and so on. Solve problems. You know. What that could lead to it. The regulators don't offer it if they don't move quick enough on open banking, then the banks could just snap up fintech’s one at a time as they see fit. I think. You know you. Have. Different data that are still around after five six seven years. They are well positioned to. Sit down with parents who are having those conversations hoping they can change the environment in Canada significantly. As it relates to digital banking operate because it could really make life good for Canadian's for Canadians and either the playing field for a lot of consumers out there without traditional access to credit Or Just traditional banking products simply because their data is in the control of the banks. Is not doing anything with that.

Manseeb Khan: So essentially the old gatekeepers of helping Canadians in the past are going to be greatly diminished just making it ,like you mentioned a couple times or just making lives of Canadians that much more easy.

Ali Pourdad: That's the idea. I mean banks I think banks do a  great job I've got. I'm not in the camp that banks need to go down or fold or be this be disruptive. Certainly, there's a lot of services and banks that are frustrating to the consumer to deal with. At the end of the day they happy they think large investment digital banking offerings. The issue is less to do with those offerings and more to do with. Empowering the consumer. As a consumer of a bank. You sometimes feel handcuffed. And. I you know I think fundamentally that a lot of upside here for Canadians. If the government does step in and offer you know to open up the data again it's kimono and give power back to the consumer. It just opens up a wide range of opportunity to offer service that. Really. You know make life good for that consumer I mean best examples are the social media companies in the U.S. that. Are able to take data and improve. And again, depends on who you ask. But if you ask me and you've offered your consent really improve life for you and they think very sort of seamless day to day. There's no reason they can't be in that situation in Canada with banking data and make a well thought out plan.

Manseeb Khan: So, speaking of peer to peer you're seeing a lot of people starting to shift into getting into crypto and very much getting into blockchain and how do you see loan services like yourself getting into blockchain and how do you see loan services in the blockchain and different from existing services that we have today. And what I'm asking is What do you need to see be a KYC, be it regulatory to make an actual shift to be 50/50 blockchain or if not just go all in on blockchain.

Ali Pourdad: Yeah. So, I think the answer to that question is simply to look at where the regulations are heaviest and where. Block Chain can solve those problems. And in lending you know I think those questions are still being asked. There not fully fleshed out but certainly where you have heavy KYC the mortgage space and other types of lending in Canada. Yes, the blockchain can solve a significant problem as it relates to onboarding customers and making sure that there's a paper trail for everything. And so, from that perspective the block chain has some real application. Things more seamless for consumers. I think. You know the parts crypto is concerned there is a lot of the young population out there that. Has been investing in cryptocurrency. And the average age of a crypto user is quite young. And they're building up cryptocurrency wallet. With real financial holdings there so. That money is available.  but not in their Canadian or Canadian bank account it's not available under U.S. bank account. It's available in their crypto account. And so. Naturally. You know there's going to be. Sources and uses for the money and the lending is one option for the cryptocurrency you're going to start to see platforms. That offer peer to peer lending options for the crypto currencies. Simply because people are going to be sitting on those currencies and are going to want to get that money to work and try to generate a return just like any. You know company or other peer to peer platforms the in  U.S.  for example, trying to achieve. Definitely we're going to see shifts into crypto I don't think it's to take over the world as far as lending is concerned, I think lending is just A function of whatever currency is sitting on out there whether it's crypto or fiat. But certainly, the block chain going back to that will make life good. And I think that the companies right now that are Again asking the question when. Where are the problems? Where the pain points? And how can I use blockchain to make things better? At Progressa that  We're certainly exploring a lot of those things but not haven’t decided to use the blockchain yet.

Manseeb Khan: So, you did mention peer to peer loans right. So, do you see peer to peer loans disrupting your business given that it would make it a lot more easier for just Canadians and if not under serviced  Canadians to get loans or just to make sure they can pay the Rogers bill or the phone bill or what have you.

Ali Pourdad:  I don't necessarily see that I think offering credit is a core competency that you have to learn over time. It was something that is easy to reproduce. We have learned by mistake. The have to have money loose. Because you definitely will lose money in the beginning and it takes time to. Again, understand that core competencies that you can start to scale it and make money in greater amounts you know is it possibly disrupt able ? absolutely there is possible disruption there in the future. I think in Canada probably a lower chance of that happening. Peer to peer lending in Canada first of all is being banned by securities regulators for quite some time. In the U.S. certainly you see peer to peer lending is much more prevalent. And you're already seeing a block chain-based companies tackle peer to peer lending. But there is just a drop in the bucket and the reality is the block chain is at this point heavily correlated with crypto currencies. And are like crypto currencies and so that's the main driver. You know if somebody borrowing and they don't need crypto currency then there's really no use of the platform. So. As far as I understand there's we're still talking about tens of millions of crypto currency users across the world not hundreds of millions or 200 you know are billions yet. And so, it's still a quite a small market. Relative  to the overall market and something that. Companies just to keep their eye on and evaluate as they grow and look at market opportunities and pounce on it if you think there's something there to. To grow into.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah no absolutely. Like we said before the average crypto very young so it's tens of millions 100 to hundreds. So, it's not a very young, very infancy stage for companies to pounce on it right. So, I guess one of the things that is out there that's very prevalent in the business media would be alongside of crypto and blockchain would be AI right. AI is definitely going to be disrupting the banking industry for sure in the past couple episodes. It was also mentioned that AI is also going to be very disruptive for the insurance business. How do you see AI either disrupting or helping the loan services and Do you see as an opportunity or do you see it as a threat?

Ali Pourdad: Oh, I mean perhaps this is an opportunity for sure want to be very people are asking this question because I don't know that I would recommend. You know getting into lending if you have an AI that's not the reason to get into lending and I don't think you can use AI effectively right off the bat anyway. I think you have to grow into AI. AI is by its inherently is reliant on big data. You're not just sitting on that data when you launch a business. You have to build the data over time, you need to make sure it's a scaleable data. It's being housed properly that a lot of an investment you have to make it into a  data infrastructure. To leverage AI effectively. So, from our perspective I mean we definitely see it as an opportunity because we've made those investments. Heavy investments in technology and our data infrastructure. I mean we have a  full data team in Vancouver. That to use AI effectively to have automated credit models and use sort of machine learning to automate the recalibration process that we that we currently have humans doing you know. And so that that's all upside for business that make those investments. But it's not something that I don't think  it's not practical for a number of years. You have to you can't just acquire the data, you have learned by mistakes. And build up to date on an appropriate way so that when you're ready to build scalable technology you know they you add AI to the list.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah. So, all of that is just testing and learning right? Where do you see yourself in Progressa the next three to five years? I mean given that we talked about block chain and crypto and AI?

Ali Pourdad: Three to five-year progress as generating, I mean you can see us like a traditional online lending business. But over three to five years Progress is going to generate the majority of its revenue from that technologies. And a minority of its revenues is from the lending business. I mean we made a  significant investment in software. That are driving great growth in  our lending business today. But over the next three to five years you know I fully expect that we'll be able to service our much larger enterprise partners in more meaningful ways as a software provider and much more so than a lender. For me personally you know I'm having fun. We've made significant investments in building out a great team. And I want to see this team be successful. I work closely with our board and I'll continue to run Progressa as long as they have me with the job. At the same time, you know Progressa has set me up for many great opportunities personally well had to get involved with many younger entrepreneurs as I can. And guide them and share my voice. I had the privilege of contributing weekly for a couple years on the Business in Vancouver the technology panel and continue to do that and have fun. You know I'm in a mode personally where Progressa even though we've been flying under the radar behind the scenes. Progressa has set me up to contribute back how meaningfully and guide younger entrepreneurs and try to get involved with younger businesses that have disruptive technologies. But I think that's what I see for Her my future.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah that's incredible it's actually very humbling to hear that like even though you are I guess relatively compared to traditional businesses you guys are a very young company, but you already have the mindset of Yeah, I know I'm still a startup and I'm still building a great business, but I still want to give back to young entrepreneurs. someone to guide them like hey that mistake I made over there yeah don't do that to just do this instead this was going to make your life so much easier. That's absolutely incredible. So as an aspiring young entrepreneur myself I wholeheartedly thank you and amazing entrepreneurs like you for helping and just guiding us and giving back.

Ali Pourdad: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate it and thanks for having me on the show.

Manseeb Khan: Absolutely. So, what will be the best way for young entrepreneurs out there to contact you. Could we snapchat you. Do you up on Twitter. What we the best way to contact you?

Ali Pourdad: Yeah for sure. I'm on Twitter as my handle is  Ali Pourdad. It's my first name and my last name. You can find me on progressa dot com as well. I will have a bio on there with my name, so you'll find me on Twitter, you'll find me on Instagram. And happy to chat with young entrepreneurs. I mean we certainly have a handful of Progressa. But again, I'm also on LinkedIn. Always a good way to find me in on LinkedIn. Happy to chat with young entrepreneurs  and add I value where I can.

Manseeb Khan: Awesome. Ali thank you so much for sitting down with me today and I can't wait to have you on the show again hopefully post IPO.

Ali Pourdad: I'd love to be back thanked you !

 

 

 

 

End of Podcast

 

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Funding | Jul 23, 2024 Canadian ventures Cohere and Clio secure series D and series F respectively, reaching new valuations Canadian startups, Cohere and Clio, are making headlines this week by announcing major fundraising rounds, showcasing the potential and strength of Canada's innovation economy and technology sector. See:  Generative AI Myths That Founders Should Know Cohere $500 million Series D Cohere, a Toronto-based AI startup, raised $500 million in a Series D round, bringing its total valuation to $5.5 billion.  PSP Investments led the fundraising round, including participation from Cisco, Fujitsu, AMD Ventures, and Export Development Canada (EDC). Cohere specializes in large language models for enterprise applications, with key clients including Notion Labs and Oracle. Aidan Gomez, Nick Frosst, and Ivan Zhang founded Cohere in 2019 with the goal of developing practical AI solutions rather than researching artificial general intelligence. Clio $900 million Series F Clio, a Vancouver-based legal technology business, secured $900 million in a Series F round, bringing its valuation to $3 billion. New Enterprise Associates led the round, which included major investments from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Sixth Street Growth, CapitalG, and Tidemark. Clio provides software that automates legal operations such as client intake and document management, ...
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Leadership | Jul 23, 2024 "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." – Thomas Edison Failure contains perhaps the greatest insights for future success (assuming one is willing to learn from it!). While there are a myriad of pitfalls to avoid as an entrepreneur (or investor), below we look at 5 case studies with insightful lessons to learn about dependence management, market adaptation, regulatory compliance, and other topics from companies such as Plastiq, Nuri, CommonBond, LendUp, and Bank North, in hopes to avoid similar reoccurring problems in your fintech future. 1. Plastiq Founded: 2012, Failed: 2023, Country of Origin: United States, Key Founder: Eliot Buchanan What It Did: Plastiq offered a service that allowed users to pay bills that were previously unpayable with a credit card. Why It Failed: The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, a major partner, as well as rising interest rates and operating difficulties, contributed to its demise. Lessons: Dependency Management --> Reduce reliance on single partners can reduce the risks associated with potential failures. Interest rate sensitivity --> Develop measures to deal with interest rate swings can help ensure financial stability. 2. Nuri (formerly Bitwala) Founded: 2015, Failed: 2022, Country of ...
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Investing | Jul 23, 2024 SEC Approves Spot Ether ETFs to Kickstart a New Era for Crypto Investments The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved multiple spot Ethereum (ETH) exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to begin trading today, marking a watershed moment and regulated channel for investors to obtain exposure to the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. Specifically, the SEC has approved asset managers such as Grayscale, VanEck, BlackRock, Fidelity, Bitwise, Franklin Templeton, Invesco, and 21Shares. This move is expected to democratize access to Ethereum, allowing institutional and individual investors to participate in its growth without having to physically purchase and manage the cryptocurrency themselves. Why Invest in Spot Ether ETFs? With all the hubbub made over the approval of a spot Bitcoin ETF in Q1, why might investors choose to invest in a spot Ether ETF instead? Simply put, investors should consider diversification. Ethereum provides a different value proposition than Bitcoin. While Bitcoin is often referred to as "digital gold," Ethereum is considered as a platform for decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contracts, offering a wide range of use cases beyond just a store of wealth. The Ethereum network is being constantly upgraded, such as the transition to Ethereum ...
Pixabay elifxlite Ethereum - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa
Digital Services Taxes | Jul 22, 2024 What You Need to Know About Canada's New 3% Digital Services Tax (DST) Canada has adopted a new Digital Services Tax (DST), which imposes a 3% tax on digital services revenue retroactively to January 1, 2022. This tax is intended to collect revenue from the expanding digital economy and targets multinational corporations that benefit considerably from Canadian markets. This action aligns Canada with other countries, such as France and the UK, that have implemented comparable taxes to remedy gaps in the international tax framework. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to CBC News: "Its simply not reasonable, not fair, for Canada to indefinitely put our own measures on hold," she said. "A number of other countries have a DST in place right now, and they have had a DST in place for a number of years with no retaliation [from the U.S.]." See:  Canada’s Capital Gains Tax Hike Moves Forward Katherine Cuplinskas, Freeland's press secretary to CBC News: Canada strongly supports international efforts to end the corporate tax race to the bottom and to ensure that all corporations, including the world's largest corporations, pay their fair share," Key Aspects, Scope, and ...
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Regulation | Jul 22, 2024 CFPB Proposes New Earned Wage Access Rules and Implications for Canadian Stakeholders The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of the United States has issued new interpretive regulations for Earned Wage Access (EWA) providers. These policies are intended to improve openness and consumer protection in the financial sector. While the new rules are U.S.-specific, there are implications for Canadian stakeholders. EWA Demand and Regulatory Concerns The demand for EWA products has grown rapidly due to the rising cost of living, inflation, and financial stress. See:  Redefining Payday: Earned Wage Access (EWA) Insights from Harvard Study EWA services are either managed directly via an employer's payroll system, which allows employees early access to a portion of their earned wages prior to payday.  EWA can also be managed through a third party app or online service (EWA provider), such as AnyDay in Canada, or Payactiv in the U.S. Over 60% of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck. In Canada, 47% are living from paycheck to paycheck and managing significant debt.  A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that transaction fees for EWA services can result in annualized APRs of up to 331%, highlighting ...
Freepik pvproductions EWA - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa
Jul 19, 2024 We live in a world of dazzling technology where one single computer, used the right way, can launch a business or start a global conversation. The online digital world is a dynamic place. However, modern audio-visual equipment can make the offline world just as exciting, too! Thankfully, the right equipment can empower smaller organizations to throw unforgettable events that stay with attendees long after they’re over. Please read on to learn more. Lighting Matters When an event is lit properly, guests feel more at ease and even excited by being present. The right type of lighting elevates their mood and makes an event feel significant. Leaders like Toronto Audio Visual Rentals offer all the choices you could ever need, from LED lighting, colourful wall washes, podium spotlights, and an array of options to pump up any dance floor. Whether your event is a staid affair where speakers host a question-and-answer session or a fun, laid-back networking event with drinks, the lighting really sets the mood. Sound is More Than Just Hearing Like lighting, sound quality also matters more than you may think. There’s a difference between hearing a speech or music and hearing it. The words need ...
Pexels Roman Pohorecki Event AV - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa
Report | Jul 19, 2024 CB Insights Report for Global Fintech Overview Q2 2024 CB Insights Global Fintech Q2 Report recently dropped.  Global fintech funding increased to $8.9 billion in Q2 2024, up 19% from the previous quarter, mostly due to two large deals: $694 million from Stripe and $650 million from AlphaSense. Having said that, the total number of deals fell by 16% in spite of this increase, suggesting investor caution. Deals for companies in the middle and later stages made up 20% of the total, up from 18% in 2023 (especially in payments and lending). See:  Fintech in 2024: Growth, Challenges, and Opportunities While the median deal size increased to $4 million, the average deal size decreased somewhat to $12.8 million. Significant investment poured into digital asset firms, as the crypto winter thaws and trump trade grows, which accounted for 30% of the best early-stage deals. With a 45% increase in investment to $4.8 billion, the US took the lead, while aid to Latin America increased by 22% to $442 million. Regional Comparisons The US led global fintech funding with $4.8 billion, marking a 45% increase. The US accounted for 40% of equity deals and 36% of exits ...
CB Insights Global Fintech Q2 2024 - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa
Banking Innovation | Jul 19, 2024 NatWest Launches Retail Banking App on Apple Vision Pro As reported by Finextra, NatWest has made the bold move of launching its latest retail banking app on Apple's Vision Pro, an innovative mixed-reality headset and are one of the first banks to do so.  By utilizing the immersive qualities of augmented reality, they hope to completely transform the way that consumers interact with their accounts and offer a more engaging, personalized and interactive, hands-free, banking experience with the latest biometric security technologies. See:  Unveiling Apple Vision Pro: A Leap in Spatial Computing Wendy Redshaw, Chief Digital Information Officer at NatWest: “It’s great to be a first-mover with such exciting new technology. It will be interesting to take learnings, understanding how customers use the app in this new technology to deal with their finances, and to understand how we can create bespoke propositions to serve them even better. It’s just one insight into how the future of banking could look in the future - watch this space.” Do Retail Customers Really Need Mixed-Reality Banking Apps? While traditional retail clients may not "need" mixed-reality banking apps, these apps offer considerable advantages that can improve their experience ...
Freepik rawpixel.com VR headset - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa
Jul 19, 2024 In today's rapidly evolving world, sustainability is not just a trend—it's a necessity. With the growing awareness of environmental issues among homeowners, there has been a significant increase in the demand for eco-friendly plumbing solutions. If you're considering making your home greener, consulting a knowledgeable plumber about sustainable plumbing innovations is a great place to start. Here, we explore some of the most exciting eco-friendly plumbing innovations transforming homes and promoting sustainable living. Low-Flow Fixtures Installing low-flow fixtures like faucets, showerheads, and toilets represents a straightforward yet incredibly effective eco-friendly improvement in plumbing. These fixtures consume less water, significantly lowering your home's water usage. A plumber can assist you in selecting and installing these fixtures, ensuring they maintain adequate water pressure while conserving water and lowering your utility bills. Tankless Water Heaters Traditional water heaters operate by continuously heating and reheating water, resulting in considerable energy inefficiency. In contrast, tankless water heaters heat water only when required, providing hot water instantly when needed. This innovation reduces energy consumption and saves space in your home. Consulting with a plumber can help you select the optimal tankless water heater tailored to your home's particular requirements. Greywater Recycling Systems Greywater ...
Freepik Sustainable home plumbing - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa
Launch Release | Jul 18, 2024 A New Equity Crowdfunding Portal Dedicated to Servicing Albertan Small Businesses has Launched July 17, 2024, Calgary AB - A new equity crowdfunding portal, Go Alberta, has announced it's launch, and is aimed at helping Alberta's small businesses. Throughout the province, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) will be able to access a community-driven finance solution.  Go Alberta's goal is to empower local companies by introducing them to a variety of investors so they can raise the capital they require to expand and prosper. By democratizing investment options, this platform enables regular Albertans to contribute to and profit from the success of regional businesses. See:  Equity Crowdfunding Demystified: Insights from Wefunder and Equivesto There are numerous of benefits to raising an equity crowdfunding campaign, such as: Offers an innovative and accessible way for companies to obtain capital, particularly those that are having trouble obtaining traditional finance. Gives Albertans the opportunity to support via investment the economic development of their local communities. Investors benefit when the companies they support develop and succeed, fostering a win-win situation in support of local economies. Equity Crowdfunding Regulations In Alberta and across Canada, equity or investment crowdfunding is governed by ...
GO Alberta equity crowdfunding portal - FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.13-Oct 12):  Road to Fintech IPO:  Capital Networks, Scalable Solutions, Putting People First with Ali Pourdad, Co-founder and CEO Progressa

 

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