Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, Episode 45
serge Amouzou, finmod November 2021
[00:00:00] With Finmod. I want to tell my story as it is, as in my successes and failures, and maybe that will resonate with investors who can see a future of what our product can do. The market that we’re creating the impact that we’ll have. And so those are the investors that I want to work with. Those that can see the future, those that can see past skin color.
[00:00:26] And I see that there’s biases, or I want to say conscious biases when it comes to the system funding, black founders. And this is actually no longer an excuse for that to be there anymore. And so I said, I want to attract the investors that are running to fund us right. And not the other way around. So that’s really my focus within mod, where we were focused on helping our customers taking this traction that we have in pro in that further, and to continue telling my stories, just like it is.
[00:00:54] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihnya here. Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders [00:01:00] Unfound. That was Serge Amouzou, founder and CEO of Finmod, which helps companies forecast financials 10 times faster. Finmod’s predictive financial projection technology uses company data sources to give decision ready, data and actionable next steps for growth. Serge was born and raised in Togo. He came to the U S at age 12, determined and curious. He set out to master English and. He thought he’d be a neurosurgeon, but a pursuit of coding and tech led him to a career as a repeat tech founder, starting his first company, while still in high school, it was a pain point he personally experienced that one of his past startups that sparked the idea that would become Finmod. Serge has a great story. You’ll want to listen in.
[00:01:40] Our episode is sponsored by AfriBlocks, the global pan African freelance marketplace and collaboration platform. A great resource for devs designers and virtual assistance. Check out a link in the show notes.
[00:01:51] And before we continue, please make sure to like, and subscribe to the podcast or available anywhere you get your podcasts, even good old YouTube. I so appreciate [00:02:00] everyone and Unfound Nation who shows up to listen to the great founders we get on the show. And if you happen to really like what you hear, drop us a review on Apple or a podchaser.com.
[00:02:09] Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:12] Hello, and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This is the latest episode in our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya, let’s get on it.
[00:02:38] Today we have Serge Amouzou, founder and CEO of Finmod, which helps companies forecast financials 10 times faster. Finmod’s predictive financial projection technology uses company data sources to give decision ready and actionable next steps for growth. Welcome to the show Serge, we’re super excited to have you on. Thanks for making the time.
[00:02:58] Hi, Dan, I’m happy to [00:03:00] be here. Thanks for having me,
[00:03:01] Awesome.. Well, I gave it a shot, uh, in terms of explaining what Finmod is, but maybe you can just give the audience a little more detailed.
[00:03:09] Yeah, absolutely. You nailed it on the head there. Finmod helps teams forecast financials, 10 times faster.
[00:03:15] What do we mean by that? We make ready to use inputs like revenue, headcount, and expenses available to the. We do revenue prediction based on industry data. We use AI to forecast marketing and sale expenses to achieve ROI. And the software’s universal, meaning that multiple stakeholders cannot collaborate to achieve company objective.
[00:03:35] So marketing teams, sales managers, finance managers, and management teams can all collaborate to achieve company objectives. In addition to that, we allow our customers to benchmark themselves against other companies that are similar to themselves.
[00:03:50] That’s awesome. I mean, it sounds super powerful. So I’m excited to dig in deep a little bit later in our discussion about how exactly it works and who’s the beneficiary of it.
[00:03:59] And [00:04:00] some examples. But before we dig into fin mot, let’s hear a little bit more about Serge. Can you tell me about, uh, where you grew up and where you are from.
[00:04:08] I’m from Togo, which is a country in west Africa. And I moved to the U S when I was 12, lived in Maryland for 10 years and then DC for two years. And then after that, I spent two years in the south in Alabama.
[00:04:22] And then now, currently here in San Francisco, California, where I reside.
[00:04:26] Wow. You, you definitely could have one of those maps on your wall that has pins of like, where does quite a few places? Well, let’s go back maybe to your transition. So you came here as well. You said to the United States from Togo. That’s correct.
[00:04:39] So you must have some recollection of what it was like in Togo. And then what was it like to come to the United States? And what mitigated that like did your whole family decided to move? Was it just you like, how did that whole transition go?
[00:04:52] My mom was already living here and the US. And so I wanted to come here for school. And so, you know, having grown up in Togo, for [00:05:00] sure, I’m very fond of the country, you know, that’s where I grew up. But when I moved to the us, you know, I realized instantly that, you know, I want to, to understand what was going on dry. I needed to know. People were doing were saying. And so I said result, I actually told my mom that, Hey, look where, you know, I’m not going to speak any other languages that we know, which is French and eBay.
[00:05:20] And, you know, I only want to speak English because I wanted to quickly understand what’s going on. And within about six month I learned English. So I moved to the U S in December, 2005 star school, January, 2006 and learned English within six months. And at that time, George Bush was president and he actually sent me a pen for academic excellence, which was absolutely a great award. But with someone who just learned English for six months, I was amazed to learn that I had a phenomenal GPA. You know, that you sort of beat a lot of the students in the school.
[00:05:54] You knew no English when you came here.
[00:05:58] That’s correct. English was my third language. [00:06:00]
[00:06:00] Wow. That’s impressive. And did it feel like a big deal to get the pin from the President.
[00:06:05] I think it was absolutely phenomenal to, you know, receive a letter from president Bush. It felt very personal. And I thought, wow, you know, who am I for the president to recognize me? And what did I do to land on his radar? And so, yeah.
[00:06:22] That’s so cool. And how was your mother viewing this? Was she supportive of your kind of immersion decision or was he always trying to talk to you in French? Or like, how did that go?
[00:06:34] 100 Percent. She was supportive, but I think, you know, as our parents, they always have the last say on us. And so, but she still speaks to me, although I always respond back in England. But I would say she was supportive a hundred percent, you know, I said, uh, she didn’t force me to shin asked me that I had to, you know, speak a veil or French, for example.
[00:06:53] Right. So, but I always spoke English because I wanted to get better at the language and assimilate. And I will say that, you know, [00:07:00] having come here at the age of 12, perhaps I had a very wide eyed as in, you know, I was curious. Right. And so, as a result, I didn’t see any hindrance in my development for example.
[00:07:12] That’s a great point. And was there a point at which you felt assimilated or was there a transition where you felt like, oh wow, I’m definitely different. Or I’m I don’t look or feel or sound like my classmates and that transition to a point where you’re like, you stopped thinking about that or you felt assimilated.
[00:07:30] Yeah, I think now I feel as though I’m at the point where, you know, I’m not American yet, but I feel as though I’ve learned the American culture well, and then understand it. In fact, when I do become American, I think I would probably call myself a super American only because I feel as though I’ve learned the American culture.
[00:07:49] But then in addition to my own background, you know, it adds a little bit more. You know, however, to your point, you know, early on in high school, for sure. I think that I wasn’t properly [00:08:00] simulated, you know, I spent more time on school, on education, more so than, you know, trying to be sociable, trying to do things that kids were doing.
[00:08:08] And in fact, you know, I actually realized back then that. You know, people were doing after school, you know, we’re pretty, in my view, you know, I say 12 year old or 13, 14, et cetera. In my mind, it kind of felt like a lot of kids were doing stupid things after school. And so I said result, I, you know, I spend more time.
[00:08:29] I started learning how to code, you know, after school, because I didn’t feel as though I was spending my time efficiently in the way that other kids were spending their time.
[00:08:37] That’s interesting. That’s definitely a sign of somebody who’s, self-driven I’m hearing this common pattern that usually you see in a lot of entrepreneurs have.
[00:08:45] Okay. I’m just going to go do it. I’m going to learn English. I’m going to learn how to code as you were growing up in high school. Were you thinking about like what I wanted to do, what you wanted to do, or did you think about being entrepreneur at all? Or was there something else you had in your sights?[00:09:00]
[00:09:00] Throughout high school. I had my eyes set on becoming a neurosurgeon because I love sciences, but in the process of that, as I share for me, I, when I came back home, you know, I spent, you know, I was more interested in what I could do, I guess I didn’t think about it in this terms, but more effectively with my time.
[00:09:18] And so, you know, I had an interest. In computers in technology. And so back then building website was, was table just driven, et cetera. And so I was just, I just spend more time doing more of that. And then, you know, as a result, I ended up, you know, started building websites for, you know, parents or friends who are starting businesses at the time.
[00:09:39] Uh, while of course also pursuing school with the goal of becoming a neurosurgeon. But ultimately, you know, I kept getting more clients, you know, building websites, et cetera, and actually having some revenue in to the point where my mother actually told me is I, Hey, you know, you should turn this into a company.
[00:09:55] Right? What happens if somebody sues you, you don’t want to be personally liable for it. And that’s [00:10:00] really where I thought, oh, that’s probably a great idea. And that’s where I started incorporating my first company when I was in high school. And so then I, you know, Running that business all the way until college.
[00:10:10] When I was in pre-med again with the focus on going to medical school, et cetera. So I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur per se, but I would say that, you know, I grew up around an entrepreneur. My dad is an entrepreneur. And, you know, he built houses for Baca at the time, you know, former presidents of our, of our country, et cetera.
[00:10:30] So, you know, I grew up with a father who, you know, was always entrepreneurial, you know, always on the go, et cetera. So that, that was sort of what I knew as a. Uh, and I think, I didn’t know anything else. Although I think these, some of these realizations I’m arriving at some of these realizations now as an adult, but yeah, so I didn’t particularly set out to be an entrepreneur, but I think by having an interest in why don’t you you learn how to code and just, you know, using my time more efficiently, you know, resulted in me, ultimately starting a [00:11:00] business.
[00:11:00] That’s great. So you’re in college and you’re still running this business. Was there a moment in time where you said that this is what I’m going to do, or maybe neurosurgery is not the path for me. Was there like a decided moment where you made that decision where it’s like, I’m going to go this way instead of that.
[00:11:18] So five years after starting a web development business, that company merged with a bigger company out in Alexandria. And so, you know, after that merger happened, it resonated more with me that, you know, while I was in school pursuing a pre-med degree, I was already running a business on the side. Right.
[00:11:40] And so it, I should make more sense for me to continue pursuing. And ultimately, I actually ended up dropping out of college to pursue entrepreneurship and, you know, building business.
[00:11:50] That must’ve been a big decision. I mean, it sounds like the business almost, it’s almost like it took on this momentum and sort of carried you with it.
[00:11:59] Yeah, absolutely. [00:12:00] You know, it was definitely a tough decision. It took some convincing, you know, to even tell my mom about it. Right. You know, that I was going to drop out of college and honestly, I mean, I Excel at, at school, so. But once I just realized that, you know, I was no longer going to be a neurosurgeon at re you know, I thought to myself that I want to make better use of my time and just, you know, dive fully into entrepreneurship.
[00:12:23] And I had the sense that I’d had the wherewithal to be an entrepreneur because, you know, I’m endlessly curious and, you know, I’m always thinking about ways in which to improve, you know, system or solve problems for others, et cetera. And so as a result, you know, I want to say it gave me all the confidence to say that I can tackle any problem and, you know, solve any problem and turn it into a business.
[00:12:47] Great. And that’s a really interesting, again, this pattern of how do I use my time? How do I maximize my ability to move forward? Right. And this idea of, you know, kind of formal education. [00:13:00] Serving a purpose for that, or maybe being less of a priority for that. And it sounds like it wasn’t a situation of like you were overwhelmed or you got out of your depth is, was like, I can do this if I want it to this other path is really the thing that’s calling me. And you build your business kind of that organic way, right? So you got to learn and iterate along the way and sort of obviously you got it to a good level. So I know you’ve done other businesses between then and fin mod. You want to share about some of the other entrepreneurial journeys that you’ve had.
[00:13:31] After that first business exited that first business. I started a lifestyle brand in the US and in Germany, and that was really just for fun. And then after that, I started a visual platform for restaurants. So, you know, it was a platform for digital transaction. So, you know, you see more pronounced now, but I built a software to replace the old point of sale system that restaurants use.
[00:13:54] And then my software, it was a tablet based system. And then it had a mobile component that allows [00:14:00] consumers to interface with restaurants, meaning that, you know, the meal, they can see exactly how much they owe and pay from their phone, or just get up and leave and pay will be processed instantly. And then also serve as an analytics platform for restaurants, right.
[00:14:14] For marketing, in terms of getting to know who their customers are with that business. That’s where I ended up moving to Burma. And that’s where I really learned. You know how hard it is to be, you know, a black entrepreneur in tech. And it took the long time to actually realize that because, you know, as someone who ended up being a foreigner, you know, I grew up in a country where we’re all the same.
[00:14:36] So therefore, you know, I never had to search, justify myself to. You know, the person across from me, right. It’s usually a case where if you’re in a meeting, you know, boom, boom, let’s go. Right. And then, you know, I ended up moving to the south with that business. Uh, we went through the first accelerator there in the state and, you know, ultimately that business and a failing because I never could find investors, you know, who could [00:15:00] back the business.
[00:15:00] In spite of all the, you know, sort of traction that we’re getting, the efforts that we’re putting into the business and recruit a phenomenal team, you know, who my CTO is from, you know, here in Silicon valley. But unfortunately over the years, I mean over three years, we just could never, you know, raise any capital.
[00:15:18] And it took me awhile to realize specifically in about my, that, you know, this was not a place to build a tech company. Yeah. I mean, I’m almost a little bit speechless about it, but because it was a discovery that I didn’t anticipate to have. Right. Because I started looking around me and figuring out why is it that I’m not moving forward?
[00:15:34] Right. Why is it that we’re working so hard? You know, we’re seeing traction. I mean, we’re working so hard and I was brainstorming with my peers, you know, oh, you know, strategy, how to grow businesses, et cetera, et cetera. And they’ll go and say, you know, I think we’re going to raise. And they’ll go and there’ll be successful and I’ll go, yeah.
[00:15:52] You know, I’m going to raise capital because, you know, we need to raise capital for this and I’ll go and I’m not successful. Right. And that’s after many, many [00:16:00] different tries. And ultimately I ended up sort of, I mean, that’s an entrepreneur, it was important for me to assess what was enabling me to move forward.
[00:16:07] Right. And what was holding me back. And ultimately it came back to just realizing that, you know, most of my peers, I mean, yeah, pretty much all of them were white. And so, you know, I started realizing. You know, my skin color was playing a factor in me not being able to raise capital. You know, I started realizing that as a black founder, the scrutiny is so high and you know, when you’re pitching to investors, right.
[00:16:31] Rather than having a discussion, you’re so scrutinized that ultimately you forget why you were there in the first place. You know, and so then I started documenting all of these. Actually I started writing articles on medium, et cetera, as I, Hey, you know, we’re achieving this, you know, I, at one point I was able to even recruit the former seal of Wendy’s, you know, to join the company.
[00:16:51] I mean, you know, we were really taking. You know, but yet none of that was an indication of the potential that was there for the business, you know, and it, even though [00:17:00] we had competitors that you can very clearly point to that were sort of starting around the same time as we were, you know, but again, there were those competitors that were raising capital.
[00:17:09] You know, as a result, I just started documenting it because there was nothing else I could point to for why we were not moving forward, you know, as I anticipated and in the process of all of that, you know, I ended up losing my apartment, you know, becoming homeless, sleeping in the office twice in a row to be very candid as an entrepreneur.
[00:17:29] You know, quitting. I mean, not that I thought about it this way, but when I started the business, I spent almost a year doing research even before diving it, because I wanted to make sure that this problem that we’re solving for restaurants, for consumers in terms of revolutionizing, you know, restaurant technology, because that technology has not been at the time we were, when I was starting the business, it was not updated for 50 years.
[00:17:52] Right. And so I spent a year doing research. I mean, I interview over a hundred restaurants, right? Collect the data [00:18:00] interviews, et cetera, observe diners, observe how restaurants operated. And that’s actually all that shaped how we build the. However, you know, I could never relate this data to investors reliably.
[00:18:13] Right. You know, it was always, you know, once you get to this point, we’ll come in and once you get to this point, we’ll come in. Once you in the states, we’ll come in. You know, I know there was a firm that passed on us three times after the tool has, Hey, if. You know, we think you’re only in one city, but at one point we were in three CDs.
[00:18:30] Right. And even then they still passed on us. Right. And so, again, that’s where I started really realizing that economical pinpoint what it was that I was doing wrong. That was not enabling us to move forward because I knew for a fact that I was spending the time the resources were learning like crazy and implementing that like crazy as well, you know, and we just could never raise capital.
[00:18:52] So ultimately that business ended up failing.
[00:18:54] Wow, powerful stuff. Thank you for sharing all that. Well, we’re going to hear more in a few moments, [00:19:00] but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Serge Amouzou from Finmod.
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[00:19:45] Okay. We’re back with Serge from Finmod. So Serge, great story. And the origins of your entrepreneurial journey, some of the ups and downs. And we’ll, we’ll talk a little bit more about fundraising later, but let’s talk a little bit about Finmod. Maybe tell us a little bit about [00:20:00] what was the spark for the idea. How did it come about.
[00:20:03] You know, I said entrepreneur, since the age of 16, I’ve spent hours and spreadsheets building business models. What I could have spent time running the actual business, you know, and then I’ll have to spend hours explain them to my team and potential investors. And it was always such a tedious process.
[00:20:18] And it turns out that 21 million other SMBs experienced the same. In fact, they lose close to a trillion dollars each year due to lack of understanding of their cashflow. And so, you know, so that was really the Genesis of fin mud, because I wanted to build a software that I wish I had, you know, while I was building my businesses that could give clarity into any business in the shortest amount of time.
[00:20:39] Was there any particular event or like some midnight when you’re like, there’s gotta be a better way. I don’t want to do this.
[00:20:47] Well, yeah. I mean, as I mentioned, you know, in terms of some of the issues, when it came to fundraising, it occurred to me that if someone were going to build this solution, It might as well just be [00:21:00] me, right?
[00:21:00] Because I’ve spent way too many hours, you know, again, in spreadsheets, you know, 180 to get numbers, right. Getting no wanting to make sure everything was accurate. And that was all time that could have gone into, you know, something much more productive for the business. You know, something that could have been maybe help grow revenue faster.
[00:21:18] And so I said, result, you know, Partly that experience that I’ve had into a software that could just essentially automate a lot of the business building processes. Right? Where now I say business owner, or even as a company, you know, you don’t have to spend so much time trying to understand, you know, what’s the trend line happening.
[00:21:39] Right. You know, you could look at a software, it would just surface the insight for you. Right. Because you have all that data. Right. And so therefore you could connect your data sources, right? Your bank account, your accounting software, and even you own inputs. Right. In terms of head counts that you were thinking.
[00:21:55] Revenue that you forecasting for the next quarter, for the next year, et [00:22:00] cetera. And having input variables, they toggle very quickly just to see scenarios in a easy way. That’s not Excel spreadsheet because express sheets, you know, they end up sucking up your time because you’re spending so much time.
[00:22:13] Each cell. Right. And ultimately that actually has no benefit to the business itself, but what’s important for you as a business is cashflow. And so you need to understand, you know, where the revenues come in from, right. Who’s churning and who do you need to actually focus on more? You know? And then within mod, you know, also.
[00:22:32] Allow integration with other tools. Actually, these are sort of future state that we’re working on, but you know, part of the value prop is really automating the building of a business, right? Where now it can tell you, give you recommendations, like, Hey, spend a thousand dollars on Facebook ads, you know, to grow sales 5% this week, right.
[00:22:50] Or, you know, Christmas was coming up, new user signups are going to be down, you know, negative 25%, right. That way you really get a quick understanding of your business [00:23:00] and truly the shortest amount of time.
[00:23:01] Very cool. And so, as you thought about taking this on as a business, how did you begin? Did you write code? Did you reach out to customers or like, how did you think about spinning up this business?
[00:23:13] As an entrepreneur myself. This was actually a pain point that I’ve experienced, but I didn’t want to go and building the software, you know, based on my own biases, you know? So I reached out to my network and really interview other business owners, you know, along the line of then if you brought a manager.
[00:23:29] You know, uh, CPAs, you know, CFOs, et cetera. And because I want it to really understand what it was that they want to see in their forecast, you know, what is it that they want to see beyond Excel, right. That could be helpful to them in building the business. And it was only after those customer discovery calls.
[00:23:49] You know, that they’ve expressed the need for reports that are standard across the board, because in many organizations, what happens is everyone has different forecast. And so they expressed the need [00:24:00] for templates where reports are standard, the ability to be able to do benchmarking. In other words, having an understanding of.
[00:24:06] What’s happening in our space, right? How are the businesses doing right? And how can we be better? And then the analysis part where, you know, being able to surface insights that are actionable for them, you know, we’re all expressed needs that I discover in those discovery calls. And so as a result, I mean, as a software engineer, I went ahead and wrote the first version of this.
[00:24:26] I incorporated the company in November, 2020, I shipped the first version, not enough a version of it in February, since then, we, you know, we have companies ranging from an neobank to a net tech startup using our software. And we shipped beta about two months ago to our customers. And I’m excited to also announce that we’re now a MasterCard star path company, which is MasterCard’s corporate program to accelerate businesses in the FinTech space.
[00:24:55] You know, and so, yeah, we’re, we’re a MasterCard star path company as well, since [00:25:00] lunch
[00:25:00] Congratulate on that, I saw that. That’s awesome. How did that come about? Did you apply for it or nominated?
[00:25:06] Yeah. Apply for, I saw the open application call and I applied and all of a sudden, I wasn’t anticipating that we’ll get in.
[00:25:12] Right. You know, but fortunately, you know, they came back to us with, did a couple of rounds of interviews and, uh, you know, FINRA was one of 40 startups that MasterCard selects out our 1500 plus applications each year.
[00:25:25] Wow. That’s awesome. And the traction that you’re getting so quickly is also pretty amazing.
[00:25:30] Is there a particular persona inside a company or size or attributes of a company where you’re seeing wow, for these folks? It’s like a pain point so strong that they were just clamoring for the Finmod solution.
[00:25:45] You know, small to medium organizations as a missionary. You know, they spent each department has different ways of formatting the financials, which then wants to send that to, you know, finance, you know, it just leads to carry out a [00:26:00] collaboration.
[00:26:00] And so I was saying Mary and marketing for example, can use our software to forecast marketing budgets. Joe in sales can use our software to forecast sales, revenue, and expenses, et cetera. Mike in product can use off software to 40. Product expenses. And, you know, Eric and finance can have access to all that data and give feedback to, you know, the marketing sales team, et cetera, or, you know, approve those budgets.
[00:26:26] Right. And then the management team. So the CEO can log into our software and get a financial picture of their organization in real time. And the user can give different access level permission to, you know, different stakeholders, right. Companies need to. Information to employees in the organization that can allow them to quickly make decisions for themselves so that they can Excel at their jobs.
[00:26:47] And that’s why Finmod does we decentralized assets to financial data, to, to employees in small businesses, mid-sized companies so that those employees can Excel at their jobs and move the company forward.
[00:26:58] I’m curious about [00:27:00] sort of like the competitive landscape. So like, The horizontal aspects of like Excel and Smartsheets and Google docs or Google sheets, I guess it’s called.
[00:27:10] And so people who use these hammers that could be used for everything. And then there’s folks who try to create things that are more around the financial accounting side of things. How do you think about where Finmod fits in sort of that broader landscape?
[00:27:25] You know, our true competitors are spreadsheets and Excel documents and accounting software. However, recently, I mean, within the past 18 months, there’s been some new startups, software startups, similar to ourselves that are popping up in this space. And these companies have raised capital again all within the past 18 months. So this is definitely a hot space and exciting. I think five years from now, again, as I mentioned, finest is going to be decentralized in organizations where, you know, you no longer having, you know, only this team knows all the finance data, right.
[00:27:57] Everyone is going to have the access to the data. [00:28:00] They need to Excel at their jobs. Yeah. And so there, we do have some competition, but again, as I said, this is a new space that we’re entering.
[00:28:09] That’s interesting. And I liked that vision, you know, there used to be a job called computer right. 80 years ago or whatever it was right.
[00:28:16] There was a person who would sit and do the computations and it was a lot of women ironically, and obviously that sort of productivity and functionality has. Putting into machines, right. And decentralized, like you said. So I liked that vision of how finance can find its way into the DNA of a company in a way that’s actionable.
[00:28:35] Absolutely. Tell me a little bit about your business model. Is it SAAS or is it, is there another aspect?
[00:28:40] Yeah, it’s SAS, you know, users can go to our website and, you know, get started with a free account and, you know, they can grab a monthly subscription or yearly subscription and then, you know, get started with a software.
[00:28:52] Nice. Is it per user or per company, or how does that.
[00:28:57] Yeah, absolutely. So we actually switched into a [00:29:00] model where, you know, we focus on a product led growth strategy where we actually making the forecasting tool free to users so they can, you know, it’s free for them to use forever. However, we offering premium features like the benchmark aspect of it, the analysis part, as well as the premium feature.
[00:29:16] So therefore individuals and companies can get started right at, you know, with fin mud. And then they can upgrade to premium features that further enhances their ability to accelerate their jobs. And then in addition to that, you know, we want to enable, you know, once those individuals onboard, you know, if they need a lessons for the entire organization, you know, we, we can go in there and offer them an enterprise license for, you know, multiple teams or the entire.
[00:29:41] Nice. So, I mean, it’s exciting the year after grade start, you’ve obviously been an entrepreneur before, so you know, some of the trajectories that are ahead, but I was like the fast-forward. So let’s say it’s, I dunno, however, five, 10 years from now, and you’re sitting with your mom and she’s saying, great job search your companies is a [00:30:00] success.
[00:30:00] What will that look like? What will it feel like to you to say Finmod was a success.
[00:30:05] Yeah, that’s a great question. I go in this with the bit of caution, as saying, as an entrepreneur, I’m incredibly ambitious and I take strides to shape the future. And I think that, you know, five years from now, seven years from now, you know, Finmod could be acquired by a company, less square.
[00:30:25] Can you acquire that company like in tweet, but it’s also a large market that, you know, we could do our own initial public offering as a result of that. But you know, success truly is when we can enable our customers to streamline finance operations, where finance professionals can spend more time innovating rather than a manual.
[00:30:45] Where, you know, we view ourselves as, you know, if data is the, is the new oil, you know, Finmod is a software. That’s taking data from the source of the refinery, right. Where we want to enable the, or to really be agile for people to again, spend [00:31:00] more time innovating. And that’s really what success is like for us as a company.
[00:31:04] And then personally, for me, you know, success is really. To be candid, I’ve you success outside of business, which is having my own family. You know, those are actually things that are important to me. And I think monetary success will be a result or a byproduct. You know, if the hard work that we’re putting into getting thin mud off the ground and really solving the pain point that prevents so many businesses from achieving their objective.
[00:31:28] And so that’s assessed for us where we can allow businesses to, you know, not even have to think about, you know, finances, our software, just, again, just automates all of that for them to look at a dashboard and magic happens. That’s success for us.
[00:31:41] I love that vision and I love the sense of balance, right.
[00:31:44] And that’s the irony I think with startups is we chase the problem and wanting to solve in a big way, the challenges that we’re taking on. We’re in a business. So the way we measure part of that achieving that goal [00:32:00] is financial aspects of it. But if you just chase the financial, it’s much harder to succeed.
[00:32:05] In fact, some would argue it’s very, very difficult to succeed. If that’s the primary only drivers. So that’s great. I love that vision. Well, we’re going to take another short break and we’ll be right back with Serge Amouzou from Finmod.
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[00:32:58] So we’re back with [00:33:00] Serge from Finmod. So Serge, we talked a little bit, or you, you started to tell us a little bit about your prior fundraising journey. When you were down in Birmingham, I’m curious as you approach your, this business, your current business fan mod, what do you think you’ll do differently as you go about your fundraising journey that you’ve learned from the past experiences?
[00:33:21] I think to be very candid, you know, even to this day, I mean, we have black lives matter, you know, that was a big movement, you know, in 2020, and you know, a lot of renewed interest in funding, entrepreneurs of color, et cetera, which are all exciting. And I think that because in my experience, You know, I could be wrong.
[00:33:41] So I, you know, I’m always evaluating whether or not, you know, what I need to learn to further improve myself. And so I could be wrong, but I had a census though, my inability to raise capital in the past, you know, was not influenced by my lack of traction. We had traction, [00:34:00] right. It was influenced by media.
[00:34:03] Fitting a certain mold that an entrepreneur fits in with the current system that’s in place. Right. And so, you know, with fin mod, you know, I want to tell my story as it is, you know, as I say, in my successes and failures, And maybe that will resonate with investors who can see a future of what our product can achieve or is achieving the market that we’re creating, you know, the changes that, or the impact that will have.
[00:34:32] And so those are the investors that I want to work with. Those that can see the future, those that can see past this can counter. And I, and I say that with a caveat in that. Although there’s actually absolutely no excuse for this, you know, in terms of, you know, there’s biases or I want to say conscious biases, you know, when it comes to, I want to say the system funding, black founders, and that’s actually no longer an excuse for that to be there anymore.
[00:34:58] And so, you know, my [00:35:00] focus now is one, it’s an all customers. So I mean, that’s just so incredibly important to us. We have some great. You know right now, some heads down, we’re focusing on that. So as a result, I want to attract investors that are running to fond us, right. And not the other way around. So that’s really my focus within mod, where we were focused on helping our customers, you know, taking distraction that we have in pro in that further and to consider telling my stories just like it is right, because I cannot make up anything else different than, you know, my background, my experience.
[00:35:31] Tremendous effort that I’m putting into this new venture and my foresight into the market. And then let me just tell you very briefly that while I was in college, right after the merger of my first company, you know, one of the things that I wanted to work on, and I give this as a reference in terms of my ability to predict the future.
[00:35:52] So. And it was that I started working on a project that ultimately turned out to be what we all know now as [00:36:00] Uber. Right? Because I used to travel extensively to Europe and in Europe they had this great system where, you know, if you go in somewhere, you can fry someone online and just say, Hey, you know, can I pay you guys?
[00:36:10] Or, you know, give you a little bit of money and we can all travel there. And so after those travels, when I came back, I started thinking, well, this gotta be a way to make something like this happen in the U S right. We’ve got to be able to, you know, just in some way, shape or form, you know, ride with strangers, but in a safe way.
[00:36:25] Right. So I started doing some research on that. And then next thing I knew, it was like, oh, there’s this company called Uber. Okay. Well, that’s interesting. They’re already doing that. Right. I shared this just to say that in addition to may starting dialect my previous company, that was the restaurant technology.
[00:36:40] I started it because out of foresight, that restaurant payments are going to become digital. Everything is going to become mobile, which is what it is now. I mean, that’s fact. Right? And so as a result at dove into that industry, knowing where it was going and within mod, I’m dabbing it into it again, knowing where it’s going within the next five, six years.[00:37:00]
[00:37:00] And that’s my approach to fin mud and I’m telling my story like it is. And, you know, I want to attract folks who can see the future and want to work with us.
[00:37:10] That’s great. I guess we’re breaking news. Surge invented Uber. I love it. Can we got to change Wikipedia? And I’m just kidding. That’s a great story though.
[00:37:18] And I think that’s a hallmark of a lot of entrepreneurs. They do see the future. They see what’s possible what isn’t today, but can be tomorrow. And so much of the journey comes down to the alignment of, like you said, Timing and others’ abilities to see the future clear enough, without trying to penalize you for being too late.
[00:37:41] If you’re, if you’re too close to the future, they say, well, there’s already people doing that. Or, or why isn’t that happening already? And I love the thought about being your authentic self and using that to carry through in terms of how you project to investors and. Somebody was on the show previous, you said, you know, I’m not in the business of convincing [00:38:00] me the non-believer.
[00:38:02] Yeah. At some point it’s like, this is what I am. I am passionate about what I’m doing. I understand the business and what I don’t understand. I’m constantly curious about how I can make it better and learn more and get better insights and make progress. And some people will be attracted to that combination and others have their reservation.
[00:38:20] So I think it’s a really healthy perspective. I love the thing I was going to ask you about is team. So you’ve done a couple of different versions of startups, and what’s your perspective now about team and culture around growing a small company or startup into a bigger one.
[00:38:36] You know, you’re starting out with all that we’ve achieved so far.
[00:38:39] That’s your, just two of us. You know, as we’re starting out, my focus is on ensuring that whoever I bring on board is excited about working with Finmod working, you know, and driving Finnmark forward. You know, I’m looking for the person who’s interested in, in challenging themselves, you know, who are at the intersection.
[00:38:59] [00:39:00] Wanting to achieve something bigger than themselves. Right. But not just that they have a, basically I have certain questions that I ask when I, you know, I want to bring someone on board. Right. You know, because it’s a small team. Why would you want to join us when you can actually have a cushy corporate job?
[00:39:15] Right. Because actually my software engineer, Bharath, credibly talented. And so those are questions that I ask. What will you, would you want to join a startup? Like Finmod, you know, where it’s just going to be UN. Or the third other person for awhile. And I’m looking for sort of those grounded answers where people really just want to are just excited about creating something from the ground up that could enable them to achieve their own personal objective, or maybe the derive satisfaction, you know, from being on the ground floor of a company, you know, which means that there’s hunger.
[00:39:48] And so, yeah. Being on the early stages, you know, I really look for. You know, people who sort of have personal interests in growing themselves and achieving their personal goals, that [00:40:00] meshes well with thinking that as they help the company grow, right, their personal goal will, as a result, you know, sort of be achieved.
[00:40:08] And that’s part of them wanting to be in a super small company to start off.
[00:40:13] Yeah. I mean that those are the clear signals and you’re right. Especially in this market where employers are clamoring to hire people and McDonald’s has given that iPhones to go work there. And so there’s lots of choice and you want someone, or at least your early team to be very aligned around, “we’re starting this and we want to be at the beginning.”
[00:40:34] And the drive as well, you know, to want to be the one contributing directly to the results. I mean, that’s the biggest thing that I look for in this stage, right? Because we, you know, we want people who are excited about being contributors, right. And knowing that their contribution is a direct result of our growth, right. They can see the impact instantly. So those are people that we look for.
[00:40:58] So we’ve talked a little bit [00:41:00] about some of the challenges about being a black founder. Have there been organizations, people, events, experiences that have been a benefit to you in your journey as a black founder?
[00:41:12] Absolutely, you know, I want to give you a recent example, you know, so with the MasterCard, you know, one of their focus, you know, as a result of the black lives matter is working with underrepresented founders, you know, to help them grow their business.
[00:41:24] And so that has direct effect. On Finmod, you know, as we now partner up with MasterCard, I mean, that’s next level for us and it is driving this traction that we have as well, you know? And so yes, a hundred percent beyond that. I think that I haven’t participated so much in organizations that are sort of focused on helping black founders move forward.
[00:41:46] You know, I think it could probably be because I may not have been familiar with. You know, I know that there are some new orgs now that, you know, say, Hey, if you pay us this amount, we’ll train you, you know, to be a crate, you [00:42:00] know, fundraiser as a diverse founder. Right. So I think, you know, there are organizations that are helping to close the wealth gap by training minority founders to be better.
[00:42:10] But, you know, looking back at it, I think I specifically gone through a program that’s designed for minority founders and as I said earlier as well. I mean, being a foreigner, you know, I just wasn’t socialized initially. Right. And kind of having to prove my existence and having to tell someone in front of me, Hey, I’m Black.
[00:42:29] I assume that the person can see it. I mean, I can see it. Right. And so I just wasn’t socialized in having to make my identity a point in order to move forward with something. And again, these were some of the. I was saying resulted learnings that I think I’ve discovered later on in my career.
[00:42:48] Wow. That’s cool. And I love that perspective. We’ve, we’ve had several folks who grew up at least a portion of their lives in other countries and come to the U S and have the same. It’s almost like a cognitive dissonance or something. Right. It’s [00:43:00] like all of a sudden you have to be looked at a certain way, look at the world or the, you know, the people around you a certain way.
[00:43:06] So as we look to close, One of the things we like to ask is sort of the proverbial question of lessons. And so if this surge could go back and give advice to, let’s say the surge that was before delight, so right before you were starting that startup and give him some advice about what to do, what not to do, what to watch out for, what kind of advice would you do?
[00:43:34] This is going to sound counterintuitive, but I would say it would be not displaying your ambitions too overtly, because I think as a result, this would be an advice to myself as a black entrepreneur, because I think that the framework around perceiving founders, black founders, as people who could build bill Andela businesses was not there.
[00:43:57] And so when you’re overly [00:44:00] ambitious, unfortunately it takes some time for people to sort of VUS that person who can be that person. And so I, you know, that would be the advice I gave myself to sort of have a balance with that ambition, you know, have that fire. I mean, I’m not saying don’t be ambitious, like have that fire it’s important.
[00:44:17] You must. I mean, like, you know, no questions about that have that fire, but learn to. Navigating it differently. Maybe not always showing it, but learning how to work with others, even if the med disagree with you, even if you may have the data that I proves that they’re wrong, figuring out how you can work around that. I think that would probably be the advice I would give myself.
[00:44:40] Yeah, there is a balance there. My friend likes to say, have strong opinions, loosely held. So you know, the ability to, to listen to others and get feedback. And, but having that resolve, like you said, internally to move forward. That’s great. Well, this has been an awesome conversation surgeon.
[00:44:56] Unfortunately, we’re getting ready to wrap up before we do. We [00:45:00] always like to ask our audience on foundation two. We like to give them a call to action. If there’s ways that we can be helpful to you or to Finmod.
[00:45:09] Absolutely. Yeah. Please go to finmod.io, if you’re interested in ensuring that your forecast and business financials are accurate and efficient, and if you want to make an ensure that your team can collaborate across the board to streamline company financial health check.
[00:45:26] Awesome. And, uh, any other URLs or social handles or anything in case people want to find out more information.
[00:45:33] On Twitter. We’re at Finmod HQ on LinkedIn. That’s the same finmodhq. Yeah. Those are our socials and myself. I’m @sergeamouzou on Twitter and all the social channels.
[00:45:45] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for making the time today. We really, really enjoyed it.
[00:45:49] Thank you, Dan. Really glad to be on this.
[00:45:52] We’d like to thank our guest, Serge Amouzou and our sponsor AfriBlocks. This podcast was produced by yours truly, Dan [00:46:00] Kihanya, with audio editing and production by We Edit Podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento. That’s listen, T O. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @foundersunfound.
[00:46:17] Thanks so much for tuning in.
[00:46:18] I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.