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Four Years Later, We’re Still Reaping the Benefits of Participating in the FinTech Innovation Lab

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Originally posted on the FinTech Innovation Lab website.

Enigma was selected as one of six startups to take part in the Fintech Innovation Lab’s 2014 class. The experiences we had and the people we met during our weeks in the program gave us an incredible launchpad to reach the financial services industry with our public data products and solutions.

Our mission back then was the same as it is today: to use our vast collection of public data and our data science capabilities to empower people to interpret and improve the world around them. We knew our data and expertise could be invaluable for financial services firms, but we also realized that we needed to sharpen our value proposition.

What better way to do so than to take the opportunity to meet the financial services organizations that take part in the Lab as mentors? What makes this opportunity so compelling is that the initial weeks of the program are not about selling to prospective customers—in fact, program participants are not allowed to sell to their mentors.

Instead, we had the opportunity to speak to financial services executives about the pain points in their business, without the pressure to sell. These candid conversations with executives ranging from people in the procurement function to the legal team through to technology gave us great insights into the challenges our prospective clients were facing.

We learned a great deal about how large, complex financial organizations fit together
—the culture, the organizational dynamics, how budgets are set, and how decisions are made. These lessons were invaluable when we started approaching clients in the financial services sector to sell our product to them.

The conversations also helped us to refine our use cases for financial services organizations
. We discovered, for example, that many organizations were wrestling with challenges related to know your customer and anti-money laundering legislation as well as credit underwriting, and that we had data that could help them.

The single most important insight we harvested from many frank discussions with banks was that we would need to be able to combine our public data with our client’s own data to generate real value. The Lab directly influenced our decision to focus on connecting internal and external data to surface insights that inform business decisions.

After an intense few weeks in the program, we graduated ready to take our solution to financial services companies in New York and the rest of the world. More than four years later, we are still benefiting from our participation in the following ways:

  • A conduit into the financial services industry: When we participated in the Lab, we had not yet signed any financial services clients. Today, Enigma works with leaders in the industry, including AmEx and BB&T.
  • Credibility and connections: Getting selected for the program boosted the credibility of our work in the financial services and fintech sectors and helped us build relationships with people who later became our clients. Many of the executives and mentors we met continue to champion our company in their organizations long after we graduated.
  • Coaching and feedback: We got to show our product and vision to leading financial services experts outside a formal request for proposal setting and get their feedback. Their constructive criticism and guidance helped us to build a solution that addresses the real-world challenges facing our financial services clients.

Since 2014, we have grown significantly. A recent highlight was our announcement in September that we have secured $95 million in new funding to work towards our goal of building a model of the real world that combines an enterprise’s internal data with our vast bank of public and third-party data.

The companies that secure places with the Lab for the 2019 class have an amazing opportunity to take their businesses to the next level. Based on our time in the program, here are my tips about how you can make this opportunity count if your company is one of them:

  • Meet as many people as you can—make the best of the Lab’s unparalleled access to industry decision-makers.
  • Don’t worry about selling your product—instead, focus on learning how to sell to your future clients. Because the relationship with your mentors is free of the vendor-client dynamic, they will be more open than they would be in the context of a pitch. Take the opportunity to learn how their business works and what its problems are.
  • Enter the program in a spirit of discovery. This is an opportunity to find out how you can evolve your proposition to meet the needs of your future clients. You’ll get exposed to several mentors across different organizations and different parts of the enterprise. Look at their commonalities and differences for insight into what your product should be.

Good luck to the companies applying to the 2019 class!