Describe your job to a 10-year-old.
The best way to describe my role is by using Lego as an analogy. Let’s say you buy a Lego set. The possibilities for what you decide to make are endless. When you get home and open it up, you’ll find two things: blocks and a manual.
I’m there to ensure you understand the steps in the manual, the blocks you have available and have everything else you need to get started – and then make sure you’re able to build the best design possible. I’ll also spend time with you to understand why you bought the set in the first place, what other sets you might have or need and how they fit in with one another.
Similar to Lego, Stitch provides the building blocks for financial technology. I ensure we understand our clients’ needs really well in order to help them and their businesses succeed.
What’s your approach to managing relationships with our customers? Why is this so important?
Our ability to create rapid value for our clients is dependent on the strong relationships we have with them.
A business is really made up of a number of individuals that need to work together to bring a product or service to a specific target market. In order to build strong partnerships with our clients, we need to have deep relationships with the individual team members that make up that ecosystem. The combination of these individual relationships defines a strong business partnership.
To do this, we try to understand the worlds of everyone involved – from integration engineers and product owners to UI designers and the CEO. What are their KPIs, constraints and concerns, and what keeps them up at night?
We then engage with our client’s team members regularly – seeing this as a long-term investment that benefits both parties immensely. Nurturing authentic, strong relationships doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a planned, deliberate daily effort.
What’s the best thing about working at Stitch?
The people. Stitch consists of an incredibly diverse group of team members – diverse in backgrounds, beliefs, geography, culture and much more. During a single team lunch, I can speak to someone who DJs at a top club in Cape Town, someone who’s helped countless startups in Africa receive funding, and even someone who spent time in Afghanistan as a translator during the war. On a good day, there’s someone who shares the same love I have for KFC and another who despises it.
It’s thanks to this diversity that I find myself being challenged every day, from a personal and professional perspective. Building a business is tough. Sometimes we get angry or sad and other times we’re more pumped and excited than ever before. We make mistakes, iterate and aggressively pursue answers to the problems we set out to solve. It’s a blessing and a privilege to be able to pursue this rigorous journey with team members like these.
Lastly, one of the things that makes this diverse team gel is humour. We laugh every day, even when times are hard. This keeps us humble and helps us to not take ourselves too seriously.
Why is infrastructure like Stitch so important for the continent? What does it look like when we’ve achieved our mission?
Innovation in financial services has been slower than in many other industries – think automobiles, energy and communication. One of the reasons for this delayed innovation is the barriers to entry most software innovators have to face.
There are two specific barriers hindering growth:
- Regulation. Understanding the ins and outs of the regulatory environment is burdensome. Regulation is highly specific to financial services lines, and because it changes so regularly, innovative ideas are often stopped in their tracks.
- Lack of a single, well-documented API with the ability to connect the different ecosystems in the financial services space.
Stitch has created an API that provides innovators access to rich data and new payment capabilities that have not previously been accessible on the continent through a standardised API. We’re providing these builders with a much bigger toolset to solve problems and address market opportunities.
Our teams work hard every day to package the different elements of the financial ecosystem into these tools. What we’re building transcends borders and is agnostic to any single financial ecosystem. This, we believe, will empower innovation with the potential to unite and serve the entire continent as opposed to being restricted to a specific country or ecosystem.
Having been in a startup at the early stages, and as a business owner yourself, what advice do you have for anyone looking to jump into entrepreneurship?
Approach with vigour. Startups are hard – really hard. There seldomly exists a silver bullet, yet it is one of the most rewarding personal journeys you can be on. Building a business is personal, and everything is at play and on display. Once you find yourself in this space, all theoretical components fall away. Every day you face your assumptions and hypotheses, and every day will require you to question them and keep refining them. Prepare yourself for an extremely tough journey that has the potential to help you become a much better version of yourself.