Rachel Carpenter is cofounder and CEO of Intrinio, a startup that offers an accessible and affordable marketplace for financial data. As a startup that depends on accessing financial data, Spartan Capital Intelligence has worked with Intrinio to launch our investment advisory startup over the past year. We recently spoke with Rachel about what it takes to run a startup and her advice on a variety of topics for anyone interesting in starting a company in the Fintech space.
Why did you start your business?
My cofounder, Joey French, and I were originally working on a financial valuation app. In the final stages of building the app, we received quotes from financial data providers that made our jaws drop. We were fresh out of college and did not have any money to invest in the business, let alone the tens of thousands of dollars we needed for the financial data to power our app. We figured there was no way we were the first to encounter this problem, and likely wouldn’t be the last unless we did something about the financial data industry. We decided that it was time for us to pivot and become financial data providers ourselves. Because of our experience, we set out to be the champion for startups and a breath of fresh air for more established financial firms and other businesses.
Before you started Intrinio you taught yourself to program. How involved are you in the development side of the technology versus the day-to-day management of the business?
Teaching myself to program was one of the most challenging endeavors of my life - but also the most rewarding. In our case, Intrinio development required intimate knowledge of financial concepts, so our founding team was able to move quickly in building our platform. Once we reached critical mass I hired the real professionals! Our CTO and engineers are incredibly talented and fully took over development. I no longer program (though I do miss it), but I am closely involved with the evolution of our technology. Our company was built by developers - for developers. That’s so important to us and a key piece of our culture. Had I not learned to program myself, I’d find it difficult to empathize and relate to Intrinio’s technical geniuses - and would also feel disingenuous serving the engineers, quants, and data scientists that we work with.
We are still a relatively early startup, this past January we celebrated 1 year since we set up the company. What were some of the major setbacks you faced early on as a startup? How did you overcome them?
First of all, congratulations are in order, the first year milestone is a huge accomplishment! I would say for us, it was getting in the door with the larger, more established clients we wanted to forge a partnership with. Because they’ve been in the industry a long time, they’re more traditional and were a bit skeptical of what a young startup could offer...we’re happy to say that a lot has changed since then! To overcome any of the obstacles we’ve encountered, creativity about how you approach the situation, as well as persistence, has been crucial for us. In addition, having incredible clients (such as yourselves) who have become Intrinio advocates and share praise with their network.
How did you go about building your core team? What are some of the qualities that you look for in hiring?
The first few brave souls we hired at Intrinio, who now form our executive team, had a couple of things in common. They were brilliant and at the top of their game in their specific field. They were hungry, and the type to dive headfirst into a challenge. They also believed strongly in what we were after - making financial data accessible with the highest-quality tools to serve the technical users that are building the future of finance. Today, those attributes are still core in our hiring process. We look for candidates that are comfortable with failure, compassionate, user-focused, and just weird enough in their own way.
Do you have one piece of advice on raising early venture capital?
I have way more than one! I made TONS of mistakes raising an Angel, Seed, and Series A round, and I’m the first to be open and honest about them so others can learn. This article I wrote for Forbes outlines them in great detail. The most important mindset I would encourage founders to get into is confidence. It is your passion that investors are looking for, especially in early stage rounds. You need to be able to speak to your business, financial narrative, and story in a very engaging way - without a deck. Also, remember that due diligence goes both ways. You are allowed to say no to an investor that doesn’t represent your values or bring enough to the table.
We share some core values around providing access to financial data and financial inclusion. Why do you think this is so important in the Fintech space?
When you limit who can be included in a space, the chance for innovation is incredibly slim. This goes for any industry, really, but is especially true in Fintech. When we first started out and received those quotes for tens of thousands of dollars each month, we realized that there was no way people could create groundbreaking Fintech apps, algos, websites, etc. with the way the industry was structured. We wanted to change that. We wanted everyone to be able to access financial data so that all ideas could make it to the greater market, no matter how big or small.
March is Women’s History Month. What particular challenges do you think women face as startup founders or CEOs?
There are obvious, deep-rooted societal biases towards women that make it more challenging to lead, sell, and raise money. Frankly, however, I also think there is a lot of noise out there for women. We are constantly reminding women that they are female entrepreneurs. Female business owners. Female founders. Females in Fintech. Female engineers. This can be distracting and counter-intuitively, I think it actually suppresses women. Confidence can go a long way towards ignoring the classification, owning a room, and focusing on your business - and just being a CEO.
Who are some CEOs or founders that inspire you in the technology or finance space? Why?
I’m a big fan of Carly and Danielle from TheSkimm. They are absolute hustlers, have a great story, and are very open about their journey as (uniquely) co-CEOs. I recently had the opportunity to meet Stephanie Cohen, who is the Chief Strategy Officer at Goldman Sachs. She’s been a driving force behind Goldman’s success and unprecedented initiatives to support women.