I had the rare opportunity to pick the brain of one of the biggest names in fintech, Yuval Tal. Yuval has built multiple successful startups and is widely regarded as the godfather of Israeli fintech. Some highlights:

1. Who is Yuval Tal? 

My BA and master's degrees are in engineering, I am a serial fintech entrepreneur and student at the Harvard Business School, I am managing partner of Team8 Fintech, and I am a husband and father.

2. Why fintech? How did it all begin?

When the internet started taking off in the 1990s, it was clear to me that a revolution in payments and banking needed to take place to support e-commerce and I wanted to be involved in building that infrastructure. In 1999, I started an online payments company, initially called E4X and later Borderfree, and took it public on the Nasdaq (BRDR) in 2014. It was acquired by Pitney Bowes for $395 million. My next company was Payoneer, which initially started out as a platform for freelancers to get paid. Payoneer now empowers more than 4 million businesses, marketplaces, and professionals to grow, pay, and get paid as easily as they do locally.

3. If you had to choose one lesson to tell entrepreneurs, what would it be?

I can't limit this to one lesson--I have three lessons that are all equally critical.

  • Make sure you have a solid, no-nonsense, and persuasive business plan, as well as a clear, original, and vivid idea.
  • Make sure you have customers that need your products and design your technology with those customers in mind.
  • Watch your cash really, really carefully. 

4. What are you working on now?

At this moment, the stars are perfectly aligned to combine data science, machine learning, payments, and credit. These technologies can drive simplicity, accuracy, and efficiency across payment and credit processes, unleashing a plethora of opportunities. At Team8 Fintech, we're planning to establish multiple companies around this.

5. What are your biggest challenges?

Finding the right people and getting them to work together synergistically. 

6. What is something no one, or not many people, know about you?

I'm an acroyoga enthusiast, which I guess makes me an amateur acrobat--I practice acroyoga regularly (combining acrobatics and yoga). I co-organized and led an acroyoga flash mob in Tel Aviv a few years ago for a bit of fun.

7. Talk to me about the new Team8 Fintech group. 

Team8 Fintech is a fintech practice focused on founding and scaling transformative fintech companies, led by a team that brings a wealth of expertise across retail banking, credit, payments, e-commerce, and trading.

Team8 Fintech leverages Team8 Group's successful and disciplined company-building model, deep domain expertise across cyber, data, A.I., and fintech, to ideate novel solutions to address the problems and opportunities of its target audience. The practice creates both B2B and B2B2C companies that empower industry players with new technologies and new business offerings. 

8. What was your biggest mistake in your career?

Failure to acknowledge my own mistakes and also not letting go of staff early enough.

9. Is Israel a leading country in fintech in your opinion, and why? 

Israel is one of many fintech hubs across the world. Fintech is not territorial by nature--the prevalence of its technologies matters more than where each one originates.

Israel has a critical mass of talent to build and define products, and who speak the language of fintech--this is what's crucial to its fintech scene. There is no school for fintech, no place on earth to study it.

10. What will be the top three trends in fintech over the next decade? 

One, the convergence of data science, machine learning, payment, credit is huge; two, the paradigm shift toward mobile wallets, led primarily by India and China, will create insurmountable business opportunities, and three, a clear symbiosis between banks and fintechs will emerge and become the norm, accelerated primarily by the pandemic and the need for incumbents to embrace digital transformation strategies.