She is helping people without bank accounts enter the financial system—and go cashless.
Sheena Allen grew up in a one-bank town in rural Mississippi, watching friends and relatives rely on expensive check cashers and payday lenders. Now she’s running a fintech company aiming to help her community--and some of the 32.6 million other underbanked American households--enter the financial mainstream. In 2016, Allen founded app-maker CapWay as part educator, part bank account. It sells financial education materials to colleges and lets individual users check their account balances and receive transaction alerts. Next up is a debit card, which Allen says has generated a waiting list of 10,000 people. Once launched this fall, the card could help CapWay work with a big new potential source of business: digital subscription services and big online sellers--enterprises that take only electronic payments and that want to bring more potential customers into the cashless economy. Allen says she’s currently talking to several “well-known” retailers and online service providers about how CapWay can help them better identify and work with low- and middle-income communities. “They’re either going cashless,” she says, “or they’re realizing that to continue scaling, they’re going to need an audience that has not always had access to plastic.” --Maria Aspan
Her software helps businesses shave time from accounting tasks.
Three years ago, shortly after launching accounting automation startup Roger, Cathrine Andersen and co-founder Christian Rasmussen were pitching a bank on why it should recommend Roger to its small-business customers. The bankers laughed, saying it was “cute” that two 20-somethings thought they could change the way banks work. A year later, the bank reached out to the co-founders, saying many of their clients had linked their bank accounts to Roger’s tool. “They came crawling back,” Andersen says. “We’re getting them a lot of new business.” (The company doesn’t reveal revenue, but Andersen says it is growing by more than 30 percent a month.) Roger works on top of accounting software like Quickbooks and Xero, automatically pushing data through the system to save businesses time on tasks like paying bills, scanning receipts, and bookkeeping. One area in which she hopes to make more progress is encouraging other women to go into fintech. “There are too few,” she says. Andersen and Rasmussen previously co-founded cloud-based collaboration software company Assemblage, moving to the United States from Denmark after Cisco acquired the company in 2014. “We thought, if we can do that together for three years,” says Andersen, “why not start another thing?" --Graham Winfrey
Her company's loans for professional and vocational training don’t leave students drowning in debt.
Americans are drowning in student debt--$1.5 trillion of it, or an average of around $34,000 per borrower. But student lender Climb Credit, which specializes in financing vocational and professional education programs, tries to keep its borrowers’ costs down and their payoff high. The typical Climb loan is just $10,000, and is paid back over an average of three years after graduation—and the startup claims that its borrowers, who might use the money for a computer coding or trucker training program, see a 67 percent increase in their salaries. “I’d never before worked at a company that was impact-oriented, where the problem we were solving was one that was really causing people to suffer ... and [where the product can] quickly take somebody from one earning bracket to another,” says CEO Angela Ceresnie, who earned her credit chops at American Express and Citigroup before co-founding fintech startup Orchard Platform. She joined Climb in 2016, two years after its launch, and became CEO in 2018. This year, she has raised $9.8 million in Series A venture capital, signed up more school partners, and started work on some new products. The most intriguing? An income-share agreement that would forgive the debt of any student who doesn’t get a job after graduation. Ceresnie says: “Every dollar that we lend out is a dollar going to someone who’s looking to better their life.” --Maria Aspan
She's made online insurance shopping easy, human, and as fun as possible.
Former McKinsey consultant Jennifer Fitzgerald spent the financial crisis advising big, flailing insurance companies. So naturally, she decided to start an insurance company of her own. Policygenius, which Fitzgerald co-founded with McKinsey colleague Francois de Lame, started off as an online broker of life insurance, selling old-school policies to phone-call-averse Millennials via quirky subway ads. In January, the New York City startup added home and auto insurance to its sales docket, a product expansion that Fitzgerald calls “an absolute rocket ship,” adding that the company’s overall (if undisclosed) revenue is up fivefold this year. All of this business growth has forced a lot of hiring--Policygenius has 235 employees now--especially in the customer-service department, as shopping for insurance can be complicated. “At some point the consumer will want to talk to somebody,” Fitzgerald says. “We just did not have enough humans on staff to deal with the volume, and I still think that we’re not at capacity.” But Fitzgerald is mainly excited that her company is growing to the point of having “champagne problems.” --Maria Aspan
Moving abroad shouldn't shred your credit history. Her startup helps keep it intact.
When Nicky Goulimis moved from the U.K. to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue an MBA at Stanford, she couldn’t bring her credit history with her. Getting a credit card took more than a year. In 2016, Goulimis and her co-founders—both of whom are also immigrants—launched Nova Credit to help immigrants transfer their credit histories to the U.S. The startup, which splits its headquarters between New York City and San Francisco, partners with financial institutions and lenders that use credit scores to grant loans or approve leasing applications. While the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies haven’t helped business, Goulimis and her team only feel emboldened. “This adds a lot more emotional weight to the work that we do,” she says. Investors have also stepped up. Last year, Nova Credit raised a $16 million Series A round, bringing its total funding to nearly $20 million. --Guadalupe Gonzalez