Every 18 months, the Accion Venture Lab team partners with our friends at Quona Capital to host a global forum of startup leaders and industry experts to discuss the future of fintech. Aside from the hard-hitting and productive sessions these forums typically entail, reconnecting with fellow compatriots in the effort to create a more inclusive and just world feels like a reunion among old friends.

We entered 2020 excited to get together in the summer. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Accion Venture Lab and Quona teams stayed abreast of global travel advisories and quickly determined that our plans would need to be adjusted — much to everyone’s disappointment. Yet despite the challenges of the pandemic, our portfolio companies still had an appetite for growth, learning, and connection.

One founder stated their interest in what a “return to normal” would look like: “I’d like to cover how portfolio companies are getting back to ’normal’ after the COVID-19 crisis. It would include discussions around new credit policies, collections, and new origination strategies.”

Another mentioned that they would appreciate insights on how to build and scale remote teams: “In an increasingly remote work environment, I would appreciate sessions that focus on the difference in managing in-person vs. remote. Also, some practical tools to support remote management.”

With these suggestions in mind, we organized and hosted four virtual sessions covering a variety of topics our portfolio leaders wanted to hear about, and we assembled a team of experts in multiple fields to share their perspectives and words of wisdom. Here are a few highlights:

Building and managing remote teams

Jason Warner, CTO of GitHub, and Aditya Narula, head of operations at Stripe, joined us to share their experiences across their years of building and leading remote-friendly teams of various disciplines, shapes, and sizes.

Deepening vs. broadening product offerings

Ken Lin, founder and CEO of Credit Karma, and Matt Harris, partner at Bain Capital Ventures, joined us to share some perspectives on how leaders should explore the next frontier of product offerings.

Financial services are now the cake, not the frosting — no longer a nice-to-have.

Leadership in challenging times

Jerry Colonna, founder and CEO of Reboot, led our company leaders in a session designed to create an environment of transparency. All of our CEOs have a shared experience of being a founder during a global pandemic, which allowed for a safe place to open up with each other and share common challenges and sacrifices. This session produced some valuable conversations and a few important highlights:

Real learning and strength emerge when leaders can let go of needing to be the strongest, most faultless person in the room

Fundraising during a pandemic

The final session of the series featured two Quona portfolio company leaders, Sergio Furio, founder and CEO of Creditas, and Lizzie Chapman, co-founder and CEO of ZestMoney. They shared their perspectives on the current state of fundraising:

Finally, Amee Parbhoo from Accion Venture Lab shared some highlights from our recent experiences with remote due diligence. Some of the suggestions Accion Venture Lab provided included:

You can read, Accion Venture Lab’s extensive look into effective remote due diligence processes, downloadable here.

After a year like no other, we hope that sharing these learnings from our industry and portfolio helps fintech leaders navigate this challenging time and be prepared for a dynamic year ahead.

A version of this blog is also posted on Quona Capital’s blog.

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