We Spoke to Three FinTech Startup Executives — Here’s What We Learned.
You’ve probably heard of the biggest names in the FinTech world — Stripe, Plaid, Chime, and many more — but those are only a few players in the FinTech industry, which is projected to reach a market value of approximately $324 billion in 2026. Boston is no stranger to the growing FinTech movement. Disrupt, Northeastern University’s FinTech Initiative, interviewed three experts in the FinTech world. Here’s what we learned:
When talking about their connection to Northeastern and the FinTech community, we learned that Alex Mirran, now CEO and Co-Founder of GalaxyX Software, got his bachelor’s degree at DMSB and helped create the Fintech Initiatives Disrupt and Sharpe alongside Professor Mark Bernfeld. He says this contribution helped him get more exposure and visibility to new ideas and new people. Overall, he got to know in detail what was happening in the industry while receiving more input and a higher level of success.
For Eve Halimi, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Alinea, it was a former co-founder that went to Northeastern. After participating in the Y Combinator (venture accelerator), they started to spread the word around campus and build a presence at Northeastern through community coordinators and college ambassadors with club partnerships to learn more about investing.
And finally, Deniz Johnson is the COO of Stratyfy, which is a FinTech startup using AI and transparent machine learning to optimize credit and risk decisions by reducing risk and bias. In addition, she is currently a professor at Northeastern University teaching FinTech and Financial Innovation and a member of the steering committee for Disrupt.
Q: Tell us about your startup.
GalaxyX Software focuses on creating data management tools through pure networks and blockchain, which results in a safer and faster way of monitoring data. Their unique value proposition is not only their lower-cost benefit, but also their immutable blockchain technology that relies on Ethereum and Bitcoin. Most recently, they have launched a free software that supports transferring large files without intermediating through other applications such as Google. Now, they are launching a product for galleries to save files and authenticate paintings. A system that saves large files, makes them unchangeable, and builds a full front-end for collectors to hold their paintings in digital wallets and bring them to market to authenticate to ownership.
Alinea Investing is an investing platform community-first that offers investing playlists for topics you like or causes you believe in. Their goal is creating a more inclusive chapter in the world of investing to highlight impactful causes and increase their visibility. Substantially, an investing app for Gen Z.
Stratyfy’s company mission is to enable inclusive finance through transparency in AI. Through their patented transparent machine learning, they can help lenders take action to reduce bias in credit decisioning, as well as serve borrowers with non-traditional financial backgrounds.
Q: What are the barriers, challenges, and opportunities in the FinTech industry?
For Alex, there are many opportunities for valuable innovation as Fintech continues to be widely accepted in the finance world. From payment processing to the blockchain space, true decentralized finance is and will be creating more competition for the banks of today. Bitcoin is disrupting traditional finance and Ethereum has credit markets; The whole financial infrastructure is being remade on open-source protocols not owned by anyone, which creates the biggest area for growth. He assures there is a shortage of talent and an increasing demand for hiring, both on the tech side and business side.
In the near future, Eve sees the Fintech industry being more community-driven and social, not only about an individual investor but building values and social profiles to investing. She sees our generation being more confident about investing and creating more community aspects in Fintech. Everything around fintech has been built to be a tool, so there is more opportunity to explore the network further than those tools.
For one, Deniz sees bias–and particularly bias in AI–as the most significant challenge and opportunity for fintech in the years ahead, which is why she’s so excited about the work the team is doing at Stratyfy. In addition, she says it is imperative that we see more diversity in fintech, particularly in leadership. Historically, financial services aren’t very diverse — only two percent of female founders get funded. If you’re a black female founder, that number is less than one percent. She believes FinTech is helping address the diversity problem and is actively working towards a more inclusive future.
Q: What advice would you give to young people and startups in the FinTech world?
Everyone can create content, write, podcast or draw; everyone can do something. One way to start from nothing is building your skills and portfolio of things you can offer. You may not make a bunch of money, but it will ease you to where you will. And it might be intimidating to reach out to someone –even cold messaging them on LinkedIn — but people in this industry are very open to collaborate and communicate. Alex’s message is to try and don’t stop trying and you will figure out where you land.
Whether or not you already have a startup idea, Eve’s advice is to plan on participating in an accelerator or incubator program. Just start with what you have and not be afraid of going forward and following your passions.
Deniz thinks it’s her three Ps: you need to have a purpose, you need to have passion, and you need to have perseverance. As Deniz said, “I see it with my students as well — everyone thinks ‘Ok, this is what I’m going to do’, or they’re stressing out about not knowing what to do. And it’s a journey. It’s not a straight line.”
Now, after talking with these industry leaders and representatives, we can confidently say that FinTech has a bright future for development and growth, whether it’s through one of the topics that our three experts Alex, Eve, and Deniz spoke about, or anywhere that innovation can be found in financial services. Especially for us, Northeastern students, who receive such in-depth exposure to the latest trends and have many FinTech resources available, there are many opportunities ahead of us, so the best time to start building a strong base is right now. We’ve learned from our experts that FinTech is inherently open and accessible to everyone, and because of that is a field where anyone — including you — can enter to disrupt traditional finance and lead the way to a new, innovative financial future.
Written by Northeastern students, Josh Wang and Luciane Muroya. Josh is a first year Data Science and Business Major. LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/joshwang-p/
Luciane is a Finance and Accounting Major