One of the co-founders of Intrinio, Rachel Carpenter, was recently featured on the Female Entrepreneurs Institute website - a highlight on women in fintech. We've re-posted the article below:
Women in Fintech: Rachel's Story
Hungry. Humble. Hustling to close the next big deal. Rachel Carpenter, founder of Intrinio, has big plans (she's already signed Harvard Business School). She's interested in disrupting financial valuation and creating efficiencies in how we know where it's best to invest. Here's her take on being a woman entrepreneur in the investment sector!
What inspired you to start Intrinio? Where did you start and where are you now?
Intrinio provides investors, entrepreneurs, and students with disruptively affordable access to high-quality financial data. We’re the only financial data providers available in the cloud and on Mac OS X—our cross-platform compatibility enables our users to flexibly access the data anywhere, anytime, from any device. We’ve also built a transparent, flexible online engine for valuing companies.
During my education as a finance student it was easy to see multiple inefficiencies in the industry—problems that needed to be solved through the use of technology. Just one afternoon spent waiting in line for access to an expensive data feed with a horrible user experience is enough to make you want to build a better solution. My co-founder and I refused to accept the “way it’s always been” in the financial industry.
Almost three years ago we were fresh out of school. We had a massive prototype in Microsoft Excel (40 pages long), no access or control over our own data, and zero funding. We were working through the night (this hasn’t changed much), sleeping on couches, and teaching ourselves web development. Today, my co-founder and I are advanced programmers. We’ve raised substantial funding and our team has grown to 7. We built our prototype into a web application. We also built a proprietary automated backend solution for gathering and standardizing financial data, and we own our entire data set (over 37 million data points). We’ve closed multiple large clients and are growing rapidly. It’s been a long couple of years—but with passion, persistence, and a little bit of patience, things truly start to blossom.
What do you see for your future?
We’re ramping up our marketing towards developers and startups—we’ll be the best source of affordable financial data integrations for other entrepreneurs. This year we’re also going to build our platform out to support private company valuation—then things will get really interesting. We’ll begin gathering some very valuable sentiment data from both public and private company valuations. In the next few years, Intrinio will become the go-to engine for valuing any type of investment opportunity. We’ll grow to be one of the most affordable and valuable data resources in the industry.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
Intrinio has faced plenty of challenges already, but our team is extremely agile. We’re flexible, yet resilient. One of the largest challenges facing any entrepreneur is fundraising. I think it goes without saying that being a woman sets you back before you even begin the process. Being young doesn’t help either—especially in the South. We’ve been lucky so far to find investors that understand the magnitude and value of what we’re building as well as the tenacity of our team and our ability to execute regardless of our youth. Fintech is a challenging arena to play in. We know the quality of our data surpasses that of traditional data feeds, but that’s difficult to explain to those who are ingrained in the old systems. Data is also becoming more of a commoditized product every day, which is why we have mid- and long-term strategies in place that don’t rely on the revenues generated from this part of our business.
How can we help Intrinio succeed?
We’re on the lookout for any fintech startups or developers building apps who can’t afford inflexible, expensive financial data integrations. We offer disruptively affordable, easy to integrate access that will revolutionize the products that they are building.
We’re hoping to close out the rest of our current funding round within the next couple of months. If anyone knows a fintech investor or fund that would like to hop on board and help us disrupt the changing financial industry—send them my way!
Where did you grow up? And how is where you came from material to your identity as an entrepreneur?
In my personal life, I have a passion for fitness and exercise. I’ve always been extremely competitive. I competed in tennis and soccer growing up, I competed as a Division 1 Rower in college, and most recently I’ve competed in my first NPC bikini bodybuilding competition. My competitive nature has been essential while building Intrinio. I’m from a city in Wisconsin called Oconomowoc. It was a fantastic place to grow up. It had the small-town community but was close to major cities, it was scattered with beautiful lakes and plenty of outdoor places to enjoy the seasons, and it had great schools.
I certainly didn’t have a rough childhood. It was more the societal norms that set me on a different path, as well as the sentiment of my classmates in college. Most of the kids I grew up with ended up following the path you’re “supposed” to take—go to a decent public school, get a solid degree, then get a job working for a large company like Target or Edward Jones that recruits heavily at your school. I assume, to most students, this offers a degree of comfort and certainty heading into the scary land of adult life. For me, it just meant succumbing to the expectations of society and spending your time creating value for someone else rather than for yourself. It didn’t interest me. Growing up amidst this Midwest culture of “head-down, follow-the-rules, get-in-line” certainly influenced my desire to branch out, build, create, and break the rules.
Tell us a story about a success in your business and a mistake you overcame.
We recently closed a deal with Harvard Business School, and we’re officially providing unlimited access to our data feed to all HBS students. It’s exciting exposure for us, and we’re thrilled to know that the next generation of top finance professionals will be using the latest and greatest in financial data and tools. It came as a direct result of hustle—my co-founder and I flew out to Boston to physically meet with the librarian and show her how much value we could provide to the education of HBS students. Of course there are also mistakes. We came really close to partnering with a large data firm way too early in the game. We made it through a month or two of working with them before we realized it was a bad move. We were too young of a company, and we would have had to give away a substantial portion of equity and control to partner with them. We graciously and professionally cut ties with them and went on to build everything we needed ourselves, retaining all of that value and keeping everything in-house.
What picture is on your phone’s home screen?
It’s a picture of me with my family. They’re everything to me, and they’re a huge part of why I’ve been able to take the risks I have. They’ve supported me my entire life and helped me grow into the woman that I am today. They keep me sane and balanced, and I’m forever grateful to them.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
Every single day you are learning and embracing the creative freedom that comes with being in control. It only works if you’re an extremely self-motivated person, which is easy for me because I know every single day when I wake up that I’m creating value for myself and my team, and nobody else. Lastly, you’re forced to learn how to fail—hard and fast. Eventually you become so willing to fail that you’re learning more rapidly than ever.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
I believe strongly that there is always a better, faster, more efficient way to do things. I get absolutely peeved by those who are stuck in the past and live under the assumption that they have to accept the way things are.
Intrinio is built on a foundation of automation and efficiency. The residual effect of this is that our resources are more affordable—which means we are able to provide them to the masses on an unprecedented level. Our data and tools are enabling a powerful generation of developers to build game-changing products. Our resources are empowering the next generation of investors to make wiser, more informed investment decisions. Knowing that our solutions are supporting these doers, makers, and game-changers helps fuel my fire. It gives me hope that our generation will continue to break the rules, push the envelope, and build solutions that actually make a difference.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
You could call me a multitasking, tenacious hustler. I’m uncannily good at handling a multitude of things at once. I perform extremely well under pressure while juggling a hundred responsibilities. I can soak up information, analyze it, recall it, and most importantly act on it with extreme tenacity. I’m great at pulling the strings to simply make things happen when they need to come through. In other words, I hustle. I’m also a people person through and through. I can relate, sympathize, empathize, and get along with just about anyone, and being good at “people” has been integral in getting Intrinio to where it is today.
Which entrepreneur do you admire most right now?
Mostly because he is not following the lean startup mentality. There is so much emphasis and education right now that idolizes and focuses on prioritizing the “lean startup,” but true innovation doesn’t come about by solving problems and looking only at what’s in front of you. It grows in the hearts and minds of fearless entrepreneurs who have a vision for the future and dream of the possibilities most of us can’t even see. Great innovations like Apple products weren’t solving a “problem”—people were happy with their clunky products and terrible user experiences. They couldn’t see a better way until it was put in front of them. In fact, Apple, Facebook, and Google all improved upon products built by startups that were following this mentality and then dominated them. If we think bigger—about not just our industry or economy but about society moving forward as a whole, progress is stalled when we solve only the problems we can see directly in front of us. Elon is unapologetically building things without asking for your permission, creating and affecting change, and for that I admire him.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
The worst thing about being a female entrepreneur is not being taken seriously. I’ve actually been asked “do you have a guy that you work with to help you with all of the hard stuff like math?” I can’t even count on both hands the number of “potential investors” who made inappropriate advances. I’ve had my business called a “cute project” dozens of times. I’ve had my clothes criticized. Most people assume I don’t play a technical role in my company. When I’m not taken seriously, it can be the worst kind of frustration. I do my best to shake it off and carry on, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t entirely disheartening at times. Choosing to build a business as a woman is not an easy road, but I can assure you that it is worth it. On the bright side, I love the dynamic that I have with my male co-founder. My strengths compliment his weaknesses and vice versa. We bring the best of both worlds to the table, and together we are an unstoppable team.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs?
I wish I could say no. I’ve constantly struggled to be perceived as “one of the guys” and be treated just like every other male founder. But men and women are inherently different, so the way that we build and grow companies is different as well. There are “feminine” traits that give women an entrepreneurial advantage, but we certainly have our disadvantages. We all know that women can multitask and men can’t. We’re intuitive, empathetic and compassionate. We know that men are more dominant and competitive than women. They’re assertive, and they’re natural risk takers. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all answer. I’ve met women who are more direct and commanding than any male founder I’ve known, and I’ve met male founders who are astoundingly soft-spoken and introverted. I’ve seen incredibly emotional male leaders, and I’ve seen women with a scary level of competitiveness. Unfortunately, many of the traits that female entrepreneurs exhibit come as a direct result of the societal pressures, assumptions and norms imposed upon us. Some of us are submissive for fear of being perceived as “bossy.” On the other hand, it’s been proven that men and women can produce the same results and the male is perceived as more effective. This can make us more competitive and aggressive. I’d say we have an edge because most people aren’t expecting what we bring to the table. Hopefully that changes. I plan on being a part of it.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
My dad used to sign every letter or note he left me with two simple words “Hungry & Humble.” It’s left such a lasting impression on me that I had it tattooed on my wrist in his handwriting as a constant reminder. Staying hungry in all aspects of life is so important to me. It drives me forward and ensures that I’m constantly striving to do more and do better. He also taught me the concept of humility. I strive to live my life always assuming I might be wrong—that in every case there might be a better way. I embrace the fact that I don’t know everything. There is always more to learn. I’ll never forget my roots, where I came from, those who are less fortunate than me or those who are far superior. This does not come at the expense of my dreams, my desire to succeed, or my drive and tenacity. The balance of hunger and humility is the recipe for success, and it’s the best advice I’ve ever received.
How can our readers keep up with Intrinio and contact you?
Twitter: @Rachel_Ann_C @intrinio