Breaking Ground in a Traditional Industry
Gold Award Girl Scout alum Natasha Bansgopaul isn’t just a disrupter—she’s a disrupter in an old-school industry: finance.
By founding DarcMatter, a global award-winning financial technology (fintech) platform for investments, launched six years ago, Natasha built an online platform to make it easier for fund managers and investors to find each other using fintech solutions.
“In traditional financial services, most of these alternative deals are done behind closed doors, with some folks still utilizing fax machines, believe it or not,” Natasha explains.
Natasha’s platform started with ten funds and 100 investors. Today the company has 3,800 investors from over 65 countries and more than 150 funds totaling over $6.9 billion.
It was a bold move for someone who sees herself as an outsider in finance, however she was able to lean on leadership skills she started to build in Mount Vernon, New York, as a Girl Scout.
Today she has not only made her voice heard in finance but also become the face of change in fintech.
“Being an entrepreneur in finance puts you in the bucket of challenging the status quo,” she says. “Asking why things are done a certain way and experimenting with technologies to create better efficiencies and solutions is pretty much the core of fintech.”
Read on for her advice for other entrepreneurs who want to create change in industries that are steeped in tradition and resistant to new ideas.
1. Question the status quo.
“Resistance comes from the fact that people are very accustomed to doing what they do in their day to day,” she says. “The interesting thing is that asking questions causes people to pause and rethink why they are actually doing something. If the answer is, ‘Because we have always done it this way’ . . . then you know there is an opportunity for change, and you can lead that charge.”
2. Connect with industry leaders.
“Look for thought leaders who inspire you, as well as people with the professional experiences you wish to aspire to,” Natasha suggests. “Talking and connecting with those leaders will be extremely valuable to broaden your network but also to give you more context into why things are done the way they are done.”
Industry leaders were actually her earliest fans.
“These leaders are usually the people who are huge advocates for the change, but because of the red tape, they can’t necessarily be the leaders of change in their organizations,” she explains. “They become a great sounding board because they are limited in what they can do on their own but want to see you win.”
3. Stay in touch with these leaders.
“They can become advisors, and they can highlight things that you are not aware of. These leaders are forward thinking, and they are usually thinking that their company is not ready yet,” she says.
And don’t assume, she adds, that you’re the only person getting something out of the discussion.
“The right people want to talk to you as much as you want to talk to them. Everyone has something to offer, so be prepared and willing to share your knowledge and experience, as this should be a source of added value to the relationship.”
4. Expand your network as much as possible.
“In addition to people who have significant experience in what you would like to do and [who] understand what you’re doing, you also need to talk to other entrepreneurs who are also passionate about disruption,” she suggests, “as well as people who are an aspirational target of what you want to achieve.”
5. Understand the nuance of why you want to disrupt the industry.
“Part of my interest in building DarcMatter was around the fact that people still use fax machines and that they take weeks, if not months, to verify investors and share proper documentation,” she explains. “But in the last three to four years, you see a lot of fintech companies that have popped up with specific tools that decrease [the] verification time period from months or weeks to hours, which is refreshing and awesome to see.”
Disrupting an industry starts with a specific task.
“Start small, with a core focus, and ask a lot of questions,” she suggests, “and you can disrupt in a big way.”
6. Know your strengths.
“As an entrepreneur, you’re signing up to take everything on. But there is a point in time when you realize you can’t do everything and that you’re not great at everything. The sooner you realize that, the better off you will be,” she laughs.
“Recognize where you bring exceptional value to the table and where you don’t. Your life will then become easier because you can identify the people who have those skills so you can build things together.”