AlphaCode is a club for next-generation financial services entrepreneurs, supported by a physical workspace and virtual platform. The club hopes to attract visionaries in the financial services space that aspire to transform their industry.
Dominique Collett is an executive at Rand Merchant Investment Holdings and was instrumental in the founding of AlphaCode. We asked her to share her vision for the club and her own experiences as a fintech entrepreneur.
AlphaCode is a club for next-generation financial services entrepreneurs, supported by a physical workspace and virtual platform. The club hopes to attract visionaries in the financial services space that aspire to transform their industry. Dominique Collett is an executive at RMI and was instrumental in the founding of AlphaCode. We asked her to share her vision for the club and her own experiences as a fintech entrepreneur.
What is the vision for AlphaCode?
The vision is to identify and develop businesses that push the boundaries of financial services in Africa and abroad. We want to fundamentally change the way people perceive financial services and make a meaningful contribution to improving lives. We're hoping to support the creation of more businesses like OUTsurance and Discovery that achieve something radically new. Discovery, for example, took something relatively basic - a health savings account - and added innovation in the form of the Vitality programme that was revolutionary and has expanded globally. It's something extraordinary that customers relate to. OUTsurance was also innovative in the way it invented direct insurance in South Africa. We believe there is scope for many more companies like these to emerge from Africa. AlphaCode is also about talent. There's currently a narrative about our best talent leaving SA - and that's fundamentally not true. There is amazing talent in Africa. It isn't leaving. And our vision is to get the best and brightest Africa has to offer to join our community.
How big is the opportunity for fintech entrepreneurs in Africa?
Massive. If there's one continent that has scope for radical change and to deliver extraordinary things, it's Africa. For one, look at the number of people with mobile phones versus financial services in Africa. The gap is huge. We have well over a billion people on the continent, and yet our biggest bank - Standard Bank - has only 20 million customers. You've got this population that's never experienced financial services but that are becoming economically self- sufficient. There is a great opportunity for companies that think differently. That are not dealing with legacy and have to solve for very real problems. We might not have the same level of resources as in more developed markets, but we have much higher levels of ingenuity - which is just because of necessity. There are amazing things to be done in Africa.
What is one big lesson you learned from running a fintech startup yourself?
The biggest thing is that you have to do something you believe will change the world. Running a business and starting something new requires a lot of courage and there's a lot of lonely moments. If you aren't subjugated to a higher purpose, you just can't do it. And that higher purpose can't be money. I've learned from experience that when things are getting tough, only conviction can carry you through. In my business we were trying to make banking as prolific as cellular telephony - and unless we were crystal clear about that vision, we wouldn't have kept on going when things got difficult.
What kinds of businesses is AlphaCode looking for?
We are looking for businesses in Africa that have the potential to be the next OUTsurance or Discovery. Businesses that can become large in and of themselves and change the landscape. To do this they must have audacious goals and be driven by entrepreneurs that want to build a legacy - not just create a liquidity event. These are individuals with a solid vision and who want to stick with it, and with businesses that focus on a very specific thing in financial services that they believe they can do differently.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs have a great idea but aren't sure how to get going - especially if they have a job they can't afford to give up. What is your advice to them?
Get going! Entrepreneurship is about implementation and execution. You don't deliver anything without taking a leap of faith. You have to get the right team around you and find people who share your vision. The world's not waiting for you. Even if you can't leave your job right now, start doing it on the side. Get together with people who believe in what you're doing and put together a business plan. Develop the concept and then start talking to people to test it. Also, don't be protective about what you have. There are too many entrepreneurs that believe they shouldn't share their ideas. This is not true. You have to share your ideas to test assumptions. Attend startup events and meet people who can help you. And most importantly, attend AlphaCode events, of course.
If you're an entrepreneur that fits Dominique's description above, we'd love to hear from you. Find out how you can crack the code and join our club.