Shivani Siroya

CEO & Founder, Tala (Formerly InVenture)

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 23, 2016

Discussion

Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
Hi Everyone, psyched to be here today to answer your questions. Excited to chat about emerging markets, flexible and customized credit systems and future of financial identity.
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@shivsiroya thanks so much for joining us today Shivani. Big fan of yours, my question is; what has been the biggest takeaway from having such a great relationship with the legend @sacca? Also what are your targets for the next year for InVenture? P.S Would love to have you on @twentyminutevc and share your story!
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@harrystebbings It’s been great working with @sacca because he understands and helps us think through our massive vision for unlocking credit in these markets. Our focus for next year is to deepen the value we provide our customers by expanding the scope of our products, while also continuing to expand geographically into new markets. I’d be happy to come on @twentyminutevc!
Amos Amanya@amos_amanya
@shivsiroya @harrystebbings @sacca @twentyminutevc how can I be assisted so that my tala resume in its network thus it has a problem of shooting
Chris Sacca@sacca · Chairman, Lowercase Capital
You run one of the most ethnically diverse and gender balanced companies I've ever seen. Is that one of Tala's competitive advantages?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@sacca First off, could you please answer all the questions about how awesome it is to work with you :) In regards to gender and ethnic diversity, we are always striving to bring in as many perspectives and experiences into our office, and bringing in diverse employees is one of the best ways to do so. We are trying to solve an incredibly challenging problem and recognize that we need a very diverse team to really accomplish all of our goals.
Shivani Bhargava@shivzb · CEO and Founder of TheRightMargin
Hey Shivani, Shivani here. What did initial traction look like for you? What was an early adoption milestone and how did you get there? What was the strategy that worked?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@shivzb When we first launched the product, we were the first company in Kenya to do mobile lending using smartphone data. So we had no idea whether people would download our app or even repay us. We were amazed by the instant demand for the product but even more so by our repayment rates. Our customers call our product magic – they are so happy that a financial institution actually trusts them and sees their potential. They are accustomed to empty promises from banks, so the fact that they receive credit in under 5 minutes (instantly!) is still amazing to them. The strategy that has really worked for us has been to focus on understanding the underlying pain points and challenges in the market and creating a solution that address these issues.
Shivani Bhargava@shivzb · CEO and Founder of TheRightMargin
@shivsiroya thank you!
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello @shivanisoraya Wondering how you choose the markets in which you want to expand. Is there a way to calculate risk? How does the company use data science to make better decisions?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@neeeharika We have a dedicated Expansion team that follows a thoughtful game plan for assessing markets. We assess each potential market in several stages with different criteria, from the macro-environment down to user demand. We leverage data science in this too, doing pilots to understand actual user behavior and tailoring our credit models accordingly. It's fascinating to see how each market is different!
Akin Sawyerr@akinsawyerr · MD, Feleman Limited
What the average tenure of your loans? Is your platform available as a service to telcos, mobile money operators etc?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@akinsawyerr Our loans are currently all short-term loans of either 3-week or 1-month tenure. Our platform is available as a service to telcos and mobile money operators. In Kenya, we partner with Safaricom the largest mobile money provider in the country. In every country we expand to, we explore the landscape for telcos and mobile money as partners in the endeavour. Beyond these kinds of partners, we constantly cultivate partners across a range of financial services, so that we can create more value for our users!
Neej Parikh@neejparikh · Founder @ Athletiqa.com
Would love to learn about some of your growth and user acquisition strategies, when you were in an early launch stage. Can you share what worked for you and what didn't?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@neejparikh We focused on finding good product/market fit before investing a lot in growth. Since achieving strong product/market fit, growth has been much easier. It’s amazing to hear from our customers about their experience when they find out they’ve been approved for a loan in a matter of minutes, and receive the money right away. It’s this “magic moment” where they realize the trust we’re placing in them without having met them, and that’s something really special for people. As a result, customers really love to refer the service to their friends, and we’ve been able to build on top of that with advertising through other channels like facebook and adwords.
AriChowdhury@aricheck · I run a digital agency and keep learning
@shivsiroya @neejparikh Grt q n a. Product market fit may actually take care of growth in a big way. Getting a loan approved for the likes of Jennifer is like God magical moment.. and so social sharing is so obvious.
Bharath B Lohray@lordloh · PhD student at Texas Tech University
I understand that InVenture is a "bank" and a "credit bureau"? Or, have I got this wrong? What do you think the Big Three credit bureaus could learn from InVenture? What is InVenture doing differently from the Big Three?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@lordloh Technically we’re not actually a bank or a credit bureau, though our services have significant overlap with both because we do credit scoring and lending. But funny you should ask! We just did a side by side comparison of ourselves with a large credit bureau in Kenya. We saw that our models are 5% more accurate in predicting default and we are able to score 40% more individuals than they were able to, because we aren’t relying strictly on traditional financial data.
Vinay Khosla@vinay123 · Co-founder Zenyx.com. Builder. Investor.
Hi Shivani, For Tala to be useful and used by your customers in Kenya, the Philippines and beyond, the user experience must resonate trust with diverse cultures. How did you build a great user experience and build trust with customers unfamiliar with mobile transactions? Thanks.
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@vinay123 I agree, building for diverse cultures is essential! Being close to the user is part of our DNA. When I founded InVenture, I had interviewed 4,000 microcredit borrowers in 9 countries, working at the U.N. It was actually that experience that lit my fire to create a better solution for financial access. And once the company started, we spent a lot of time being close to the users, whether that’s going in-country or studying their phone data extensively. Hanging out with customers has taught us so much. We actually found out that customers are comfortable with mobile transactions, especially in Kenya where mobile money has 80% penetration. It was also during user research trips in Kenya that we realized we could leverage smartphones to create credit scores. And guess what, hanging out with users is really fun! I love doing it and our team loves it too!
Vinay Khosla@vinay123 · Co-founder Zenyx.com. Builder. Investor.
@shivsiroya thanks Shivani. Great to hear you spent time understanding your customer and data. Wonderful venture.
Jason Cavness@jason_cavness
First, thanks for answering our questions and letting us learn from you. From your experience, when should Founders start thinking about HR?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@jasoncavnesshr I think of HR as a combination of people ops, benefits, compliance/hiring policies, culture, training. I think there are parts of it that you want to do from the beginning so that you can make sure that your team is aligned on the mission/culture/values and that there is transparency and focus internally on key priorities and what the decision making framework is. It’s also important to create a high bar for performance so we’ve done performance reviews from very early on. I think the other pieces of HR on the compliance/policy side usually come after you have 50 teammates or more. As a team that is growing quickly we’re adding in some of those policies now to ensure that we’ve got good hiring practices and benefits for our team across the globe.
Adam Marx@adammarx13 · Freelance writer/editor and music addict
Hey Shivani, thanks so much for taking time today! I'm going to echo Harry's question about working with @sacca, but from a different angle. Part of what Sacca and @Mazzeo espouse is a belief in creating value for others before asking for value for yourself. How do you take this mission statement and make it your own? Further, how does your definition of "value" change as you meet new people, or does it at all? Secondly, I'm with @HarryStebbings here, would love to see (hear) you on @twentyminutevc! :D
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@adammarx13 We actually exist to create value for our customers - we’re a mission-driven company, and have been this way from our beginning. So while our product has changed over time as we’ve learned more about our markets and listened to feedback from our customers, we’ve always been governed by this idea that we’re only successful insofar as our customers are getting more choice and control in their financial lives. What’s been awesome about working with @sacca is how committed he’s been to helping us think through this idea of shared value at scale. He’s always pushing us to expand geographically while continuing to deepen the value within our platform for our customers. Also @HarryStebbings - yes, let’s do @twentymintuevc!
Sheik Gama Aman@sheikmohaideena · Product Designer at Freshdesk
Its very exciting to see Inventure's rebranding as Tala. Could you share the story behind choosing that name?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@sheikmohaideena sure! We wrote a post to explain the process of choosing the new name here -- https://medium.com/tala/why-tala... Check it out and let me know if you have any other questions!
Sheik Gama Aman@sheikmohaideena · Product Designer at Freshdesk
@shivsiroya Read it a while ago. Clearly written blog :)
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Shivani thanks for being here! Is there any one thing you wish you had known when you first launched Tala that you know know? In other words, what advice with hindsight would you give yourself as a new founder?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@ems_hodge Awesome question. Now looking back, it all goes back to experimenting and trust. I wish we had decided to trust our own data and models earlier and started directly lending to individuals based on our credit scores earlier. By lending directly to customers, we were able to deepen our relationship with customers in an amazing way. And creating a long-term credit history with them resulted in additional value to our company as well.
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Shivani! You've probably done a good amount of presentations at tech events and also participated as audience. What have been your favorite experiences and what makes a great event in your opinion?
Uhma@deleted-594972 · Brr
Hello Shivani, I visited http://tala.co & tried to find out how the process works exactly or how to apply and could not find that info. Do you guys have a different website for your international audience that is not visible to us here? ( Visited your website using Israel IP and then US IP ) Thank you
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@victorpolyushko You can find our open roles & apply to join the team at http://tala.co/careers/. If you don’t see a role that’s a great fit, you can also send in your resume there. As far as applying for loans, we do have country specific pages but the actual loan application is done through an Android app that's only available in each country.
Uhma@deleted-594972 · Brr
@shivsiroya oh.. I see. sorry I wanted to test drive as a consumer. thank you for your reply!
Abhishek Kandoi@kandoiabhi · SDSLabs
Glad to see you here. What is one thing that you believe in, that other people around you have a hard time believing?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@kandoiabhi Excellent question. I strongly believe that everyone has a voice and should have the opportunity to be a part of the formal financial system. Most people think of individuals as risk, especially in emerging markets, but I know that there is deep value in each individual and we want to prove that using alternative methods.
Abhishek Kandoi@kandoiabhi · SDSLabs
Great. What is your strategy and attitude towards the regulations, restrictions and lobbying that goes around in the government? I bet you have to deal with them as a critical point for a widely usable product.
lorrynth@lorrynth · lorrynth
哈哈哈
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
On launching Tala: 1) How did you transition from your corporate finance job at Health Net to launching Tala (formerly Inventure)? 2) How soon after launch were you able to raise your seed round? 3) What did your initial MVP look like? 4) What roles did you hire for first? What's your philosophy for building your team and growing Tala?
Shivani Siroya@shivsiroya · CEO & Founder, Tala
@tomstocklein 1) I actually worked on Tala while I was working full time at HealthNet so it wasn’t so much about a transition but rather deciding I was ready to take the leap and go full time on Tala. 2) Regarding fundraising - I used my own savings to work on Tala first and then after going full time we received our first funding round about three months later but we already had a prototype and initial results in the market. 3) Our first MVP was very basic - it went from using paper and doing in-person interviews to using SMS + IVR technology to collect revenue/expense data to create credit scores for our customers so they could get access to traditional banks - check out this video -
4) I hired four people - product/tech, ops, statistics - and then made sure everyone could also/would be willing to do anything else needed. From there we’ve focused on bringing in the most diverse, talented folks in their specific fields.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are your thoughts on the startup NovaCredit (YC S16) that lets people transfer their credit history between different countries? Do you see any overlap or potential partnership with Tala?