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Episode Number: 194

Episode 194- Starting a Mobile Bank and FinTech Company with Sheena Allen

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Starting a Mobile Bank and FinTech Company with Sheena Allen

Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch podcast Starting a Mobile Bank and FinTech Company with Sheena Allen.

Intro 0:11

Welcome to the Journey to Launch podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant as a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest, and build real wealth. Join her on the Journey to Launch to financial freedom.

Jamila Souffrant 0:35

Hey, hey, hey journeyers Welcome to the Journey to Launch podcast. If you are totally new, then you're wondering why I'm calling you a journeyer. Well, journeyer means you are now on the mission with me to launch to financial independence and freedom, your journey or now there's no turning back. Let's launch together. Now before we happen to this episode with Sheena Allen. It's amazing conversation, I want to just let you know about the free class that I'm having on January 14. So this episode drops on January 13. So if you're listening to this, as soon as it comes out, then you still have the opportunity to join me on January 14, for a free class all about what my favorite topic Financial Independence 101: How to Build an Action Plan to Financial Freedom and still live your best life. It's going down at 8:30pm, Eastern Time, January 14, and you can still join me at journeytolaunch.com/freeclass. And if you do miss this free class, don't worry. I mean, you know, I'm always working on something special for you guys. And I will be opening up doors for the second cohort the second enrollment in my Journey to Financial Independence Course. So this is the course where I walk you through step by step, how to get you from where you currently are now to financial independence, giving you a flexible roadmap, giving you the confidence and support for you to get there. So if you want to learn more about that go to journeytolaunch.com/ficourse, but doors will be closing on the 19th. So I will be shutting down enrollment so I can focus on the amazing, amazing people who enroll in student we did this course live we did a live launch of this course the first cohort late last year in 2020. And it was amazing so you get to see some of the results and testimonials if you go to journeytolaunch.com/ficourse. But if you can join me for the free class journeytolaunch.com/freeclass but if you missed that and you're like Jamila, I am ready. Take me to the promised land then join us in this next cohort journeytolaunch.com/ficourse before enrollment ends, enrollment ends on January 19.

Now let's get into a bit about Sheena. So Sheena Allen is best known as the founder and CEO of Fintech company and mobile bank Capway and mobile app company Sheena Allen apps. Sheena went on to scale Sheena on apps to five apps and was able to generate millions of downloads all with no outside funding and get this She didn't even know how to code. When she first developed and created her first mobile app in 2016. She thought of an idea for her second startup Capway. Capway is a mobile bank and fin tech company that focuses on those who lack fair opportunity and access to mainstream financial services and the cashless economy. This is such an important mission that Sheena is on and you're going to hear more about her story, how she came up with this idea, what gave her the guts to go after it. I mean, she started a bank. I'm so inspired by Sheena story and I think you will be too.

First a word from today's sponsor. As we are in the beginning of a brand new year, it's the perfect time to get focused and committed to your financial goals. Not only is it great to reflect on your money wins and lessons learned from the previous year, but it's the perfect opportunity to set and commit to your financial goals for the year ahead. Take time to reevaluate your current financial tools, banking situation and consider joining your local credit union if you're not already a member, for example, digital Federal Credit Union, better known as DCU is committed to providing their members with the financial products and services they need to help them achieve their financial goals. Not only does DCU offer free online education for the members on many topics, including saving, building credit and budgeting. DCU also offers products that can help members establish or improve their credit. To learn more, check out DCU. org and stick around to the end of the show for the DCU money Tip of the Week. Well I'll be sharing tips to help you save and manage your money so that you can reach your goals.

Okay, depending on when you're listening to this is going to be important information for you to know I am holding a free class on January 14 8:30pm. Eastern time it's my brand new training on creating your building blocks to reach financial independence. What are the things that you need to know? What are the stages you need to go through to get to financial independence? How can you figure out your financial independence number? What are the tools you need to succeed? We are going to be talking about all that and more on January 14 8:30pm Eastern time. So make sure you join us it's completely free. You can go to journeytolaunch.com/freeclass to save your seat right now. Okay, let's get into the episode.

Hey, journeyers really excited to have today's guest on the podcast I've been seeing her around so much on social super impressed by what she's been able to do in the finance space and not like, you know, I'm in like, the more informational educational side of things. And I'm always impressed with people when they get into like the tech side, like, you know, like actual providing a system and product for people. And so I was like, Oh, I can't wait to have Sheena on the podcast. So welcome Sheena. Allen.

Sheena Allen 6:01

Thank you for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 6:03

How would you describe your what like what you do in this space? I feel like you're a creator. I saw somewhere I'm someone tagged you and is like the youngest black woman to own a bank?

Sheena Allen 6:12

Yes. Apparently I try to fact check it. I'm like, Am I really the youngest? So I don't know. Maybe but people have said I am so I guess so.

Jamila Souffrant 6:21

I think it's the youngest person. Like even if you just take the blackout.

Sheena Allen 6:24

I think it's the youngest female female. Okay, I think I think he's just female, which I still is crazy. Well, I guess I don't know. I start this company when I was with ideal Can I was 27. So I guess kind of got you thinking about owning a bank? I guess.

Jamila Souffrant 6:38

Yeah, yeah. So so we're gonna get to the bank. So your bank is cap way. I want to talk about what what it is the problem it solves. So people can get more information about it. But I kind of want to take it back to how you got into this field. Because you went to school, you graduated with a major in psychology and film? Yes, your undergraduate. And then you found yourself though, like starting to like develop apps, like you became very popular and successful in the app space at a young age without even knowing how to write code. So I'm really want to get into like what like, led you down that route? Yeah.

Sheena Allen 7:10

So in college, as you mentioned, double major film psychology, I minded in marketing, and I was kind of all over the place, as you probably can tell, when I was in college, and my senior year of college, I went to Walmart, right, I sold my apartment out this summer. So I went back to school, I was had to go to Walmart, like no, like buy stuff just to be back around the house. And I had this like long receipt. It wasn't like CVS long. But it was like a long receipt from Walmart. And I told my roommate who was with me, I know wish there was an app, I can keep my money and my receipts. And this was 2011. And of course, the App Store 2011 had like, I don't know, 200,000 apps in it, still very, very young. And I couldn't find anything. And I was like, Okay, well, I'm gonna figure out like how to develop this app and my remote like Sheena, I don't do anything technical. And I was like, I love computers. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna figure it out. And that was literally like the first step into doing apps.

The thing is here, like, I have an app idea a day, like in my head, like right now. And I'm just like, and then I think about like execution. I know, they're like services. And you have, like, I know, you can plug plug us into how all that works, where you can get help with it, right? Like most people have ideas, but they don't like, execute the way you did. So are you just that kind of person like you think of an idea, you just do it? Or what prompted you to really go after it?

Yeah, I mean, I was like, I really need this, and I can't find it. So I'm gonna figure out how to do it myself. And I honestly had no clue what the heck I was doing. So let me be very clear. I was at the University of Google. And I was like, What do I do? And so I literally use printer paper, which I got my printer, like every time I apartment, and I sketched out the way but I want you to look, and I took that the sketches and I open up Microsoft Word. And like, look at the text boxes that is not used for designing. I use text boxes to design out how I wanted it to look. And I was like, I'm just going to figure it out. Like I really want this app, but I can't find it. So hey, let me get it done it. I did everything that you're not supposed to do when it comes to designing and building apps. But I didn't know what I was doing. So I I figured out the hard way.

Jamila Souffrant 9:23

So you created that app did what happened with that app was the name of it.

Sheena Allen 9:27

The name of the app was called PMO is good for picture and money organizer. It sounds so stupid. And I know that I think about it, but that was what I came up with. So it's called PMO I put it out. I go like 50 downloads like it was it. It was not a huge success in any way. The first month it was like 50 downloads. But I think the most important thing that came out of that was one I fell in love the process of like saying I'm looking for an idea to like people can download this all over the world. So, if you can download this, and then it was something about this technology piece that was like you can touch people from anywhere and everywhere. That was so amazing to me. I just completely fell in love with it.

Jamila Souffrant 10:15

So I know that's not something you do now, like that app is just like a history. But I would think there are similar things like that. Now in the market, like you, you basically took a picture, you could take a picture of your receipt, and it kind of organized that those numbers on an app for you. Yeah, we'll need that. Now. I'm sure there's something there must be something that does that now.

Sheena Allen 10:32

Yeah, I think I think there's a few that do it now. But like, yeah, I want it, I want it to be like, you could take a picture of your receipt, and then it organizes your, your numbers, your money for you. But then on the other side, I wanted it to be like, we also didn't accept the receipts, or we had the option to like get a receipt and take a picture. Or like we could do that digital option of our receipt, and it goes to this app to organize our money. So they will often do that, like 2011.

Jamila Souffrant 10:58

Yeah. You still were an undergraduate at that point.

Sheena Allen 11:01

Yeah I was still in school.

Jamila Souffrant 11:03

So how did you take that experience and start to expand it right? It wasn't just like a one time thing you did. This is like that eventually led you into your career, what you're doing now, right?

Sheena Allen 11:11

Yeah. So this was first went to school and falls, this was August was like July, it actually happened once August. And I mentioned it wasn't like a huge success. But I because I fell in love with the process. I want to give it another try. And I was like, Well, you know, maybe it didn't work out, I'm gonna try a different one. I'm into like, anything creative. So even before going to college, I was really deep into like painting and drawing and all the art. So I kind of love the photo piece of like, even the receipt thing. And so I planned an app in November of that year called works on pics, which as you probably can guess, was adding words on pictures. And that app did probably like 2500 downloads the first month, which was much better than the 50,000, the 50 that I got from my first app. And so that app did will and I graduated in December. And I my mom was pretty much like go to grad school. My mom was encouraged in grad school. My dad was more of like he had two degrees, yes, and student loan debt, you'd get 9-5 and get some income. And thank God, I didn't have too much student loan debt. I had a lot of scholarships, but I still had some student loan debt. Well, that's your nine to five money security and get a guaranteed paycheck. And I myself, so let me give myself six months. And if like this tech thing doesn't work, I'll go to grad school. And I put out two apps in between those six months. And the first one that was taken with a third one. But the first one that six months was app called twit booth. And what I was trying to do was actually make Instagram pretty much Instagram for Twitter. I put it out it did really well, honestly, very, very well. But I got an email from Twitter that I yeah, that they weren't too happy, I guess. And like, I don't know, maybe like a month later, the Media tab in the Twitter app showed up. So there's my Twitter story.

Jamila Souffrant 13:09

Anyway, good idea.

Sheena Allen 13:12

Yeah, pretty much. But then the fourth Apple's App called Dublin and allows you to clone yourself within within this app, I saw my friend had did it. For her graduation, photo shoot, I thought was the dopest thing ever. And I want to make into an app. And I put it out. And it just I mean, it would have viral it just blew up. And that was pretty much solidified. This is what I want to do. And this is what I'm gonna say.

Jamila Souffrant 13:35

Right. And is that what you started Sheena Allen Apps says like the house all those apps that you are creating, correct? Yep. But you were doing this without coding it yourself. I know you did the design all the work. But like then you had Did you just outsource the coding, but the back end part of it? Is that how you did it? Okay.

Sheena Allen 13:50

Yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 13:51

And how long would end? And so just being curious about like the app process. I know nowadays, even tracking things are even easier than when you started right in terms of finding people to like help you do something like this. But how long does an app take you think from thought? And I know that varies depending on the complication of it. But how long does a typical typical process take to to get an app

Sheena Allen 14:11

I'd say the quickest I've done from idea to launch has been about six weeks.

Jamila Souffrant 14:19

and is expensive?

Sheena Allen 14:21

Even now I can tell people there are some really basic apps you can get done for two, three grand, I mean, very basic, I will say in today's time, your average app is probably gonna call She is an MVP. So like your minimum viable product, you need to somewhere around like five to 10 grand to get the MVP going. But my shortest was like six weeks. It cost me like 20 maybe two grand, but my longest of course, which is a full company, though, who just cap way. I mean, it's taken us this idea of a cap way came in 2016. We pretty much did the r&d for two, three years. We started building in 2019 and we're launching technically to the public. From a banking side in January of 2021. So it's I mean, sometimes super quick. I mean, sometimes it's a lot of money a long time.

Jamila Souffrant 15:09

Right? Well, now that you talked about Capway, let's let's talk more like about it. One, what is Capway? And I'd love to get like at that moment that you decided that Cayway needed to exist, like, what prompted you to want to do it?

Sheena Allen 15:20

Yeah, so Capway itself, we are a financial service provider. The core of what we do is mobile banking, or it's a term for now, neo banking, which is digital banking. So that's the core of what we do, and that we provide debit cards, we provide money accounts, we don't have a checking account, just because in digital banking, you don't write checks. Uh huh. So the they make us call them money accounts or spend accounts not not checking accounts, we do savings. So we do things that are pretty standard for what your traditional banking, but usually with neobank, you don't get really deep into like mortgages and, you know, retirement accounts. Now, some some do, but usually, especially the early time, you see more like just like savings accounts and spending accounts, lending, things like that. So overall, we are a financial service provider. And what we do is mobile banking, digital banking, we have other things that we do that support really what the goal of Capway and that goal of Capway is, how do we close gaps through access and opportunities and this access gap, this digital gap says information gap. So financial literacy and income gaps, income inequality in America is ridiculous mess amongst women, that's amongst race this this across a lot of different sectors. And of course, you get the racial wealth gap, which you know, we all know is is ridiculous that the average black family I think net worth is around 17,000 18,000 versus a white families about 170 172,000. So you have a lot of gaps who are so my Our goal is financial service providers, how do we fill those gaps by providing access and opportunities that really haven't been afforded. I feel like people have overlooked a large sector of Americans, I always tell people, most people say a lot of times overlooked and underbanked. And most people would not consider themselves underbanked. I think the name, the term underbanked people kind of equate to poor, which is actually not true. But you can be underbanked because you can't afford the minimum balance fee that your bank is charging you, you know, your person is going to overdraft, you know, often or even once or twice, but you're also underserved. Because the fact that financial institution doesn't do much for you, if you lose your job today, I mean, stats range, but roughly was about 70 70% of Americans are said to live paycheck to paycheck, even pre COVID. And most people, that means about 70% of Americans, if they lost their job today, they can't pay their bills next month, which means that you're gonna end up probably paying to bank because you can't afford the minimum balance fee. So a lot of us are actually underbanked we just don't see ourselves that way.

Jamila Souffrant 18:06

Hmm. Was there a certain moment that you said that, hey, you know what, because there, you know, there are other online banks and other credit unions, that I'm a huge fan of now that provide some solutions, right? But what was for you like the idea that Capway would be that would fill in gaps that these other places maybe you know, are not able to reach or fill in?

Sheena Allen 18:25

Yeah, so I grew up in a small town here, Mississippi, well, essentially a little small town in central Mississippi. I grew up in a banking desert. So I knew it was like not having proper or fair access to financial services. You know, it's funny, cuz I always tell people growing up in a place like Mississippi, we don't have the big national charter so that national banks like there's no Bank of America, there's no Chase. We only have CDFIs, your community bank, your credit unions, your regional banks, or just there's no bank at all use payday lending and check cashing and Title Loans. So growing up around that, I knew it was like for my great grandma, let's keep her money. Her house, she didn't have a bank. He didn't have a bank account at all, like her money is really at her house. I have a few family members who are like that, mainly cash base. And so crazy enough, when I started my first company, my first tech company, I first moved to Silicon Valley, and I actually end up building my company out in Austin. So I've mainly spent my time in Austin, my first company. And it's crazy because being in California being Austin, there's banks on every corner specifically where I lived it. It was like, you know, you just walk downtown, there's a bank, like three banks right beside each other. What prompted me was like, I will go back home and I will notice that people back home still cashing checks for like the convenience store and the grocery store. And there was not a bank on every corner. And I had two things that really happened for me that kind of tilted me to say, hey, I need to kind of focus more was one.

I remember walking to restaurants when I'll be in like New York or Texas or California. And this was like 2017 2016 2017 and even then it will be like, you know, debit and credit only or cash free, everything like back home like they can't eat here because they already have cash. So that was the first one. And the second thing was that understanding we were moving into a social age. And why that's important is because, you know, my my grandmother, or people back home, they probably have never left Mississippi or at the most likely brides like Memphis or New Orleans, like that's our version of like getting away. And the fact that we were in a social age, somebody who had never left their small town in Mississippi, or Arkansas or Kentucky, social media has shown you the world. So like, right now I'm sitting in Atlanta, but I can easily get on social media and see what's going on in New York, or going on to LA or Miami. And what that created was sort of creating FOMO, too, and I had people who were still in small towns, but they want to like get amazon prime, they want to Spotify, they want it Netflix, you can't do that if you only have cash. And it's an interesting stat that I found that caught what those who pushed me over the edge, which was 52% of Americans live in the same nine states. So we're all kind of pushed into the same nine states, New York, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, California, we're literally all pretty much half of Americans are in the same nine states. And then you have 48 of Americans who are spread out across everywhere else. And what I found was that I had the privilege of living on both sides, I had lived in the 48%, but also lived in the 52%, I realized the difference. And I feel like when we look at the newer agents or banks, they really focus on that 82% because most of these banks are born out of Boston, they're born out of New York, they're born on San Francisco, they're usually created by middle aged white men who probably came from Stanford or Harvard. And it's like, they have no clue what it's like to live in that 48% because they probably never been to Little Rock, Arkansas, or they've never been to South Side Chicago, or the other part of Detroit or Jackson, Mississippi. So that was really what led me to say, there's still huge gaps in this financial system, even though we have digital banks and credit unions unfortunate The truth is, you're not going to have average 18 year old or 25 year olds not gonna like be like, yeah, let me walk to my local Credit Union and start a bank account. Because we're so used to doing everything on our phone, there was a huge gap there. And that was really what led me to Capway.

Jamila Souffrant 22:37

So there's a lot of like, I think lessons to pull off from everything you just said is that one even though there are other options, even other digital banks, what you bring to the table outside of like your expertise and you just like experience in the tech field is this like the soul like the perspective that other people even if they have more money, even if they have more connections, like they don't know what it's like to be you and that then allows you to speak directly to like from your soul to the soul of the customer, your potential customer because they get it so it's going to be through your messaging it's going to be through you know, how you design things and I think things like that people sometimes overlook and you know, maybe someone's you know, listening to this has an idea and they're like, well there are other people doing it. But your perspective like guarantee there's other people who directly can either relate because they've had the same experience or they can find pockets to relate to and that's what's gonna set you apart. So I think that's just inspiring for others who think like Yes, so what like there are other solutions, but they're not your solution. Right? And I do love how you just even broke don't even realize that whole 52% of like people live because I'm you know, I was born in Jamaica the island I always have to say that like that, you know, nothing wrong with the borough but the island and then raised mostly in New York, so I am only used to really like Yes, a bank on every corner. And even yet even in New York, there are pockets of people like in different neighborhoods, that even if there is the bank, like down the block, they they're not considering that an option for themselves.

Sheena Allen 24:02

Yep. Right.

Jamila Souffrant 24:03

So there's still gaps within these like the states like the the that we live in these coastal states. So Capway now you formed it. I mean, I can't imagine like you just said you thought of the idea when

Sheena Allen 24:14

2016.

Jamila Souffrant 24:16

And now 2021 is like the first time you're coming to market. Like Is that what you how you call it?

Sheena Allen 24:21

Yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 24:22

So all that time to bring it to this level. Now? I don't know. I feel like, you know, I've had Arlen on the podcast before. And I've been on her podcast. And then you know, I'm also like speaking to a couple just other people in the tech field. And I listen to you know, how I built this. And you know, sometimes they'll bring on all these founders and start these tech companies. And there's a gap between like, not only just women getting money to build their visions, but black woman. So what is your experience been like to get people behind this app and to get the money to fund your vision?

Sheena Allen 24:56

Yeah, so you know, I will say I was still running my first company. Oh, Until 2018. So I was, even though the idea for Capway came in 2016. Really, for two years, it was more of like this idea stage, I'll call it like a lot of r&d. And we went to a very small, very, very small, like, amount of money to do the r&d. And actually, all I had until was one of our investors very, very early. And I was one of my biggest benefits even be able to raise even a small amount of money for r&d, which lasted two years, two and a half years to be quite honest. $100,000 last two and a half years, can you imagine that?

Jamila Souffrant 25:30

Wait, I'm sorry, I just want to $100,000 just for the r&d portion of this. Yeah.

Sheena Allen 25:33

But that had left me two and a half years

Jamila Souffrant 25:37

And I'm breaking this down just because I want people to get a sense of like how this works. So $100,000 over two years to cover, like just research and development. So that's what like looking at all the other systems, maybe out there developing the What the? What is that part involved? Yeah, that

Sheena Allen 25:52

is that's doing a lot of research that was literally me in between. And once again, wasn't my first company. But that was literally like me, like doing online research. That was me taking once again, my experiences what I knew, and saying, hey, how does this also work for people outside of Mississippi. So this wasn't me, doing like online research and going off data. This was like me getting on planes and get in my car and going to neighborhoods and talking to community activists like this was like true, hardcore r&d. This was doing a beta application. This was running debate schools and with community organizations. And this was two and a half years of making $100,000 do the in tech, which is not a lot. And I will say the reason I believe I even got that was because my first company was successful. I had my first company not been successful. I don't, I don't know if I would have gotten that at all. And I know what it's like to bootstrap my first company. I didn't raise any money at bootstrap that.

So I want people to know, I say to be very clear, it wasn't that came to calculate and raise money. And it was like, oh, like, she's one of the few that was able to easily raise money. But I went through the struggle with my first company I know, it was like the bootstrap. I know, it's like they have millions of app downloads, and investors still question, are you worth a check for your company. So I will the biggest benefit, I guess, in the end, it didn't come from that, though, was I was able to raise a small amount of money early for r&d for Capway, which once again, Arlen was was one of those I've known around for a while for my first company. But I did that for as mentioned two and a half by two and a half years. And then in 20, late 2018, we raised our pre seed, so our pre seed funding. So the thing I want to be very clear about when it comes to FinTech or especially when it comes to mobile banking, or digital banking, you have to raise money, pre product, because it's such a regulated industry, there's so much money to pay up front for so many different things, where it's like, you know, I can't like social media, use an example. If I was building a social media website, there's so many resources to build, like for free to gain traction, and then go some investors say, Hey, I have X amount of users. And I think you should fund me, we'll because it's such a regulated industry. This is finance and it's banking. There, you have to build this all pre product like you can't bootstrap a bank. Like that's not how it works. So we ended up getting a pre seed round. And the person who had a pre seed round was actually a connection that Arlan made for us. So Arlen shout out to Arlen. So shout out backstage capital. Christy, also Christy is amazing. Also, Christina Arlan, I know both lead backstage capital, but right, the pre seed round. And in 2019, I pretty much took that and I've moved the company to Atlanta. So we're now based here in Atlanta. But that money, we like raised less than $2 million for a mobile bank, for our pres seed. And that lasted us 18 months, less than a million dollars, 18 months and building, building a bank. And I mean, I one thing you probably hear from any black woman in tech, we know how to make money last, because we don't know when our next check is coming. We got to focus on one that we get how do we make it last, how to get how to focus on revenue. A lot of times you see tech companies in like, they raise all this money, but they don't really make money. They're not profitable. They don't make money. But I mean, every model is different to let me say that but for most black women, we have to focus on revenue, because we don't know if we're ever going to get another check.

Jamila Souffrant 29:33

Right.

Sheena Allen 29:35

So we break that pre seed round that last 18 months. And then currently we just raise our seed round, but raising money is hard and it's really difficult, especially black women get less than 1%. But then it goes back to i'm a black woman FinTech which is even

Jamila Souffrant 29:51

even more difficult.

Sheena Allen 29:53

Even less of a people looked at looks like me in this in this industry.

Jamila Souffrant 29:57

Yeah. Well and and and That's the thing too, because you know, there may be people listening right now who have ideas for technology, new ideas or just a business and they may want to go the route of funding, you know, versus self funding. And it is a barrier, but from just what you said, even you know, a lot of times, it's even better to start with bootstrapping first, so you understand exactly what it is. So your first company bootstrap. So you understood like the process, you were in this field for a while, before you knew and the type of product you're launching needs, like, external money, right? Like you can't bootstrap a bank, like you said,

Sheena Allen 30:33

Yeah, I think that if, and I think I always tell people, though, if you can bootstrap, do it, man raising money. But there are some industries, like I said, that you just is bootstrapping. And it's not gonna happen unless you come from a super wealthy family. So like building a bank, like telehealth, like you're not trying to do this whole medical piece. And you're going to bootstrap it like it's probably like a lot of money pre product to get that up and going. But if you can bootstrap, I'll say bootstrap, because when you do raise money, I think people sometimes overlook the fact that, but every check that you take, you're giving away a piece of your company. And so we have this really bad habit in media, that we, we celebrate somebody say, Oh, I raised $10 million, which is great, but how much equity Do you give up for that $10 million. If you talk to sometimes if you talk to founders who are liking their Series B, or is funding a series A, and I remember I was at an event and Tristan Walker was speaking who you know, and he was in Atlanta with him, he first moved to Atlanta. And he said something that stuck out to me, I think it's a lot of entrepreneurs need to hear this. And he said, I had pretty much given up so much equity to the point where like, I would do all the work, but I didn't really own majority of my company anymore. And I think this thing is really important. People keep saying don't invest in one investor. Every check, you take your company's less than your company, but your work doesn't become less work.

Jamila Souffrant 32:02

Right. You become an you become an employee again, like for your company.

Sheena Allen 32:06

Yes. For your shareholder,Yeah,

Jamila Souffrant 32:09

now I don't we don't have to get too in detail. But you threw out some words and maybe some people who and I'm gonna direct them to Arlan Hamilton's episode, we did talk a little bit about funding, but like your whole like pre seed that you said seed rounds, series A Series B, I know, we don't have to go through all of it. But just for some people, just to get a sense of what that's like to raise money. Can you just like quickly go through that if it's possible to quickly go through it?

Sheena Allen 32:31

Yeah, so pre seed is usually when your idea stage, you have and you specifically have pre seed investors where you go to them and you're literally like, you may have an MVP, sometimes you do sometimes you don't, but you're pretty much idsa so this is someone who is literally believing in more of you, honestly, than they are in your company. Because every store is going to pay a bit I don't care if you're Dropbox, I don't care if you're instacart I don't care of yours, you know, Instagram, whatever Instagram started out of something totally different. So everybody pivots but that precinct investors want to say hey, I believe you as a founder. So when something goes wrong, and we have to pivot I still show that you're going to build something great. So your pre see most people in preseed these days raise about usually less than less than a half a million dollars is usually pre seed in your PC is usually going to be funded by angels, which is individuals that's not like huge financial institutions. So you have your pre seed round and then you go into your seed round this is when you literally have like something in the market you've proven at least some part of a product market fit in this is where like you're trying to like scale that product market fit to see like if you have something that's going to be able to stick and build longevity so this is like your it's like your seed is it kind of the mission you see this is you plant the seed and you're trying to make sure it is going to grow so you seed around and funding rounds that increase the last so I will say a seed round every seed round probably in today's time is probably like $2 million you know years ago seed round was a half million dollars but not anymore seed round now is 2 to $3 million so that's your see the app you see Congress series A, your series A is okay now I have traction I have revenue if your model is to make money you want to be profitable and most important not profitable with a series A but I'm making money. I'm seeing what works what doesn't work. Now I can hammer down on these two things. This one thing and I'm now catered for acceleration. So that's your series a series once again to answer is a huge scale but you're right like 7 million series A but I've seen people raise 35 million series A so it also depends on your industry. And then from there you go Series B Series C. Some people get to like series. But usually what you find is people either get acquired or they go public, probably around like series D

Jamila Souffrant 34:57

and during all these rounds are you raising as well. You're giving up some equity,

Sheena Allen 35:01

you give up equity everywhere each time, every time.

Jamila Souffrant 35:05

So how are you positioned now? Right? So right now, you're presenting your first debit card by hopefully the time this is released. So is it now that like your mission was up until this point to, you know, get as many users who put a sign up as like a way of the show, hey, people want this this is this is interest. And now is it that now it's time to like show that people are going to use this debit card, or like, what is that next round for you to or thing that you need to do for the business to like, help it go to the next level.

Sheena Allen 35:32

So for our pre seed, of course, there was money that we use to, you know, kind of build an MVP or get beta going. And then what we did at Capway specifically for us is, we built the first part of our platform was financial education. And so we end up getting a lot of users mainly through our financial literacy or financial education portion of what we are doing with Capway, because what was really important to me and building this company was, I think that the information gap is so important, it's like, if I give you a whole bunch of money, I don't give you any information or what to do with it, I'm not gonna go too well. And the same thing is opposite if I, if I give you all this information, but I don't give you any way to build money, like a great use what am I suppose to do this information. So we ended up building a nice audience strictly from our content side. And then now with the debit cards coming out, we're going to add that next layer, which is users for actually baking with Capway using this for, you know, for financial outlet for banking purposes. And then we'll go into our next thing, which then we're adding other layers onto not just debit cards, or just like spend account. But now we're adding like micro lending, we're adding different ways of saving, we're adding credit building. So we're looking to get to our acceleration point, you know, from projection wise about summer 2021. And then they'll lead to this the next layer of acceleration, which goes to your Series B Series C. So that's, that's where we are.

Jamila Souffrant 37:00

Well, it sounds exciting. Like, I mean, it sounds like it's a lot. Obviously,

Sheena Allen 37:04

it is.

Jamila Souffrant 37:06

But it sounds like being able to provide this service. And then I think the person who you who you are behind the business, like when people know what you doing this, like young black black woman, I think it's even more just inspiring. And part of it is kind of like the product works. But also the person behind the product is also someone you want to support to, you know, like you want want to see you win, like, you know, like want to cheer you on. And, you know, as you were talking so one of the things that like, you know, I've thought about and I'm sure other people think about but the education part of this whole thing is important because you can like build a tool first. But then if your users don't know how to manage their money, like you're not really helping, like making it sustainable, right? And then I think about all the people within like the finance space like me who are more like information and maybe service providing right now with information. And then there's like I have an idea for an app. And so like what would you tell someone like me, I'm in terms of if I wanted to pursue, right, creating an app. And I've seen people also say this, like some people get into this, like, as an entrepreneur, and you think you can get into like an app space. It's like, No, no, no, actually, that's not your lane, you should probably stick to like more of the you know, the face or like kind of like the influencer kind of person because that app that's or that technology, part of it is a different like level, but part of me feels like the technology part of it. That's where this whole like world is going to it's like the service base stuff. And education stuff is important, obviously. But I feel like lasting and like real impact is going to come from having someone use something. So I don't know,

Sheena Allen 38:37

So to your point, one thing that you'll see in our next release with with Capway, is exactly what you say what you said and what you're saying. We thought through that. And so of course at Capway we have a content team ourselves, like we have a Capway content team who puts out you know, information. But what I was seeing, even as we were doing like, you know, we do this thing every Thursday, on our on our Instagram Live, but what I was saying was he was talking to a lot of influencers. And they were also saying, like, you know, I had this great following all my social media, you know, my website, like, I kinda want to get into like, more like an app. And, you know, when I was when I was telling people from, you know, my long time doing apps, is there's, I don't know, 10 million apps in the app store now. And so if 1000 influencers decide I'm gonna play the app on financial literacy, like someone's gonna download it, but it's like, you're gonna get kind of lost in the sauce because it's like, you're kind of pushing the same things and so we that Capway Well, I said, I told my team, my marketing my engineering team, I say, you know, what we see as a benefit people go to Facebook because they can find everything and Facebook, people go to Instagram because I can see everybody's pictures on Instagram. I go to Twitter, cuz I see everybody know, everybody's thinking in one place. You know, everybody had their own blog, which was how it was years ago before social media became a thing. You know, people did that. But now people Go see social networks, I can see your page or someone else's page. So we're doing the same thing for financial literacy or financial education within Capway. And so someone like yourself could come and say, Sheena, I want to have full financial sessions, you literally have a full financial session within Capway.

Jamila Souffrant 40:19

Like a course or training from

Sheena Allen 40:21

Yes, yeah. And you can, so someone can come and they'll go to, they can search for you, they can search for a certain topic. And the same way you would have popped up in the Apple App Store, you will pop up in our content site for your specific your specific course, or session, or program. And so we want to create a place where people can come to really learn about money, all in one place, because we just feel like there wasn't an available, there wasn't it didn't exist. And you can only know you're learning about money, and you're getting access to all of this. But then you're able to also, once again, you're able to build your finances because you also have an option for banking there, you have an option for savings, option for credit and money goals. So it's taking information they're learning in a way to actually build we hope and financial health and generational wealth and the exact same platform.

Jamila Souffrant 41:14

Right, right. All right, I kind of want to get now more just into you building a business, you being an owner, and entrepreneur, how you manage all this, because not only the pressure, I would imagine, like this pressure that you get money from other people, like you know, it's millions of dollars now, like there's that pressure, there's the pressure of managing your day to day, right, like you have this big goal, but there's a lot of little goals that you need to complete every day to get that done. And then the marketing side of it, right? Like how much do you put yourself out there to grow this company versus you, you know, you lead the company itself? So I know that was a lot but how are you managing all those different assets or facets of being entrepreneur while still keeping sane during these times?

Sheena Allen 41:53

Yes, saying is this a good way to put it? I I'll say like, my biggest benefit is I'm actually reading the book again, there's a book called the 1%. And it tells you pretty much that every day, your goal is to complete just 1% of something. Because that means in a year you create you accomplish 365% of something. And so what I tried to break down tasks, to say, Hey, I can't get all this done in a week. But I want to get this done today, I'm gonna get this done tomorrow. And the point is you look up in a week, and you've actually accomplished a lot because you only focus on something very small. Every day. That's one thing for me is for us. I keep sane, keeping organized. My friends are great. My friends and family are great. They keep me sane. I literally probably can be like standing next to I don't know, Michelle Obama and my friend was still probably clown me.

Jamila Souffrant 42:55

Why don't you look like that?

Sheena Allen 42:56

Exactly. But that keeps me very grounded, which is I'm beyond appreciative of that. But entrepreneurship is very lonely route. And I tell people what I think people feel like is lonely. Like you're by yourself all the time, which in some cases you are, but you have a team of 100 people and you still feel lonely because it's like sometimes, like this is my journey. Nobody understands it. So it's more of a mental lonely than it is a physical lonely. And then once again, you know, you have all this money, and you know, in our case now it is millions and you have investments to answer to you know, that's one of the that's a big difference also on bootstrapping and raising money. When I was bootstrapping, I don't have to answer to anybody but Sheena, you know, but now that investors I sent out a monthly you know, investor update and I just want to know how the company is doing and you know, if you have to answer to people, so that is that's a different piece that goes along with it. And I will say entrepreneurship is and I say this, I always make sure I put a disclaimer with it. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody. And the reason I say that there is some people who are just more comfortable in their skin and it makes them more comfortable to say hey, I'm want to go to my job it's a nine to five want to clock in want to clock out and I'll get my paycheck and I'm okay with that and it is that it is okay there's nothing wrong with that I really hate it when people try to put that as a as at the bottom like this. Okay, if this if it was worked for you, that works for you. But then some people you know that entrepreneurship is what is in them but it's it's a hustle it's a I'm still up at three o'clock in the morning there is no clocking in and clocking out like oh, you know, what are you doing this weekend working or you're working on the weekend? We you run a company there's no such thing is no, I'm off all weekend like there's no basis on this. You just it's the bane they they know Saturday Sunday's like they but you know i i will say for me, I love what I do. So yes, I am sleepy sometimes. Yes, I get stressed sometimes. But even when I'm at three o'clock in the morning, I still We'll say, I love what I'm doing.

Jamila Souffrant 45:05

Which is I mean, and you're making like an impact and doing something that's has not been done before by someone who looks like you. So it's even more inspiring. And, you know, so part of the background of like, you know, my podcast and just like my brand is, you know, I'm about like helping people reach financial independence, which is a very lofty goal. Because in turn, it means that, like, literally, you'd have enough invested and saved, where you wouldn't have to work again, if you didn't want to. But really, it's like you're choosing what you want to do. Most people want to work and do something, right. And so I would love your perspective, like where you are, right? Because you're now like, you're building you, you have this company, you're still have a ways to go, a lot of it sounds like to like you want to you know, you want to make that impact you want to see it through. But for you, I would imagine like it's financial independence, something on your Horizon. I just feel like sometimes people, even in our space are entrepreneurs, like they making the money and you know, they're building the things, but they're not even thinking about their own financial like health. I'm not saying that you I'm just saying, putting it into perspective for people where it's just like, you know, what if I didn't want to walk away from this, like my exit strategy, is that one day, I don't have to hustle and work on the weekends. And you know, for the rest of my life. Have you started to think about that journey for yourself?

Sheena Allen 46:14

Yeah, I mean, I definitely want to be on a yatcht and where my feet kicked up, in that, in that working, it's sort of like a morning on a Saturday. But I also am that person where if I literally had to sell Capway today for a billion dollars, and I might take a small break. I'm gonna go back. I'm gonna go back and do something my my great grandmother passed away at 92 and she would always tell me, you know, you should have a goal untul the day that you die.

Jamila Souffrant 46:44

I say that part again. I want to make sure I got that.

Sheena Allen 46:46

You should have a goal until the day that you die.

Jamila Souffrant 46:49

Yes.

Sheena Allen 46:51

Like even my grandmother who was who was a game pass at 92 even her goal might be like, I'm gonna go sit on the porch today and sit up for a while or no, I'm a cook this week or it was always something and she kept herself going. Because I had this conversation last night. Some people are just existing, not everybody is living some people are really just existing. I think we started to exist, you lose your purpose and you lose your purpose. Like it's like you're just you're just here and I never want to feel like I'm existing. You can exist and have like money there's plenty people who have plenty of money and are miserable that is existing and never want to get that feeling so I want financial independence for myself. I want you generational wealth for my kids my grandkids my great grandkids way will when I'm gone. I'm an adult. I want that generational wealth to be there. But for my personally for myself. Yes, financial independence. I don't I don't honestly ever see myself not doing something.

Jamila Souffrant 47:48

Right. Right.

I love that. I love that. Okay, Sheena tell everyone where they can find more about you and Capway.

Unknown Speaker 47:56

Yes. So Capway you can find us on our website it's capway.co you can find some the app store that's the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. So definitely download our app on social media across all of our social media handles. We are @gocapway GO ca p w a y and then personally for myself, is SheenaAllen.com on social I it is who is Sheena, sh e e na,

Jamila Souffrant 48:25

right. And the goal here is like people go and they download the app like there's no fee to download it you really it's a financial education part they get and then they by the time hopefully this is released, you'll have this debit card that they can potentially opt into and start banking with you.

Sheena Allen 48:37

Yes.

Jamila Souffrant 48:38

All right. Thank you so much, Sheena.

Sheena Allen 48:40

Thank you.

Jamila Souffrant 48:45

Okay, I really hope you enjoyed that conversation with Sheena Allen. I was super inspired by just her journey, her growth from not knowing how to code, but to figuring it out. So even if you are not into you know, the FinTech world, this story should have been an inspiration. Hopefully it's an inspiration to you on just going after it an idea if it is planted. If there's a seed in your head, I want you to know that anything is possible, you know, and the thing

Okay, so before I go I just want to remind you You still have time to join me on January 14 at the free class where I'll be talking about financial independence 101 breaking down the building blocks you need to create and live your best life while on the journey to financial freedom. You can join me at journeytolaunch.com/freeclass the classes on January 14 at 8:30pm eastern time, so join me live Do you like hearing me talk on the podcast and you'll love to be able to like let's see let's interact with each other see me teach what I love teaching best financial independence and financial freedom topics. Also, the doors to the phi course are going to be open but only open until January 19. So if you want to find out more about That go to journeytolaunch.com/ficourse. Don't forget you only have a few hours if you're listening to this in real time when this episode drops to join me on January 14 at 8:30pm. Eastern Time for my free class, where I'll be helping you map out your journey to financial independence. You don't want to miss it, sign up by going to journey to launch comm slash free class.

Now it's time for a DCU's money Tip of the Week. This is where I share a quick money tip or resource or tool to help you on your journey to financial freedom. Now, I'm going to talk to you about phishing as a scam and how to avoid it. I'm not talking about fishing to get fish like fish you eat or maybe have as pets, but phishing as a scam where you get fraudulent emails that look like they're from our familiar organization, but they're really asking you for information that could jeopardize your personal data. So you may be asked to make a payment or verify personal information such as your social security number or a password. Do not give this in an email protect yourself in these three ways. One never provide your personal information online or over the phone unless you initiated the contact and you know it's a trustworthy company. Two, contact the company using a phone number or website that you know is real instead of following a link in an email and three report any phishing attacks to the Federal Trade commission@ftc.gov/complaint. Okay, for more tools and information to help you with your money goals, check out dcu.org

If you want to check out the episode shownotes that's where you can get links to anything that's mentioned, and even get a transcribed version of this episode that you can read. Go to journeytolaunch.comor click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. Now you can also still grab your free journeyer jumpstart guide by texting, launch to 33777 or go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart. If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show. One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review number. Two, follow me on my social media accounts. I'm at journey to launch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeyers there. Three, support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl. Four and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker so that we can spread the message of journey to launch. Alright, that's it until next week, keep on journeying journeyers.

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This week’s guest, Sheena Allen, is the youngest Black woman CEO and founder of a bank. Sheena created CapWay, a digital banking app and financial service provider, with the goal of closing the income, race, and financial literacy gap through access to banking and opportunities.

Growing up in Mississippi, she had first hand experience at what it was like to be underbanked and undeserved. Unlike major cities, there wasn’t a bank on every corner and banking options were limited where she grew up. In college, Sheena created her first app without knowing how to code and has been a force in the app and fin tech space ever since.  Her latest venture is a digital bank, CapWay. Tune in to this week’s episode to hear more about Sheena’s process to creating her very own digital banking app and her entrepreneurship journey.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Sheena created and funded her digital banking app CapWay
  • Why she created it
  • What the process of creating a FinTech company looks like
  • What pre-seed, seed, and Series A mean
  • How long it takes to build an app
  • How much it costs to build an app and more…

Special thanks to DCU for sponsoring the episode! Learn more about DCU by clicking here.

Sign up for my free class happening on January 14th: Financial Independence 101: How To Build An Action Plan to Reach Your Financial Goals and Live A Life of More Freedom!

You can still sign up for my Private Pop- up Podcast, Financial Independence 101: Your Building Blocks to Create A Life of Financial Freedom. This series will expire on the 19th, so get it now!

I'm listening to Episode 194 of the #journeytolaunch podcast, Starting a Mobile Bank and FinTech Company with Sheena Allen Click To Tweet

Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:

  • Arlan Hamilton was a guest on Episode 155: Strengthen Your Mindset & Confidence to Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage
  • Check out the other tools that help me with my finances and business here.
  • If you missed enrollment, join the waitlist for my FI course and Money Launch Club. The FI Course now called: Map Your Path To Financial Independence will open enrollment soon!
  • Join The Weekly Newsletter List
  • Leave me a voicemail– Leave me a question on the Journey To Launch voicemail and have it answered on the podcast!
  • Watch me on News12  Watch my latest segments on News12
  • YNAB –  Start managing your money and budgeting so that you can reach your financial dreams. Sign up for a free 34 days trial of YNAB, my go-to budgeting app by using my referral link.

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