Fintech Leaders
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Emmalyn Shaw, Flourish Ventures Managing Partner – What Motivates Mission-Driven Founders, Why Specialist Funds Win Big, Investing in Global Fintech

Emmalyn Shaw, Flourish Ventures Managing Partner – What Motivates Mission-Driven Founders, Why Specialist Funds Win Big, Investing in Global Fintech

Miguel Armaza interviews Emmalyn Shaw, Managing Partner at Flourish Ventures, an $850 million global fintech-focused fund.

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My guest today is Emmalyn Shaw, Managing Partner at Flourish Ventures, a global fintech-focused fund with over $850 million in assets under management. Flourish is also a permanent capital vehicle that aims to back companies that can create systemic change and help build a fairer financial system. Some of their investments include Chime, Neon, Alloy, Flutterwave, Paga, and Kamino.

In this episode, we discuss:

Lessons learned after almost 25 years in venture capital

With over two decades of experience in venture capital, Emmalyn has accumulated a wealth of insights that are as diverse as they are profound. These lessons, distilled from 23 years of experience, shape her approach to VC and her strategic vision at Flourish Ventures. I summarize some of the key lessons below.

  • Resilience and Adaptability: Navigating the rapidly changing tech landscape requires the ability to adapt and remain resilient amidst shifts in technology and market dynamics.

  • Importance of Diversity: Emphasizing diversity in both investment portfolios and team composition is crucial, as it brings varied perspectives, enhances decision-making, and fosters innovation.

  • Aligning with Mission-Driven Entrepreneurs: Partnering with entrepreneurs who are committed to a purposeful mission is key, as these businesses are often more sustainable and impactful in the long term.

  • Value of Patience: Understanding that significant growth and transformation in ventures can take time, and the real value of investments often unfolds over a longer horizon.

  • Anticipating Future Trends: Success in venture capital involves not just understanding current trends but also anticipating future shifts in consumer behavior and technological advancements.

Why specialized funds can deliver big wins and returns

“I think it's really difficult to be a great investor without a deep set of expertise. And in fairness, you see that even in the generalist funds, right? People tend to specialize. But when you have the benefit of truly developing deep expertise, across only financial services, you have the luxury of going very deep across many sub sectors and to understand how they interrelate and where the dependencies are.”

I often joke that ‘there’s no slow news day in fintech.’ In such a fast-moving industry, Flourish has found a strategy that combines deep sector expertise and a nuanced understanding of local markets. A key to their success lies in their ability to transcend traditional geographical boundaries, thanks to a profound specialization in financial services. This specialization equips them with the necessary tools to navigate the complex interplay of technological trends and regulatory environments that can vary across regions. Emmalyn strengthens the case for why specialized VC funds can make more effective investment decisions - given their deep focus on specific sectors, specialists are uniquely positioned to develop a nuanced understanding of industry-specific trends, challenges, and opportunities. This specialized knowledge is crucial in navigating the complex and rapidly evolving landscapes of sectors like fintech.


What it means to be a mission-driven entrepreneur and why they love investing in them

“Things will inevitably go wrong, even the best of our companies. There's a hiccup here and there and a minor pivot in what allows them I think, to persevere is this sense of something greater and purpose.”

Flourish Ventures is inspired by mission-driven entrepreneurs, who, according to Shaw, are individuals whose aspirations extend beyond mere financial success or personal achievement. They are characterized by a deep-rooted commitment to making a significant, positive impact on society. For Shaw, mission-driven entrepreneurs are those who intertwine their company’s success with broader societal goals, such as financial inclusion, sustainability, or consumer empowerment. This approach, she believes, not only drives innovation but also builds resilience and attracts talent, as it resonates with a growing consciousness among both consumers and employees towards values and purpose. Such entrepreneurs are more likely to create enduring value and sustainable change, as their missions are deeply integrated into their business models and operations.

The strategy that has allowed Flourish Ventures to invest around the world… and a lot more!

“We actually find having that vibrant conversation across geographies is actually a much more fruitful exchange, because half the battle is understanding what risks you're adopting when you go into a deal.”

Flourish Ventures’ success is partially attributed to its ability to blend a global perspective with local insights. While maintaining a broad, international view of market trends and technological developments, the firm also recognizes the importance of understanding local markets' unique characteristics. This includes cultural nuances, economic conditions, and regulatory frameworks specific to each region. By establishing local teams or partnering with experts in individual markets, Flourish ensures that its investment decisions are informed and contextually relevant.

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Miguel Armaza is Co-Founder & General Partner of Gilgamesh Ventures, a seed-stage investment fund focused on fintech in the Americas. He also hosts and writes the Fintech Leaders podcast and newsletter.