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FinTech Female Fridays: Cat Hernandez, Operating Partner, Primary Ventures

Primary Ventures is a seed-stage firm focused on NYC-based startups. What were some of the successful FinTech trends you saw in 2019 and where do you foresee the NY FinTech ecosystem building out for 2020?

Primary is not a FinTech focused firm, but by virtue of being in New York City, we've learned a lot about the space and have been fortunate enough to back and work closely with incredible founders like Tommy at Alloy and Aaron at Vestwell. At foundation, I believe that an increasing amount of today’s consumer is optimizing for optionality rather than security. Naturally that shift in mindset requires banks and other financial institutions to create products and services that educate, automate, and offer the consumer better money mobility in the future.

In 2018 in an interview with Negotiating the Terms, you mentioned that companies are raising significant more funds now verse 10 years ago. Do you expect further growth on raising capital or do you expect this to slow down in the next 3 years?

I expect the market to right size eventually/soon. The challenge with raising more money out the gate lies in understanding that you don’t necessarily have more time to ship products, show signs of product-market fit, and ultimately create value worthy of the high valuations we're seeing in the market today.

Several start up companies prefer not to raise money as they would like to hold most of the equity; where do you see the market of startups trending?

There is not a straight answer here. Founders should raise (venture) dollars if and when they believe it's time to grow exponentially and do so with the support of people (i.e. investors, advisors) who will be great partners to him/her/them on that journey.

Are you concerned about a looming recession in the coming years? How will this affect the start up and venture capital ecosystem?

Yes, but I believe the US economy is resilient. For the tech world, a recession means funding companies that look more like "need to have's" rather than "nice to have's" because I firmly believe that consumer and company buying preferences change when you introduce scarcity into the equation. 

You are one of the founding members of Chief. What drew you to this organization and what are plans for the organization in 2020?

We are early investors in Chief so we know the team and business quite intimately. As a Founding Member, however, the answer around "why" is simple - women need better infrastructure to succeed in and out of the workplace. Being part of Chief gives me space to be vulnerable and connected to a group of successful women I simultaneously admire. 

You believe that a big part of startup success relies on a company’s ability to hire, engage and develop the best people. What certain qualities do you look for in candidates when helping hire at an early stage startup?

I’ve learned a lot about what makes startup teams great (and not great) over the last decade. Above all else, I tend to optimize for agility because, in my opinion, it combines qualities like intellectual capacity, willingness and ability to learn, and grit. In my experience, the most agile of founders and operators learn how to fine tune this skillset more and more quickly over time.

Reach out to Cat on LinkedIn.

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