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  • Writer's pictureAnli Valdez

FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Frances Zelazny, CEO of Anonybit

Frances has built her reputation as an expert in the digital identity space having worked for 12 startups thus far. However, Frances did not always envision her career to be in fintech. Early on, Frances saw her career going in the direction of foreign policy, and she saw herself becoming the next Madeleine Albright. Her decision to stay at her first startup, rather than attending law school to pursue her original plan, ended up being the best career decision she made. Continuing on the startup path allowed her to experience exciting opportunities all over the world and to be exposed to many interesting ideas, technologies, and people. Each startup presented its own unique challenge, but with each career change, Frances became better at scaling a company’s marketing efforts and working closely with sales to achieve revenue goals.

Today, Frances is CEO of Anonybit, a privacy and security startup focused on preventing data breaches and account takeovers. She started the company with her co-founder after nearly 25 years in the digital identity industry, where she understood that the root of all fraud comes down to two things: 1) personal data is stored inside centralized honeypots that are impossible to protect; and 2) such data is used to authenticate ourselves into networks and accounts. To protect people's digital identities, Frances and her team built a decentralized infrastructure that protects personal data and digital assets including biometrics. Anonybit also offers an integrated identity platform that unifies the user journey from digital onboarding to authentication and account recovery, closing the gaps that attackers exploit. The company is now focused on scaling, deploying with enterprise customers, and implementing various integrations to make its solutions easier for banks and fintechs to adopt.

Last year, more than 422 million people were victims of identity theft, culminating in $11.4B in account takeover fraud losses. Frances believes the only way to stop this is to unify the identity lifecycle with a consistent biometric and to ensure that people are who they claim to be when they transact. Biometrics often come with privacy and data protection issues. Anonybit addresses this and brings a positive impact to the fintech industry by unleashing a wide range of authentication use cases, whether on the digital channel, chat, help desk, or at a branch.

Anonybit’s success is rooted in its strong company culture centered around curiosity, empathy, and passion. Frances encourages her team to feel like they can dig deep and ask questions without fear of judgment. As a company breaking new ground, Anonybit’s employees need to truly understand their customers' problems to build the right products and solutions that meet their needs. As CEO, Frances also wants her team to care about each other. At its core, a business is about people, so making personal connections at work fosters better business outcomes, camaraderie, and a unified vision. Finally, Frances wants Anonybit to be composed of people who believe in the company’s mission and its societal impact. The more a person is committed, the more they will feel like they are making an impact, not only within the company and with customers, but with society as a whole.

Frances finds that the best startup culture is one that allows you to explore boundaries and new ideas – to fail fast and move on. In addition to immersing herself in the fast paced startup environment, there are other elements that have enabled Frances to successfully start her own business. First, she was driven by a strong conviction that existing identity solutions are mere band-aids that require a deeper solution. Second, she built the network, reach, and credibility to break through the noise and to rise above legacy solutions. Lastly, Frances felt she was at a point in her life where she had the maturity and “people understanding” to be the type of leader she wanted to be. All of these factors put together have led Frances to where she is now.

More on Frances

Where you currently live: New York City

Living arrangement: Apartment

Family at home: Husband and two daughters

Hometown: New York City

Favorite hobby: Travel

Favorite part of your day: Morning coffee

Favorite show to binge: No time for TV!

Media Recommendation: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – Startup life is thrilling and hard. Most people focus on the glory, but this book focuses on the reality. I refer to it a lot!

What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?

The most important lesson I have learned as a leader and marketer is to always ask questions and not to make assumptions. The trick is to know which are the right questions to ask because otherwise, you end up missing the point entirely and making business decisions based on misguided or missing information. So I always try to look at an issue from multiple angles to make sure that I cover all bases.

Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I am fanatic about creating lists – what is a priority, what is nice to do, etc. I write everything down and constantly manage my time against this list. I do this both for my personal life and my professional life. I love crossing things off the list! Getting things done is my biggest motivator. Work/life balance is my biggest challenge as a startup CEO and is something I’m still working on.

Daily Diary

6:30 am – Make sure my daughter is awake for school (she is not a morning person at all!)

7:30 am – Coffee and breakfast (always fruit), check to-do list

8:00 am – Walk the dog

8:30 am – Check in with Israel team

9:00 - 11:00 am – Customer meetings

11:00 am – Check in with West Coast team

12:00 pm – Management meeting, re-check to-do list

1:00 pm – Delivery team meeting

2:00 pm – Marketing tasks

4:00 pm – Partner meeting

5:00 pm – Financial review

6:00 pm – Organize dinner and family time

8:00 pm – Review emails and make priority checklist for the next day

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