FinTech Female Fridays: Sheena Allen, CEO and Founder, CapWay
In 2016 you created CapWay, a mobile bank and financial tech company. With CapWay’s launch in 2020, how have you seen the company grow?
The idea for CapWay came in 2016, but I was still running my first startup, Sheena Allen Apps, at the time. So although activities towards the build-up have been at play since 2016, I didn’t shift my focus 100% to CapWay until 2018.
I have seen CapWay start from an idea of being a simple debit card option for the unbanked to a mission of building a new financial structure for those who are financially underserved. I have witnessed how people have been underserved and overlooked by the traditional financial system. For those reasons, we took a route that has taken longer than what it may take for other neobanks, but I wanted to ensure we had as much control and in charge of our own destiny as much as possible (considering compliance and regulations).
How does CapWay differentiate from other mobile banking apps?
We have a B2C and B2B2C focus. Our acquisition channels and the way we look to partner is different from what you will see with most mobile banks. We also offer tools and resources that are very important for building financial health. An example would be financial literacy. I’m a firm believer that even with giving people access to banking, if you don’t educate them on how money works, there will still be a disconnect and just more opportunities for them to make mistakes with money.
What inspired you to create Sheena Allen apps? What type of apps have been created under this umbrella?
Sheena Allen Apps was a mobile app studio. I started the tech startup after I had an idea for a mobile app during my senior year of college. I was able to bootstrap the company to generate millions of downloads and display what I could do in the tech space.
You created a venture called App It Out to work with nontechnical individuals and companies to develop mobile apps and other software applications; what inspired you to start this venture and what type of companies have you been working with?
When I stepped away from Sheena Allen Apps to focus full-time on CapWay, Sheena Allen Apps pivoted into what is now known as App It Out. I am a non-technical founder, and when people would hear about what I was able to do with Sheena Allen Apps, they would inquire and ask for help in bringing their app ideas to life. I saw App It Out as an amazing opportunity for non-technical founders and companies with no technical resources.
Although I do not run the day-to-day of App It Out because of my focus on CapWay, I am proud of what the company has done so far. App It Out has walked clients through making sure their idea is worth pursuing, laying out the process of going from idea to having an app in the App Store, explaining UI/UX, connecting non-technical founders to trusted developers.
As a resident of Atlanta; where do you see the FinTech ecosystem growing and how has the community supported startups?
There are several major payment companies and some well-known fintech companies, including Kabbage, that call Atlanta home. Atlanta, in general, is growing in startups. The community has done a great job of supporting us. When I moved the company to Atlanta in January 2019, we were welcomed with open arms and had several organizations reach out to offer help.
In 2019 you were awarded a number of accolades including Vanity Fair: The Future Innovators Index 2019; Forbes 30 Under 30, Inc and listed on the 2019 Female Founders 100 list. What have these awards meant to you and what are your goals for 2020?
I am beyond appreciative of every single accolade I have received. I am happy that people recognize my work and help bring attention to the work I am doing. However, I must say that I do not get too caught up in any of it. The public accolades are just a nice bonus.
My goal for 2020 and every year after is to scale my company. Continue to grow and continue to make a change.
What type of advice can you give to new founders and CEOs?
The best advice I can give would be to learn as much as you can. That includes a lot of reading, a lot of listening, finding great mentors, and also having a great team. As a CEO, you are already wearing 20 hats, but find people who are strong where you are weak. That makes for a strong team and a strong foundation.
Reach out to Sheena on LinkedIn.