< Our podcast: Interchange

Move Fast And Try Not To Break Anything

Zach Anderson Pettet
Host
Date Published
(
July 2, 2021
)
Listen Time
(
36
min
)

Our guest this week is Flori Marquez, Co-Founder & SVP of Operations @ BlockFi. We cover the importance of perseverance, the importance of engaging with regulators early, and how to move fast while knowing what you can and cannot break.

You can find Interchange on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast platform.

One of our core values at Bond is to put people first. It's not only a value that we believe in, but it's an action, too. It's something that we have to actively choose to do everyday.

As part of that commitment, we aim to create a way for Bonders to continue to learn every single day. We founded the Bond Speaker Series to do just that. In the series, we bring in quite impressive humans who have a lot to teach us and we spend an hour peppering them with questions.

Bonders have had a chance to hear from legends like Sherri Haymond, and Dan Rose.

This month, the powerhouse that is Flori Marquez, Co-founder and SVP of Operations at BlockFi, graciously spent time with our team.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from our conversation with Flori.

Persevere

BlockFi has raised over $500M to date, but the early days of fundraising were tough; it took BlockFi six months to raise their first round. Flori explained, “It was really difficult to get anyone to believe in our product.”

So many early stage founders have felt this same feeling. But the BlockFi story is a reminder to keep going, keep pushing and persevere. If you have a product that you truly believe in, don’t give up. As Flori said, “For every yes, you probably hear 70 to 80 no's.”

Engage with Regulators Early

Regulations are there to protect consumers and companies, but they can also add a layer of complexity that you need to prepare for. Flori explained how “even before we (BlockFi) had cash, we were working to build the BSA and AML Program as close as to banking standard as possible…as a fintech company, you have to play by all the rules. And not only do we have to play by all the rules, but we also have to play by the rules that don’t exist yet.”

BlockFi started out tackling lending and what Flori referred to as “the hardest product to build.”  Lending is one of the most significantly regulated sub-sectors in finance. That level of complexity only increases in territories like California.

Flori shared her experience engaging with a California Financial Regulator early on who told her that BlockFi was a pawn shop. Yes, you read that right — a pawn shop.

She went on to call the San Francisco Police Department to see if she could get a pawn shop license for BlockFi. “If you’re going to tell me to do this then I might as well try,” she said. After calling the SFPD, they clarified that cryptocurrency is not a physical good and therefore BlockFi is not a pawn shop. So close, yet so far.

This may seem painfully obvious to someone in the industry, but Flori did the right thing by jumping through the hoops and going back and forth with the regulator to eventually get approval for BlockFi's loans product.

Not only did BlockFi benefit by getting their loan product live in the wild, but it helped them build relationships that made it easier to expand their product offering to additional products.

Move Fast and Know What You Can Break...Without Breaking your Business or the Law

In the financial sector, the motto "move fast and break things" roughly translates to "move fast, break things, get shut down, face penalties." The translation isn't as catchy as the original, but it still rings true.

Flori wants to make sure that fintechs know what they can and can't break — including their business and the law.

Flori’s advice is to “know what you can break.” At BlockFi, things they cannot break are “trust and regulation.” These are two principles that BlockFi holds most sacred. They should be what every fintech holds sacred, too.

Without trust, you will lose your customers and your business will be done. Without a focus on compliance, you will lose your ability to operate as a business.

It’s straightforward and it’s simple, but it’s what matters above all.

If you want a chance to hear war stories and get to know legends like Flori, Bond is hiring!

Reach out to zach@bond.tech or check out our careers page and let’s chat!

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