Smartkarma co-founder and CEO Raghav Kapoor talks about making high-quality information accessible to all in the finance industry. After all the hype and talk, Kapoor says it is showtime for fintech in Southeast Asia.
Smartkarma connects independent investment research analysts to a host of finance professionals such as asset managers, hedge funds, boutiques investment and family offices.
It’s a cloud-based platform that uses technology to provide a network for independent research analysts to curate and share research. And karma is a Sanskrit word that means action or work, so this platform is offering just that, smart work.
Why did you start this platform?
I experienced different facets of the investment industries. What I realized was that unless you work at a large firm, you don’t have access to the best quality research.
There was a big divide in the haves and have nots. Democratizing the access to high quality information and making it easily and readily available, regardless of whether you are a very large fund is our focus.
How much control to your consumers (financial professionals and firms) have over the content?
Think of us as a Spotify for research- we are not a middle man- we are a thin layer of technology- the whole idea is to directly connect research providers to investors via our technology. This technology enables collaboration that has never been done before.
How did you carve out a niche and aquire your consumers when you started?
We think a lot about our brand strategy, core values as a company and most importantly– what we are not. The easiest mistake is to replicate existing business models. We have to be very principled and patient in our mission and not meander away from it.
There was an adoption curve, but you need to think of yourself as an agent of change- invest in education and awareness.
Where is fintech is headed in SEA?
It’s delivery time. We have had a lot of talk and jubilation–now it’s time for hard work. There are enough people in the ecosystem around this part of the planet focused on it. People have to be cognizant that certain spaces are going to be crowded– payment for example. The battlegrounds are laid out, it’s going to get messy.
What does Smartkarma do for the finance industry?
We are a B2B SaaS company around finance- when we speak to the biggest customers, they want to see change. The impetus is coming from all sides. Everyone wants a better way of doing business from all sides- more transparent, more ethical, more fair.
Do you think AI could replace researchers?
We see Smartkarma as a distribution company—like Spotify. You can distribute any genre of music- jazz might have gone out of favour and you can distribute R&B.
For us, the rise of non-traditional providers of research is fantastic. We bring traditional and non-traditional players in research.
What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?
Don’t do it. It’s true. It’s for the crazies, it’s not easy and there are easier ways to earn a dime. Only be an entrepreneur if:
- You’ve got a good life partner that understands the sacrifices that are involved at a family level.
- Have a bit of a nest egg- have some security that allows you to take a risk and build a startup
- Don’t stray very far away from your area of expertise.