Office Hours: I’m the CEO and Co-founder of Sequin, a YC-backed women-focused Visa debit card and financial education platform/ex-Visa PM. I’m Vrinda Gupta. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Vrinda Gupta and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Sequin, a women-focused Visa debit card and financial education platform with rewards that pay back the Pink Tax in categories where women spend.

As a first generation immigrant, woman, and person of color, I watched my mother, in particular struggle with and fear the U.S. financial system. Wanting to understand the U.S. financial system better, I worked at Visa for almost five years as a product manager for many popular credit cards - including the Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, even though I was financially responsible, I lacked credit history and financial education - and was rejected from the credit card that I helped build.

I became obsessed with understanding the factors behind my rejection, and learned that the financial system today was designed to leave women out of the narrative (for instance, women could be rejected from bank accounts, credit cards, and business loans until 50 years ago). Through Visa data, I learned that 70% of women make costly and avoidable financial mistakes, regardless of socioeconomic status. This is particularly relevant to young-professional women, as Gen-Z and Millennial women have the largest spending power of any demographic ever.

I left Visa in 2019 to found what is now Sequin, a fintech company on a mission to design banking products for women for the first time in U.S. history. My team and I are working to break the cycle of women being disproportionately harmed by a financial industry that is central to women’s lives and aspirations. This mission has permeated our company end to end - our team is 80% women (fighting the trope of the “all-bro” Silicon Valley founding team) and 92% of our initial investors identify as women. This was not easy, but it enables us to truly live our mission every day.

I live in San Francisco, California and during my downtime I enjoy my weekly hip hop class. Entrepreneurs are always analyzing data and using insight to chart brand new paths, so it’s nice to take a break from thinking and know that someone else will tell me what to do for a bit :). Focusing on choreography is so fun, care-free, and very centering. I also love spending time with and supporting fellow female founders.

Ask me anything about the world of finances (especially credit), building a mission-driven startup, product management, fintech, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @vrinda!Elphas – please ask @vrinda your questions before Friday, December 16th. @vrinda may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Vrinda! Thank you so much for this AMA. I resonate with your story - I had my masters degree from a world class university, a well paying job, and I was still rejected from my first credit card because I had never built credit, or had any education in it. It was a wake-up call that I had to give myself the financial education I had never received. Today, I'm a product designer for , an agency specializing in fintech design. My question for you, is what trends do you see within fintech startup design (anything from their pitch decks to their apps) that is exciting for you? With your history in product management, what design trends do you see being successful?
Hello! I've heard your story so many times (too many), thanks for sharing and I hope our resources at Sequin might be helpful for you ( :) A core thesis at Sequin is the power of community-based finances - especially for women. The U.S. financial system today is designed as a solo-player game, where there's a lack of transparency around fees, product constructs, and best practices. However, historically and in many other parts of the world, finances are designed to be communal - think saving circles in developing countries. I get excited by the idea that we can demystify finances together and, especially as women, close those financial knowledge gaps together. Today, simplicity is a key tenet of challenger bank design and, at Sequin, we're looking to take this one step further by infusing community, connectedness, and support into our product design.
Thank you so much!
@vrinda — so inspirational!!! Clearly, your mom inspires you. How do you stay motivated? What is your goal setting process like?
Hello! Thank you for the good vibes. Yes, my mother is a huge inspiration - especially when I first entered the financial services industry. However, over time, my personal experience being rejected from the credit card I helped build at Visa, and the stories of tens of thousands of women I've heard feeling their wants & needs weren't being met by traditional financial services is what keeps me going. As a team, we do customer interviews weekly (and have done so since the inception of the company), and continuing to hear that the work we're doing is helping solve a huge problem is hugely inspiring.On goal setting, I believe in the power of two-week goals - especially at the earliest stages. It's helpful to understand what the priorities are, what tests you want to run, and, most importantly, what you want to learn.
I saw you were recently featured on the news.... ABC I think. Very cool! How do you approach getting media coverage as an early stage founder/startup? Do you have existing media contacts or a strategy for pitching?
Thank you for the good vibes, I loved that ABC7 News interview, here it is for those who missed it: The incredible journalist, @melaniewoodrow, and I were connected at an Elpha event! As an early-stage startup, your superpower is your founding story and passion for the problem. My team and I will put together lists of writers who cover our space (in our case, women's finances, women's issues, innovation in banking products) and write email pitches to those authors. Journalists love to hear from the founders themselves, and many times, can be even more effective than working with a press agency - especially at the earliest stages.
Thanks for hosting this Elpha and @vrinda. My question is – what has surprised you about starting your own company and what is just as you expected?
Hello! Can I say, everything has been a surprise? :) Jokes aside, everything you hear about the startup journey has been true in my experience. No two days are the same, and you can experience the highest highs and lowest lows within the same hour. You wear multiple functional hats in a day and your ability to be scrappy and resourceful becomes your biggest strength. The reason that I started Sequin was because I felt passionate about the problem that women weren't feeling empowered in our finances lives - stemming from my own mother's experience, and then my own. When I first started the company, before it had a name, I'd frequently wake up in the middle of the night jotting down ideas for tests that I wanted to run. And, years later, through the ups and downs, I still frequently wake up in the middle of night equally as excited to continue to work towards the problem that we're solving for women. I expected this passion to simmer as time has gone on and throughout the ups and downs, however, the biggest surprise has been how this passion has sustained.
Thank you so much for volunteering your time @vrinda and for sharing your very inspirational story! Similar to you, I have a passion to help women and girls feel empowered around their personal finances and I’m interested in starting a business centered around this mission. My question for you is two-fold: 1. What is your advice for someone coming from the corporate world (no startup experience) who is interested in starting their own business?2. Unlike you, I do not have a background in the fintech/financial/banking industry. What steps do you suggest for someone to take who is interested in learning more about a new industry (and specifically, fintech)?Thank you!Jordan
Hi Jordan! Incredible to meet another future female, fintech founder. :) 1. My advice for someone coming from the corporate world with no startup experience, is to JUST START! Your goal is simple: solve a problem by building something that people want. This can be done in a low lift, low cost way - for example, Sequin started as a medium article and an email waitlist! 2. This is a great question that I get asked a lot. You by no means need a background in financial services to start a fintech company, however, given it is a heavily regulated industry, it is helpful to understand some of the inner workings behind how this industry works/was built. I've recommended this book: "Payments Systems in The US" for anyone interested in learning more. Internships are also a great way to get exposure to fintech companies or startups!
Thank you @vrinda! I really appreciate your time and your thoughtful advice!
Hi. I would love to chat with you do you have time for a short chat I am doing a DeathTech start up and starting to raise money. Thank you so much Caroline
Hi Caroline! Wonderful to hear about your venture. I'm happy to answer any questions about raising money, here are a few guiding principles I'll share from my experience so far:1) Choose your investors wisely. Be thoughtful about who your investors are - the more mission-driven the better. Startups are filled up with ups and downs, and having partners who believe in your and your mission makes all the difference. 2) You need less than you think you do. There is so much progress that you can make with little money, especially with free tools available today! 3) Even if you can raise, waiting may make sense. You'll raise capital on better terms the more progress that you make.
Thanks for sound perspective on raising capital. What platforms did you use to raise funds to launch?
Hi @vrinda, I'm Marina, it's so nice to meet you! Thank you for volunteering your time for this AMA.I see that your first exposure to the financial industry was through the role of a Product Manager. Do you think working Product Management has given you a unique perspective to being an entrepreneur that an Engineering role would not have?In addition, more broadly, do you think building new technology or launching/expanding existing technology is the key to including "overlooked" minority groups into the financial system?Thanks,Marina
Hi Marina! Thanks for your thoughtful questions. Candidly, I haven't been in an engineering role so it's hard to compare PM vs. engineering, but my thesis on what makes a great entrepreneur comes down to two simple attributes: 1) passion for the problem and 2) a genuine love for the person that you're building for. After having worked in the traditional financial services industry, I've come to the conclusion that the solution to financial inclusion today (or a lack there of) is to fundamentally redesign products and services to center the user you're building for - from the ground up. The U.S. financial system as we know it today was designed for "white men with property" in that women, minorities, and other groups could actively be rejected from bank accounts, credit cards, and business loans on the basis of our demographic - that we, as women, immigrants, etc. are seen as riskier in the eyes of this financial system. Not surprisingly, these groups have had disproportionately negative experiences when it comes to financial services today. It's with this understanding that my team and I are building Sequin, banking designed for women - to center women's financial wants and needs in our product design and services versus forcing ourselves into a financial system that was designed to leave us out of the narrative in the first place.
Awesome, I'm so excited that your product's design is making a redesign of the financial system! Can't wait to hear more about it.
Hi Vrinda, congratulations on your success so far. Great initiative. I'm keen to find out a bit more about this statement "I learned that 70% of women make costly and avoidable financial mistakes, regardless of socioeconomic status."
Yes, that line also piqued my interest - curious to know what some of those costly and avoidable financial mistakes are.
Thanks for your thoughtful question! Some of the costly and avoidable financial mistakes include: (1) Women being 2x as likely to have the bulk of their credit history be attached to a partner or partner (as an authorized user), which doesn't build your credit as effectively and at worst - leaves you without credit history/bad credit if that relationship ends(2) Women carrying 2x as much credit card debt as our male counterparts due to paying only the minimum payment, in addition to late fees (3) Women's credit utilization being too high, which means higher interest rates, more rejections, and lower credit limits (adding up to hundreds of thousands over a lifetime - in addition to all of the other hidden costs to being a woman!). The advice I always give is to build credit history under your own name, and pay your credit cards off weekly to keep your credit utilization low - and your credit score high. :)
Hi @vrinda, thanks for hosting the AMA! As a fellow fintech founder, I'm keen to find out how to help people build credit histories and access financial products without them having credit histories in the first place?
Hi Amber! Wonderful to meet a fellow fintech founder. There are a few products that we recommend at Sequin for new to credit individuals (not sponsored!), including secured cards and "cash flow based" products, which take your income into account instead of credit history - which is a chicken & egg problem. At Sequin, we've built this credit card matching quiz to help you find the best tools, based on your current credit history & lifestyle: this helps!
that's awesome! thank you for sharing the insights :)