by Az Martin, Columbia
I recently sat down with Nathaniel Harley, the Founder and CEO of the up and coming financial tech startup, MyFin. Nathaniel isn’t your average Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. He didn’t start out in his parent’s garage or college dorm room, and definitely isn’t into the whole turtleneck thing (or ties for that matter.) Despite this, Michael is determined to change the way millennials manage and think about their finances in a time when both college debt and the cost of living are rising at ever increasing rates.
Nathaniel’s journey as a successful entrepreneur in the financial technology space first began in Northwestern University, where he majored in both film and finance.
“Half the time in college I was engaged in this really creative world of filmmaking, while the other half of my time was spent studying really advanced math, econometrics, and game theory. So in many ways, it was a really great blend between that creative, artistic impulse and the more concrete, analytical sides of me. After college, I faced a choice – moving out West to work in the mailroom of some entertainment company, waiting for my big break, or heading East to work in the greatest commercial city the world has ever known – NYC.”
Thankfully for us, he chose the latter.
After securing a position in Goldman Sachs, one of the premier financial institutions in the country, Nathaniel quickly learned the ins and outs of the financial world. “I learned a ton from my time there. Understanding how companies operate, anticipating the volatility of different markets, how to navigate complex transactions, and most importantly, gaining a real sense of financial literacy. It really helped me understand the challenges and opportunities of successful money management.”
After spending a few years as a suave banker on Wall Street, Nathaniel decided to make his move into the tech scene. His girlfriend had just founded Spoon University, a next generation food network that utilizes social media to share recipes, content, and cooking tips among eager audiences. Immediately taking on the challenge, Nathaniel became COO and was in charge of finances, sales, marketing, and securing partnerships with many large name brands in the food sector.
“Soon after I got there, the growth literally got out of control. In a period of three months, we grew from 200,000 unique visitors a month to over 2.5 million visitors! It was definitely challenging work, but it was extremely rewarding to see all the hard work pay off. More importantly, it really taught me how to navigate the start-up scene, connecting with top venture capitalists to secure funding, operating a lean operation, and understanding how to engage with a dedicated and passionate customer base.”
Two million dollars in venture-backed capital later, Nathaniel decided it was time to utilize everything he had learned thus far in both the corporate and tech world to truly create something special.
“I was trying to get my finances in order, and I checked out all the apps in the financial tech space, including Mint, and was really disappointed with the functionality of them. Many of them felt clunky, and didn’t let you do anything more then view where your money was currently located. It didn’t actually let you know where your money should be located, in terms of maximizing efficiency. Should I keep my money in a checking account or a savings account? Leave it in a 401k or transfer it to an IRA? How can I manage my credit card debt?
And of course, most importantly, how can I meet my savings goal for that awesome trip to Hawaii I’ve been dreaming of?”
Teaming up with his long-time friend Ben, a talented coder with an extensive knowledge of all things technical, Nathaniel decided to build a platform where millennials would feel empowered to take charge of their financial destinies in an increasingly complex world.
“Financial literacy is pretty low among a lot of people. It’s a dense topic with complicated jargon that, quite frankly, takes a long time to gain proficiency and expertise in. It’s hard to manage money effectively in ways that maximize your bang for the buck. We wanted to change that.”
Not only does MyFin link all of your accounts in a super clear way with a really intuitive interface, it also allows you to move money between accounts, and its sophisticated algorithms will automatically make sure your money is in the right accounts at the right time. Say it’s the end of the month, your rent is almost due, and there’s not enough money in your checking account. MyFin makes sure to move around money from other accounts so that you don’t end up with an angry landlord or get evicted, saving you from those New York winters!
Or say you’ve got that dream vacation planned out. The beaches, bars, boat chills. The whole deal. MyFin’s got you covered.
“We’re building an infrastructure combining the best of tech and finance. Our built-in recommendations not only go along way in educating people and giving them the financial literacy they need to be successful, but actually goes a step further by making sure these practices are implemented. If it makes the most sense for that extra money in your savings account to be invested, we’ll make sure you act on it. This is where we differ from the rest of the competition. Instead of just showing a person where their money is located, MyFin will actually make sure that their money is in the right location.”
I ended by asking Nathaniel for some advice to young folk in what starting a tech company is like.
“Starting a company is one of the most difficult and rewarding things you can ever do. Every day there are ups and downs. You have to be super resilient, fearless almost. You have to be able to endure getting knocked down, but more importantly, to be able to get right back up. I remember as a little kid I used to go Sunday afternoons to the grocery store and buy Gatorades and candy to sell to all the soccer moms. If only all entrepreneurship were that easy. But as long as you hang on to your vision there’s little that can stop you.”
Better advice then telling me to go purchase a black turtleneck and move into my parents’ garage….