By TiE Boston July 18, 2023
TiE: Tell us about your background
SA: I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. After finishing my undergrad in accounting from Shri Ram College of Commerce at Delhi University, I moved to the U.S. for grad school and earned a Master’s degree in Information Systems. I worked at large public companies with progressively senior executive roles and later got an MBA in entrepreneurship.
I’m the youngest of three sisters, and both my sisters live in the U.S. as well. I grew up with a lot of good influences and strong women role models. My mom and dad were both educators. My mother was an English teacher, then later, a school principal before she passed away. My dad was a professor of journalism. He’s retired now and lives here in the U.S.
TiE: What is your company, and when did you realize that it was potentially great?
SA: My mission is to empower women to take control of their financial futures. That’s why I founded Finhive with a goal to provide financial capability to women and young adults. The idea came about in late 2016: I had young kids back then who were starting to ask questions about money. Also, we were coming up on the 10th anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis. My husband and I realized that many lessons from the financial crisis were forgotten, so people were likely going to make similar mistakes that they made right before the 2008 financial crisis. So, we decided that this was the time to do something, to help people make an impact on their financial futures as well as to teach people that this is something that they need to take control of, and this is how to do it.
What I love about Finhive’s mission is that you can do well while doing good. I have had countless participants who have benefited from the framework I teach. Helping these women take a hold of their financial futures has been very rewarding for me.
TiE: What motivated you to pursue your idea?
SA: I grew up in a family with a lot of strong women. And I had my mom as a role model: she was financially independent. Money is a taboo topic in many families. In my family growing up, we frequently talked about money. I knew exactly how much my parents were making, even back then. I used to accompany them to the banks. I know she wasn’t very into the stock market back then, but [she] knew the ways to have tax strategies saving for their financial future, retirement funds. So, there was a lot of [that] influence growing up, and those are the kinds of things that helped me pursue this idea., Also, I wanted a change of pace at work. That’s always a big motivator. I had been in corporate jobs for about 20 years. I decided this was time for a change. I needed to get my ideas out there. When I started talking to friends and family about how much they are concerned about their kids’ financial futures, their own financial futures, even community education, it just became clear that this is something that I wanted to pursue even harder and stronger to make that impact.
TiE: Was there adversity along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
SA: Oh, the pandemic, who can forget the pandemic? As the personal finance side of my business was taking off, I started getting a couple of business clients as well, who were interested in my approach, which is essentially more a ‘let me teach you’ versus ‘you handing off your [finances] to me’. I am all about taking time and explaining things. A lot of business owners, especially women, they’re good at what they do in their businesses, but when it comes to managing business finances, it’s something that takes a backseat until it’s tax time. As the business side of Finhive was picking up, the pandemic hit.
So, you know, I had to take a step back. With a technology background, I knew that this could be done remotely. I already had a business client, who was from Guatemala, so she and I used to get on Zoom very often back in 2019. Now, this ‘just remote’ [workflow], kicked into full gear. I went back to my partners who were skeptical of remote personal finance education, and I said, “look, this can be done.” We were in the middle of our winter catalog, the spring catalog was coming up, and I said, I’m ready. People can get on Zoom. It’s taking off. Let’s not push any programing back, because at this time, we need to care for our community instead of saying that we can’t support you. That helped me turn that adversity into a positive impact. In the process, my business grew substantially with participants being able to join from all over the world on Zoom.
TiE: What is a tech trend you are following, and why?
SA: There are two things that affect what I follow. One is obviously technology with [my] technology background, and then the other one is the financial industry patterns. We just saw yesterday, right? Apple came out with new gear similar to Oculus, for VR. About five years ago, actually, there was an IOT competition, the Internet of Things at Northeastern University, which is my alma mater. I had entered that competition, and out of many hundreds of entries, I was in the final 15. I was very proud of that. But at the time, the headsets and the technology just weren’t there, and I had put that project on the back burner. As I see it, Apple doesn’t go wrong with these things. So, I might be able to bring that back and do something with that project.
I’m constantly following the financial industry. I know [cryptocurrency] had setbacks recently, but there is still the question of ‘what’s the next cashless challenge’? What’s AI going to do? What’s ChatGPT going to do? Robinhood changed the [market] landscape by making trading so much easier. People were able to trade free of commission . Those are just some of the tech trends that I’m always excited about and following.
TiE: How did you find TiE Boston, and what prompted you to become a member?
SA: I attended some of the early events back, in late 1990s, ’97, I believe. And [TiE Boston] was just starting off, and I had a full-time job, so I had to step back to focus on my career. I was a consultant, always all over the place and I wanted to pursue other career goals. I decided to join again recently because now TiE Boston is more aligned with my goals and my company’s goals. I can lean in and give it more of my time. I was at the TiE Angels Investor forum yesterday and I’m going to be at the TiE ScaleUp showcase next week. So now, it’s more about being involved and engaged. I feel like now is a better time for me than I could have been back then.
TiE: What is your current involvement in TiE?
SA: I am a Charter Member and part of the TiE Angels group. As an angel investor, I’m really interested in women-owned startups. I was excited to see two women’s startups yesterday [at the TiE Angels Investor forum]. I don’t want to say too much, but it was really exciting! I’m looking to be more involved in the upcoming TiE Boston programs. We have the Women’s Pitch Competition, and the next cohort of ScaleUp coming up. I’m a little bit disappointed that I’m not going to be able to go to the [TiE Global Charter Members] Rio trip. I have some conflicts there. But, there’s more awareness and more exciting programming that TiE Boston is offering, and I want to be part of those.
TiE: What do you find most interesting about TiE Boston?
SA: It’s a very short experience, you know, right now, but I’ll tell you this: At TiECon East, I met somebody that I hadn’t seen in, oh gosh, at least 20 years. So that was awesome. It was like, “oh, hey, it’s you!” So that was really wonderful to reconnect with an old friend.
There’s a lot of cross pollination of ideas among various groups that I actively participate in. For example, I am part of other organizations like AIF and recently attended the India New England News’ Women of the Year gala. I ran into many of the same friends at these organizations. This helps me maintain strong community connections.
I think it’s about awareness, it’s about making those connections. And yes, I’m still in conversation with a couple of founders that I met at TiECon and it’s great because that’s why you go to these things, right? You go to make some long-lasting connections and then just see where it goes. A lot of times people expect instant gratification, but it takes time. You need to see where the commonalities are, and I think TiE Boston does a really good job in offering all these programs. Especially, I feel like as a charter member, I have gotten way more opportunities to meet with those people than I would otherwise have, if I had just been a lurker on the side. So, it’s good, it’s very wonderful.
TiE: How can people engage in TiE Boston to help their personal and professional growth?
SA: Oh, so many things! I think, again, it depends where you are in your professional journey. I see all these programs; we have the TiE Young Entrepreneurs, which is for high schoolers, we have the pitch competitions, we have the women’s pitch competitions, the ScaleUp cohorts. It really depends on where you are on your journey. There’s so much to do for all of those age groups, all of those career growths. I think if you’re looking to get involved and engaged, look at where you are in your journey and see how TiE Boston can meet you there. Then, you can grow with the organization itself. It’s a wonderful community, it’s very supportive.
I think it’s what you can do to get the most out of membership, and there’s a little bit of a push-and-pull there, but it’s an approach that works. It has worked for me very often. ‘I’m part of an organization,’ like I said, ‘I want to lean in and make the most of the offerings’ versus, ‘I’m waiting to be asked to join in’. It’s about engagement, and it’s about mutual respect for each other’s time and opportunities.
TiE: You were shortlisted for the Woman of the Year this year…
SA: I was really, truly honored. Quite often what happens when you make it to these lists, is that it does a lot for you in the sense that you begin to have more confidence in yourself. It’s not really necessarily that you need validation from anybody, but on the other hand, it connects you to like-minded people who are working in different areas than you are, but have similar values and dedication to you.
I think that it has, obviously, been a great honor, and I was very truly humbled and energized by this award because it has given the validation, the credibility in a social enterprise like FinHive. All the tremendous amount of effort that went into nomination as well as, what I really liked about the interview we did, the post that went out, about my story, about my preferences was that word got out, and people approached me with ‘yeah, I already know you’.
All the gratitude goes out to the nomination committee, the judges, and the INE media, because they have the mass approach of tens of thousands of their readers that have seen the importance of this award.
TiE: What are you working on now?
SA: For Finhive, I have launched my new website. I’m really excited about that. And I have a full schedule for summer programs for middle- and high- schoolers, as well as young adults that want to have fun developing business plans and learn how to invest. How the stock market works, investing, developing their portfolios. It’s going to be all in-person after three years, I’m so excited.
Another thing I am really excited about is a new business venture. Being part of the TiE community has inspired me to launch my own investment firm. Women-owned startups are still not getting sufficient funding, so I’m going to focus on investing in and mentoring these women entrepreneurs. I’m excited about the future.
TiE: Are there any books and or podcasts you would recommend to rising professionals and entrepreneurs?
SA: I maintain a book review blog on my company website — www.finhive.co. It’s a running blog, so check it out when you have time. I just finished reading, TiE charter member Raj Sharma’s book. He’s also my fellow AIF advisory board member, and, as you know well, he is very involved in the community. His book, “The Purposeful Wealth Advisor” is a great book written for financial advisors, but it is quite helpful for those who are thinking of starting their own businesses. There are so many useful nuggets in that book that anybody who’s thinking of launching can adopt. Some other books that I have read recently are Simon Sinek’s “Starting With Why”, and Michelle Obama’s “The Light We Carry” and “Becoming”, those were really good books. All entrepreneurs should read “Purple Cow”- I highly recommend “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. I also recently finished “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. I’m big on creating what I call a traveling checklist- so if something doesn’t get done, I move it to the next day, it eventually gets done. It’s a good read to pick up some of those little nuggets on and incorporate that mindset.
TiE: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to follow in your steps?
SA: I believe in agile implementation. Agile, for me, is a way of life. It is a project management methodology, but when I learned about it, I instantly adopted it as a personal approach, because it’s a way of making small changes. And when you develop that agile story, it helps you get to the next level, and it provides that feedback loop to help you develop your next steps. So, my advice would be, instead of taking too long to develop your idea fully and waiting for it to be perfect — launch it and be ready to pivot –like I had to pivot from in-person to online [during lockdown].
I don’t believe in the idea of ‘if you build it, they will come’. I honestly think it is about knowing what people want and meeting them there. That’s the best way to make any idea successful.