I am constantly amazed by the fascinating and unpredictable course of our conversations on Barefoot Innovation - and what a fun one I had with Raul Vazquez, CEO of Oportun. I always like to ask my guests to tell us how they, themselves, keep up with technology. With Raul, I asked this just as I thought we were wrapping up, and the question launched us on a whole new conversation. He's definitely my first guest to bring up potential uses of virtual reality in financial services, not to mention the first to describe virtually interacting with bison. He thinks we're heading to a "transformative" ability for "anyone, regardless of their incomes" to be able to immerse themselves in a virtual world to try out products and experiences.
As sometimes happens as I get to know great innovators, this is a second podcast with the same company -- click here to listen to our prior discussion with Luz Urrutia, Global Head of Retail. Oportun is based in Silicon Valley and was formerly called Progresso Financiero. It leverages advanced data analytics and technology to provide affordable, credit-building loans to U.S. Hispanics and others with limited or no credit history. The company's proprietary platform risk-scores loan applicants, calculates each one's ability to repay, approves the loans it believes can be paid back, and sets loan amounts and terms to fit individual budgets. Customer accounts are also reported to credit bureaus to help establish credit history. The goal is to combine a highly personal experience with back-office efficiency. Between 2006 and 2015, Oportun helped more than 689,000 customers, disbursing more than $2.2 billion through more than 1.3 million small dollar loans.
Raul joined Oportun in 2012 after nine years in senior leadership roles at Walmart, including as EVP and President of Walmart West, President and CEO of Walmart.com, and EVP of Global eCommerce for developed markets. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Staples, Inc. and is a member of the Federal Reserve Board's Community Advisory Council. He's a graduate of Stanford University with BS and MS degrees in industrial engineering, and also earned an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania.
This is one of those fun episodes where we could have kept talking for hours if we hadn't run out of time. So...enjoy my conversation with Raul Vazquez!
To learn more about Oportun Financial, click here.
Click here to Opor-tune in to Raul's presentation at last year's EMERGE conference about Oportun's four key learnings so far.
To register for this year's indispensable Emerge in June in New Orleans, click here.
And here's my favorite Wired article on voice technology: "We're on the Brink of a Revolution in Crazy-Smart Digital Assistants"
A note on the podcasts - A buck a show!
I've decided to distill a lesson from the popular podcast series Hardcore History, by emulating their habit of asking everyone to send them "a buck a show." Some years ago, the show's host Dan Carlin realized the podcast was taking over his life - much as Barefoot Innovatoin has been doing with mine! He hit on the idea of asking listeners for "a buck a show," and eventually reached the point where he can devote himself to producing the series. Barefoot Innovation is produced part-time by me and two young, very talented helpers. One of them has a day job and the other is a full-time graduate student. If all our listeners will chip in a buck a show, we'll be able to expand our interviews, accelerate our pace (believe it or not, we currently run at a four- to five-month backlog from recording date to posting!), and be able to do some fun new things we have in mind for you. We'll appreciate any and all help to keep the show going, and growing!
And remember to post a review on ITunes.
A note on my Regulation Innovation videos and the most important writing I've ever done
Also click here to watch the new Regulation Innovation videos we've posted and read the new articles. These are currently a free sample but will soon become limited to subscribers. Every month, I'm creating a short video briefing and then backing it up with a deep article that shares what I've been learning about financial innovation, and also shares my hard-earned secrets about how I've been learning it. The articles are rich with links to resources -- everything from news reports and white papers to statistical trends to my very favorite Ted Talks.
My goal is to use this pairing of videos and deep articles to repackage my consulting advice, so it can reach a wide audience affordably. In essence, I'm searching the fintech world and curating the best insights for you. As a series, it's a journey through this changing landscape, finding the keys to thriving on disruption with me as your guide.
I've done a huge amount of writing over the years - I've published hundreds of articles. These are the most important, valuable writings I've ever done. Again, these are currently free - I hope everyone will try them out.
We have terrific shows come up - the amazing Blythe Masters, the very innovative founders of Bee, and much more. Join me then!