An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Kalpesh Kapadia (co-founder and CEO) of Deserve, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Deserve – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
My story began 25 years ago when I came to the US from Bombay, India to earn my master’s in engineering and an MBA. Though I came from the top 1% of students in a country with a billion people, the financial and credit system in the US treated me as if I were invisible. In the beginning, I was declined for a number of credit cards and found it difficult to establish myself financially. After completing my MBA, I worked on Wall Street for several years, first as a top sell-side analyst and then as a money manager. During that time, I began to see that the system of originating, underwriting, managing, and servicing credit was completely broken and left too many deserving people disadvantaged, especially when it came to young people and new immigrants. The antiquated system was stuck in the 20th century and built on what I labeled the three Fs: FICO, first data, and fees. It was one-sided and clearly favored someone’s financial history over someone’s potential. Students were left with simply no support. I wanted to change a very broken system once and for all, so I created Deserve.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
It is paramount that we prioritize resources to address and fuel our business partners’ most pressing needs. Seamlessly tackling this as we scale is one of our biggest and most exciting challenges. Credit cards are some of the most complex products to build in the finance space and require a certain level of scale to compete. Our next challenge is to quickly scale by adding new partners, new products, and attracting the best talent, all while keeping a keen eye on credit and fraud risk.
What does the future hold for Deserve?
We recently launched our proprietary Digital First credit card. It’s currently the only challenger to the Apple Card and it has enormous potential to change the way people think about and use credit cards. We’re continually entering new, exciting partnerships through our “Credit card as a service” offering and we expect that side of the business to continue accelerating quickly. Ultimately, we’ve designed the credit card stack of the future and the momentum is strong. We plan to keep driving hard and iterating until we’re a multibillion-dollar company and an industry leader in the financial technology space.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Palo Alto?
Palo Alto has always been a hotbed for world-technology and, though the workforce has gone remote, I don’t believe that will change anytime soon. The startup scene has deep roots in the Valley and there is an incredible synergy between entrepreneurs here, as well as a top-tier talent pool. I imagine there will be a great flood of new companies and ideas that arise here after life goes back to normal.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Learn to take rejections well, because you are going to be rejected. Grit and persistence are key. Sometimes, I don’t pick up the phone the first five times a student calls me for career advice; I want to make sure they have conviction. That said, you also have to have optimism that things will work out, and they do. You have to love the journey and look around yourself to appreciate it. The outcome is just a byproduct. If you don’t love the journey, you’re not going to be very successful.