An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Kris Kovacs, the president, CEO, and founder of Constellation, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Constellation – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
When I was the CIO for Coastal Credit Union, I realized there was a fundamental problem in modern digital financial services. Despite a boom of potential financial technology partners, credit unions had not been able to access them because of the legacy structure of credit union relationships with current digital banking providers. After a three-year long research and development effort, we launched Constellation in 2017 and led the largest single round capital raise in credit union history. Today, Constellation is a revolutionary open development platform for secure financial services dedicated to credit unions. Constellation’s patented platform represents a disruptive business model that challenges decades of legacy business practices and provides industry changing advancements in online and mobile banking.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
When you create the first of anything, the greatest challenge is getting past people’s preconceived notions of what it is you do. Digital leaders for 25 years have been conditioned to make product decisions once every 5 years at the end of the existing contract. Constellation by contrast can allow a credit union to make digital servicing decisions every five days using the marketplace of fintech services enabled by our platform. When you meet someone new, either a credit union or fintech, they superimpose their preconceptions that have been formed by the very business model they are trying to escape. Our platform allows them to work with any programmer and fintech provider to bring a service to their members. In fact, because we allow no exclusivity in our marketplace, the credit union will probably have many potential service providers to choose from. Models like this are so counter to the existing experience, that some have a hard time wrapping their arms around the level of empowerment that it brings.
What does the future hold for Constellation?
In the near term, our first credit union investor/customer will be going live with their members, replacing their online and mobile banking services with those powered by our platform. To support the expansion of the marketplace, and to bring promising fintech providers to it, we just debuted our Dark Sky Ventures program. Dark Sky Ventures allows our credit unions to aggregate their needs to create unique deals with providers that include funding development, pricing discounts, and potential investments. Lastly, for the first time, we are adding our next group of credit unions as we expand our credit union investor/customers from 11 to 21.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Raleigh?
I’d like to see better coordination of public and private partnerships created through the universities. I know they exist, but they tend to be very insular to the sponsoring organization and so much opportunity is lost by not integrating with the larger tech startup scene.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Wannabe entrepreneurs can have three ideas before breakfast, but all they will do is talk. When you have an idea that consumes you, do it. Stop talking about it and do it. Don’t worry about having never done it before. There are incredible resources you can tap into to help you along the way. But make no mistake, the difficulty of achieving your vision will be greater than you can imagine, but your passion for the idea, and not a potential payoff, will sustain you.