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[podcast] Thiel Capital’s Phin Upham on investing in tomorrow’s financial giants

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[podcast] Thiel Capital’s Phin Upham on investing in tomorrow’s financial giants

We’ve been conducting a bit of a series here on the podcast. We’ve been talking to some of the top fintech investors around. Guys like Caribou Honig of QED, Charles Moldow of Foundation Capital. Last week, we interviewed Canaan’s Dan Ciporin. We’ve been listening and learning how these investors size up opportunities in early stage finance companies and what they’re looking for next to add to their portfolios.

Phin Upham of Thiel Capital on investing in fintech
Thiel Capital’s Phin Upham

Next up, we’ve got Phin Upham. Phin is a principal at Thiel Capital, famed-fintech investor Peter Thiel’s investment office. Peter is a renown entrepreneur (founded PayPal and Palantir) and an equally talented investor. Phin’s experience helping to deploy Peter’s capital and his own has given him a ringside seat into identifying, investing, and growing some of today’s top fintech firms (names that include SoFi, OnDeck, and Avant). Phin’s perspective on his own and Thiel’s investment mandate is really interesting. Also, I was blown away about the student loan market and the opportunity it provides for new technology-driven entrants.

We discuss whether many of the unicorns he’s invested in are truly revolutionary or merely evolutionary, migrating existing businesses online. We chat about where the financial industry is headed and where the opportunities are for innovation. I’m confident you’ll really appreciate my conversation with Thiel Capital’s Phin Upham.

Phin just wanted it to be clear that his comments are his own and aren’t necessarily representative of his firm.

Listen to the FULL episode

In this episode of the Tradestreaming podcast, we cover:

  • why he and his firm have invested in fintech firms like SoFi, OnDeck Capital, and Avant
  • the one question he asks prospective entrepreneurs before he makes an investment
  • SoFi’s positioning and why the firm started lending with a student loan product
  • how a student loan offering forms a long term customer in a way that isn’t being addressed by other marketplace lenders
  • why Phin thinks the opportunity for disruption in financial services comes in super-prime or sub-prime flavors
  • Peter Thiel’s theory of building in competitive margins to a startup as a form of innovation
  • how SoFi is an inherently different firm than LendingClub
  • the challenge of customer acquisition for fintech companies and some ways to address the challenge of building a customer base
  • whether Phin would invest in SoFi again
  • the parts of the finance industry that he’d stay away from and where he still sees opportunity
  • whether fintech is revolutionary in nature or just a set of new players doing the same, old things

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