Renren: Top Fintech Investor Shares Five Tips for Startups

According to CB Insights, fintech is top of mind for many of the largest corporations in the world. In 2014, more than 90 corporations invested in fintech startups, a 176% increase from 2010. $1.4B was invested across more than 110 deals in 2014 – with twelve $50M deals including Mozido, Credit Karma, and OnDeck Capital.
As shown in the chart, most active corporate investors in Fintech are tech companies, led by Google Ventures and Intel Capital. Renren is one of the top global investors in the fintech space.

Renren, which started out as the Facebook of China, has been busy investing in numerous tech startups, with as much as $500M venture capital invested in more than 30 deals. More than half, $275M, have been invested in fintech companies such as Motif Investing, SoFi, LendingHome, and Sindeo.

In this blog, I’d like to share tips from Matthew Murphy, Global Vice President at Renren, Co-founder of Appsurdity, and guest speaker at Ynext Incubator boot camp.

Q: What have you learned at Renren?

Over the years, our team at Renren has learned a lot of valuable lessons about launching a startup and turning it into a large company. We know what it’s like to start small and fundraise. We’ve learned how to uncover what customers want and how to deliver it to them. And we know what extreme competition is like. (A few years back we launched a group-buying site in China, and literally within a few weeks, we had 5,000 competitors. We worked tirelessly to become the number two company in that space with over 3,000 employees).

We’re able to take those lessons to companies we’re nurturing or want to invest in, and we have shared key takeaways at Ynext Incubator boot camps.

Q: What advice do you have for startups?

1. Offer fundamental value to customers
One lesson we stress is that entrepreneurs and developers looking to build a product need to make sure they’re truly adding fundamental value to the consumer, so they will use it. Focus on things that really matter and impact people enough so that they want to open their checkbook or give you their time.

2. Focus on a big and growing market
Another lesson we share is to focus on a big market. Time is the most important thing we have. Invest your time in something that’s big enough to matter. Identify a big enough space and then create a big impact by coming up with an innovation that’s going to disrupt it.

3. Speed up product rollouts
We also tell entrepreneurs “the product doesn’t have to be perfect to roll out.” Obviously in fintech, you have a lot of regulations, so it has to be “more perfect” than other mobile apps. But get the product mostly right and push it out fast. Continually learn from consumers after it’s out on the market and you then push frequent product rollouts to make it better.

4. Employ rapid fast iterations
Too often, I see entrepreneurs that are afraid to test because they’re afraid to fail. They’re afraid to move fast. Based on our experience operating in fiercely competitive markets and coming out as one of the leaders in the space, we know the power of rapid fast iterations and active feedback channels from consumers. This helps you build a better product faster, or figure out if your product won’t work. It’s better to learn that quickly than waste a lot of time making something no one likes or that doesn’t work well.

5. Pick investors that align with your vision
The last piece of advice we tell entrepreneurs is that fundraising and picking investors is more than just getting a check. You need to pick investors who see the world in the same way you do. They should understand your vision, support it, and be able to help grow your business. You’re going to work with your investors on a regular basis, so they should be someone you can, and want to, learn from.

Q: What differentiates Renren from other investors?

The reason why companies choose us over other investors in this space is because of the value we offer. We have a lot of talented people on the Renren team who actively provide great advice to our portfolio companies about how to build a world-class brand, how to leverage growth hacking to outsmart your competitors, how to build a product your customers will fall in love with, and many other benefits.

If you’d like to learn more about how Renren and experts at other companies help Ynext Incubator startups, please visit this website. Applications for the next class of innovators close on September 30, 2015.

##

Related articles:
Renren’s Pivot To Fintech Deals Could Pay Off
Investor Perspective: 3 Ways to Effectively Define Your Market
Ynext Incubator Opens Applications to Join the Next Class of Superstars
An Overview of The Fintech Landscape: Disruption in Financial Services
Ynext Incubator Demo Day: Featuring the Class of Spring 2015