Marcos Fernandez is a visionary in the fintech sector, characterized by his profound understanding of its evolving dynamics and the importance of strategic collaborations across industries. His vast network, ranging from prominent banks to regional credit unions, underlines his dedication to fostering strategic partnerships and ensuring financial inclusivity. He champions the creation of accessible and comprehensive financial systems. In this episode of Unlearn, Marcos joins Barry O’Reilly to discuss the evolving dynamics of the fintech industry and its transformative impact on various sectors.

Fiat Ventures

Marcos joined Fiat Ventures with the goal of helping founders and brands make a big difference in the financial services industry. After recognizing his talents lay more in finding visionaries rather than bringing their visions to life, he realized that he didn’t have to wait to transition into the venture capital world. He contrasts his previous roles as an “operator” with his current position as an investor, highlighting the differences between the two roles: “In startup mode, you break things, see what works and what doesn’t, and then move on. But as an investor, you can’t go around breaking things.” This shift required Marcos to develop more robust processes and ensure due diligence in his investment practices, noting the importance of building sustainable investment models. [Listen from 2:00]

Fiat Ventures, Marcos says, has built a full-on growth machine, offering everything from performance metrics to marketing tech implementation, and they also get their hands dirty in the company’s growth process. The agency is staffed by experts from leading fintech firms, and while growth indicators are important, the real deciding factors for investment are often intangibles, like the chemistry between co-founders and how well they respond to feedback. Their unique approach of first working with startups to understand their dynamics before investing, helps the agency determine whether to invest in a startup’s fundamental strengths rather than fleeting trends. This method allows them to better identify and nurture potential high-return investments. Marcos emphasizes that their goal is to find startups that could offer outsized returns. While not all of their investments succeed, their methodology aims to minimize risk before, during, and after the investment phase. [Listen from 7:45]

fintech beyond banking


A New Approach

Unlike traditional venture capitals, Barry states, Fiat Ventures doesn’t jump straight into investment; their approach prioritizes working alongside startups, understanding their market, considering the idea of investment, and only then taking the plunge. Being an amalgamation of venture capital, incubator, and accelerator, they employ a structured five-stage process in developing startups. This process starts with ideation, where the primary focus is on understanding the team dynamics rather than the idea itself. Marcos mentions the value of prolonged collaboration, saying, “It’s a long time to be on these journeys together and you need to derisk that somehow.” Barry agrees, noting the importance of having the right team and advisers, stating, “It’s the founders who try to keep everything close to their chest and not bring on advisors… they would rather have a smaller slice of a much bigger pie.” [Listen from 11:40]

Being Involved Participants

Marcos emphasizes the hands-on, engaged approach that his firm takes when sponsoring deals or taking board positions. He mentions their efforts to systematize the process, making insights and networks more accessible through a repository. Barry acknowledges the value of such a method, noting that businesses now look beyond just capital—they are keen on the full package offered by partners. He cites growth marketing expertise as a pivotal point for assessment and collaboration. Fiat Ventures is committed to supporting startups by providing them with funding and using their connections to help them build relationships in the fintech community and with corporate partners. Marcos elaborates on their extensive networks in the fintech space, which are instrumental in forging partnerships with a wide range of organizations, from large banks to regional credit unions. These relationships, he explains, have become a valuable flywheel for their operations, further boosting their brand’s stature. Marcos has a unique perspective on the evolution of fintech. He emphasizes that while the initial wave of fintech involved disrupting financial services, the next phase will be more low-key, operating behind the scenes to offer seamless financial solutions across various industries. [Listen from 16:20]

Don’t confuse being busy with being productive, Marcos advises listeners, parroting the advice of his former manager. Instead of chasing after the shiniest thing, focus on one important thing to do every day. Additionally, you shouldn’t assume your past successes will automatically pave the way for your future endeavors – what worked then may not work now. [Listen from 24:40]

Looking Ahead

Marcos invites founders who are looking to be the next fintech or consumer-focused B2B business to consider partnering with Fiat Ventures. [Listen from 27:15]