Untapped opportunities in fintech: A Q&A with Bain Capital Ventures’ new partner

January 14, 2022, 4:17 PM UTC

Happy Friday, Term Sheeters!

My weeks thus far have been filled with illuminating—and sometimes highly opinionated—interviews since taking the helm of this newsletter. There’s quite a lot happening in the dealmaking world, spanning founders on trial, plump private equity exits, and funding activity in farming

Every once in a while, I think it’s worth bringing you into those conversations to hear from founders, bankers, investors, academics, or maybe just an interesting character, who is adding something new to the dialogue. 

Before the holidays, I sat down (virtually) with Christina Melas-Kyriazi, shortly after she was named the newest partner at Bain Capital Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm. Melas-Kyriazi comes from a big Armenian family and grew up in Los Angeles. She’s held stints at Goldman Sachs, LinkedIn, GoFundMe and Affirm, before getting a taste of venture capital as a scout for Sequoia Capital and an angel investor. Now she’s one of BCV’s 13 partners.

Melas-Kyriazi has managed to keep pretty busy thus far, already recruiting “Litquidity,” the meme-focused anonymous social media persona, as a scout for her new employer—meaning that Litquidity will be able to write small investment checks on behalf of BCV for new early-stage founders and companies he tracks down.

I talked to Melas-Kyriazi about how she’s thinking about her new role, and how involved investors should get in the companies they back. (Some portions of our conversation have been edited or shortened for clarity and/or brevity)

Courtesy of Christina Melas-Kyriazi

TS: Tell us more about what you’ll be focused on in your new role.

Melas-Kyriazi: I’m interested in a number of different themes across fintech and commerce tech. There are things like buy now pay later (BNPL), but there are also many unsolved problems for retailers—like how do you solve loyalty? How do you enable e-commerce so that people can sell online more easily? How do you make B2B payments quicker and more seamless, and extend access to credit in various parts of the ecosystem? Other themes I’m interested in is how do you democratize finance? How do you give more people better access to financial products in better ways? 

I’m very interested in how decentralization unlocks new innovation and incentive structures and trying to really think about where decentralization works well, and maybe where it doesn’t work as well. The case where it works well, something like Wikipedia—or where it doesn’t work as well, maybe something like Uber or Airbnb, because those platforms actually do a lot right. So I’m trying to take a very thesis-driven approach, and also just meet really great, mission-driven, product-oriented founders in the early stage, and partner with them from day one.

Is there any area or sector of the fintech startup market that you think is still untapped? Or are we beyond that by now?

There’s still so much market share with the large banks that I think the new digital players, in many ways, are still in their infancy. Even if you just think about the number of accounts that are created online versus in person, and that’s just in the U.S.—not even thinking about [the international market].

My very first week, we went to Mexico City as a team to meet with a number of companies there, and I think what’s happening in Latin America is really exciting—and other emerging markets are even in the earlier days.

How involved do you think investors should be in the companies that they invest in?

I think that it depends on the founder, and it depends on the stage of the company. Just from what I’ve seen, with my angel investing, the earlier the company, the more on average that the the founders are excited to collaborate with their investors. And then as they grow, they’re looking for different things. Being able to have a platform that has resources to be able to help with everything from thinking through talent and recruiting to thinking about team structure, thinking about board composition, thinking about financing needs—these things that maybe a founder hasn’t spent a lot of time on yet. That’s where VCs can add a lot of value. But I should never be explaining a market to someone, right? 

The VC market appears to be really fast-paced right now. How do you balance speed while also making sure that you’re doing your due diligence?

I think that is the challenge that everyone is facing right now in the industry, and I think this is where it really helps to be thesis-driven and vertically-focused, right? At Bain Capital Ventures, when we’re meeting a company, we’re not learning about the market for the first time; we really understand it deeply. We can dive right into: Here are the key questions that we want to tackle. and I think that allows us to do due diligence and understand an opportunity much faster, and then get to the place of how we can add value.

After our interview, I asked Melas-Kyriazi to shed some light on her decision to bring on Litquidity as a scout for BCV. Here’s what she said: 

We’ve seen a compelling trend of next-generation media entrepreneurs leveraging their online platforms for investing (for example, David Rosenthal at Acquired and Packy McCormick at Not Boring). These media entrepreneur-investors have differentiated access to opportunities and insights based on where they sit in the ecosystem, and they can leverage their online audiences in creative ways. Litquidity has a unique perspective as a creator having built a broad and engaged audience on social media at the intersection of finance, technology, and meme culture. I’m excited to partner with Litquidity to reach the next generation of fintech and Web3 entrepreneurs. 

In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. day, Term Sheet is taking Monday off. We will be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Enjoy your weekend,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com


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