Ron Suber walked onto the LEND360 main stage to the theme song of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. Aside from the good chuckles it stirred up, it was well deserved. Ron Suber has been an incredible spokesperson for the FinTech industry--a young and growing industry that absolutely needed the direction & motivation that Ron has provided through the years. This was especially important during the rough downturn that was known as the "Mother's Day Massacre" (as Ron refers to it as) within the online lending space (Lending Club's news in May 2016 that we all remember). Although a tough time for marketplace lending, it's inevitable that something of that magnitude happens in any industry, and how you bounce back is what matters most. And bounce back the industry did, partly because of Ron's leadership and resilience.
This was Ron's last keynote in the US (until he makes a Jordan-like comeback, perhaps?), which attracted a standing room only crowd. His talk started off with the theme of consolidation, comparing FinTech to previous life-changing industries such as radio, tv and mobile phones. His foresight on the industry is one that has been discussed in the past--that we'll only have a few major players/platforms, compared to the hundreds that exist today (and thousands that have existed only a couple years ago). This includes lending platforms, payment platforms, cryptocurrencies and more.
Ron took us back in time to 1998 when PayPal was arguably the first FinTech company, then advanced us ~10 years later to when Lending Club and Prosper launched, then to today where the banks are now playing the FinTech game. He noted that the banks aren't the big players in the space though. Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook are the real big boys. He left that as a great segment for conferences like LEND360 to expand on that conversation (suggestion for all you conferences out there).
It's not a Ron Suber talk without his signature motto for the online lending industry, "Education, Awareness and Understanding." I first heard Ron say this in 2014 at American Banker's conference. He still uses it today not only because it's his coined phrase, but because it's true. Like any new industry and concept, you need to educate the market and create awareness & understanding for sustainable adoption.
Ron also shared his top tips for entrepreneurs and platforms:
1) He suggested that the platforms know what makes them unique and to be able to pitch your company in two sentences or less.
2) He also said that there is no "single solution." There will always be ways to do things.
3) Also, listen to consumers--they're the ones that drive innovation.
4) Focus. The need to focus as an entrepreneur is key to success.
I personally like his first tip about being unique. This is what is going to be the force that carries young companies through the competition that the Amazons of the world bring forth.
Here are a few notable quotes from Ron's talk that I definitely wanted to share:
"We don't go to Blockbuster anymore. We stream movies on Netflix. Well, we're streaming money today in FinTech today."
"Our competition isn't each other. Our competition is out there. It's for online lending to be known by the masses."
"I always ask entrepreneurs how they sleep. He says that they always say 'fine.' But we all know that as entrepreneurs, we sleep like babies. We get up every two hours, and we cry."
So, where do we go from here? Well, first, I highly suggest that you keep Ron within an arm's distance. Connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter @RonSuber. Just because he's taking a different path with FinTech, we don't want to let him get too far away.
Second, there's a gap that we need to fill. Our top spokesperson has exited the building. We need someone to fill those shoes, to help continue to motivate the players in our industry, to help spread the word, to help us grow. Personally, I have my top choice, but I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear who you think would be a great successor for this important role in our industry.