Dylan Terrill is the co-founder and Chief Business Officer of Asaak, a financial platform that combines the ease of mobile-interaction and extraordinary customer service to provide financial products. Asaak is funded by Silicon Valley’s biggest VC’s like 500 Start-ups, Catalyst, Resolute Ventures, and Social Capital. Unlike traditional lending institutions, Asaak doesn’t use credit to determine your eligibility but uses loan history and other data points. Asaak champions financial inclusion in Africa, starting out in Kampala, Uganda. According to the World Bank, over 65% of the population does not have access to formal credit lending institutions, which makes it hard for the economy to grow. Asaak is here to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to succeed like credit and financial technology. Dylan co-founded Asaak with some friends and is now based in San Francisco, where he helps bridge opportunities with lenders and borrowers across the World.
Jed Tabernero [00:00:00] Dylan Terrell is the co-founder and chief business officer of ASAC, a financial platform that combines the ease of mobile interaction and extraordinary customer service to provide financial products. A sock's actually funded by Silicon Valley's biggest VCs. Like 500 startups, Catalyst Fund, renewed ventures and even social capital. Unlike traditional lending institutions, a stock doesn't necessarily just use credit to determine your eligibility, but uses loan history and other data points. A sock champions financial inclusion in Africa, starting out in Kampala, Uganda. According to the World Bank, over sixty five percent of the population doesn't have access to formal credit lending institutions. Which makes it really hard for the economy to grow. ASAC is here to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to succeed like credit and financial technology. Dylan co-founded a with some friends and is now based in San Francisco. Where he helps bridge opportunities with lenders and borrowers across the world. Hey, this is things have changed,
Adrian Grobelny [00:01:31] your host, Jessica and Adrian are just trying to figure it out, including this intro,
Speaker 3 [00:01:38] we meet Pioneer's breakdown topics and have a laugh. Welcome to the conversation.
Shikher Bhandary [00:01:45] So I think the whole episode, it's going to be super fun because the second Rihad about you, Dylan, and the fact that the company that you're working at is in the financial sector providing financial services to economies in Africa, that's such a unique proposition. And Africa is one of just some of the fastest growing economies in the world. It's been getting a lot of news. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, wants to move there for like six months this year, which is crazy,
Jed Tabernero [00:02:18] just like in the middle of elections. And all the shit that's going on is the times for Twitter.
Shikher Bhandary [00:02:23] So you have Jumia that went public. The Amazon of Africa went public on the New York Stock Exchange. You have like record funding going into the startups coming out of Africa. So we thought that having you on here would be great to understand what it takes to actually build and scale something like this, something that Facebook is building. What led to this? What led to the thought process that goes into building what you're trying to do?
Jed Tabernero [00:02:56] So I guess that would be the first thing we'd like to to dove into is the motivations of building something like a sock, especially from the Western world, I guess from San Francisco specifically.
Dylan Terrill [00:03:08] Yeah, outside looking in definitely makes sense. So I'll just give you a quick background about how we started. I think that sort of tells a story about why we came to this problem and why we decided to attack it, why we thought we were the right people. So initially, the team was working on an Engineers Without Borders project based out of rural Uganda. And so the idea was to provide farmers with agriculture machinery and also teaching them about how to use it. And this was really for the rural poor. So we're talking like subsistence farmers. They might have an acre or two of land and they're milling and farming like rice and cassava and potatoes. And it's a really not doing anything like economically substantial, but enough for their families. And so from there, doing all these focus groups, we saw the or the team saw that it wasn't necessarily the agriculture sort of machinery that was the issue. It was more of the inputs. So you would have a given farmer, for example. You know, you talk to a guy that would say, hey, I have two acres of land, but I can only afford to plant one of them. You know, I can only afford to provide seed and fertilizer for one acre. And that's enough to feed my family, but it's not enough to grow profitably. I can't support other parts of my family. I can't grow out of this. And so we thought this is obviously a problem when we asked, why can't you just go to the bank and get a loan? And so the guy would look at us and say, it's just too hard. You know, you would go to the bank and maybe three to five weeks you would hear back. And oftentimes it would be a no. You would have to be at the bank all day. You would have to bring in your family, your children. You would have to get approval from the local council. It was just a really broken process, just really crazy. Yeah. And so we would in then that's time away from working in the field or taking up other work somewhere else. And you got it. Entrepreneurs and African entrepreneurs. I think in general, I consider all these guys entrepreneurs because they're small business owners. They're very motivated. They like the hustle, you know, whatever they can to to survive, essentially. And so working with them, it just seems like a perfect relationship. We decided to go from that very moment, hey, let's just lend out our money and see what happens. We can make some interest back, which is always a good thing. Everyone is happy on each side. And then we can just sort of remove the banks from this process. We can underwrite somebody in a couple of days, you know, even if that maybe it's a couple hours. And so it really started as a hobby, to be honest. Never was meant to be a giant business or anything like a startup. It was just meant to be like, hey, this is something we could do. Maybe it's a nonprofit, maybe for profit. Let's just see where it goes. And so from there, I mean, word quickly spread. It was kind of funny. We had a guy who started this company as well, Kayvan, and people in Uganda can't really comprehend that name there like this. I even like his name. And so they would have they would have people walking around in society in the town where we started asking for Ivan. And they're like, where's this Ivan? God, he gave me some money. Or and then the other one was when he first started with the name of a second. These so really rooted in that farmer sort of mission. And they thought that was Isaac. So they'd be walking around with this guy. Isaac said, I can get a loan. Yeah. Yeah. And so really, from there, you know, word spreads in the book quickly became a business is just like, all right, we have to form this as soon as possible. It was like, let's just go for it. And that's sort of where we began. Our mission, just to help farmers and then move to other types of businesses and just iterated from there.
Jed Tabernero [00:06:51] So for I mean, I'm just thinking about how you came into this really technological solution for the mobile app. Right? Is it is it because a lot of the Ugandan's had access to cell phones?
Dylan Terrill [00:07:07] Absolutely. Absolutely. So in rural Uganda, it's kind of surprising, like most people speak English extremely well and a lot of them have access to smartphones, if not a smartphone, that a feature film usually like one per household. And it worked really well for people that are in the villages. They can't commute to the central town where like the M5 branches or the bank branches, but they can apply for a loan, you know, in the remote village where there's still like 3G Internet access. So we said, wait a minute, let's let's not make them come all the way to a village or to a city to get a loan where they might get denied. Let's just have them apply from the comfort of their own home. Now, they can do the super easily and they take five to 10 minutes. And this is in the local language, also in English. And then from there, we can credit score them and do that whole process. But we just wanted to make it as friendly and easy as possible.
Jed Tabernero [00:07:56] So in the the you mentioned MF's. I'm thinking you're you're talking about microfinance institutions. Yes. Yes. OK, so those institutions, our largely asking people in person to come in in person and. That's right.
Dylan Terrill [00:08:14] That's right. OK, you'll definitely see them doing field work as well. But it's definitely let's do it all in person. And it's similar like slow process as the banks.
Jed Tabernero [00:08:23] Interesting. I would think I would think they would they would go out there and try to do that stuff because that's the unaddressed population for microfinance, right?
Dylan Terrill [00:08:32] Yeah, you would think. I think they're trying to, you know, their business as well, trying to make money as much as possible. And I guess it's just a little bit operational, heavy and too hard to work with certain types of the population.
Shikher Bhandary [00:08:44] Do you guys out of personal touch as well? I mean, they tend to travel to the cities and get these loans from the financial institutions after having these conversations. So. Right. Is it just mobile only or is it, you know, mobile plus having, I don't know, a consultant or agent that they can chat to?
Dylan Terrill [00:09:04] It's sort of both depending on the route that people want to go. Oh, so now we have people that are meeting farmers or small business owners in the fields, and then we have people that are just doing it all automated right from their smartphone. It really just depends on the path that they want to take. And then certain times, like we'll get enough information up front or so we think, and then we just need something else. So we follow up with that person. We'll do a home visit and invite them into the office. So, I mean, essentially what it boils down to is just building that customer trust. We want to make sure that they know that their collateral is safe for us, for example, or that we're just like a trustworthy person, that we're not going to run away with their money, et cetera. So we want to make sure that we're building that trust from the beginning. So if they want to work with us in person, we'll do that. It's not a problem.
Shikher Bhandary [00:09:53] So you mentioned trust, trying to learn if you can trust them and if they can trust you. How was your process in building these relationships with the local population? Was it difficult to gain their trust up first? Did you how did it differ to kind of building trust with businesses in the US?
Dylan Terrill [00:10:12] I think that's really important. So one thing that we do from all of our clients and one thing we ask for is collateral and all of our loans. And so the reason why is that we want to make sure that they have enough skin in the game where they feel like, hey, I need to pay this back or I'm going to lose this piece of collateral, whether that's land or a vehicle, et cetera. And oftentimes, you know, before we came into the picture, you would have like a local money lender that could be almost like a loan shark, like somebody would go and get a payday loan, like really high interest, like not really affordable, but they would park their bike there or they park the piece of land and then all of a sudden that person would disappear. So they're really weary of working with money lenders. And initially that's what we were. We were money lender. And so we had to build that trust and show them, hey, we're not like all these other people. We're here to stay. We have offices. We're very established. And it's kind of hard when you are people from the west coming into the country. So luckily, you know, part of our founding team, we had Ugandans who could sort of speak the language, you know, not just literally, but also figuratively give that comfort that, hey, you know, we're we're in this together. You know, we want to be partnering for the long term. And then that's sort of reflected in our terms of how we offer products. So when you first sign up for a loan, it might be a little bit expensive, but as you continue that process, it will get cheaper and cheaper. And really that's laid out right from the beginning. Look, we want to make it as easy for them as it is for us, if that makes sense.
Jed Tabernero [00:11:37] Got it. There was something on the website, I think, when I was looking over the ways in which you decide somebody is eligible. So one of the one of the. You were talking about was collateral. How else do you do decide if somebody is eligible?
Dylan Terrill [00:11:51] Sure. So right in our application so somebody can fill out. It takes about five to 10 minutes depending on the person. We ask them behavioral questions. So it's almost like a game, like a psychological game. Like if you were in this situation, what would you do? And that tells us a lot. And then also, if they're applying on a smartphone, we can pull data right from their smartphone. So we look at it's a little creepy, but it works well.
Jed Tabernero [00:12:18] And everyone is doing that already. Yes.
Dylan Terrill [00:12:20] And we're you know, we announced that right from the beginning, like, hey, we might look at your data. If you're interested, please say yes. If not, you don't have to opt into that. But we look at things like phone logs, for example, location data. We look at how contacts are stored and all of these might have an indication of risk or an indication of repayment. One of the bigger things that we look at since mobile money is so popular over there, similar to the Venmo system or PayPal here, everything is conducted through that. So utility payments, if we're paying a friend, you have a loan, outstanding, etc. So we can look at all of that. And that tells us a lot of people are willing to pay their utility bill. Most likely they're willing to repay us,
Shikher Bhandary [00:13:03] you know, microfinance and in general kind of gets a bad rap. So it's kind of cool to see how you guys are trying to make it a bit more personal. So do you guys have a certain comfort zone, like a Goldilocks zone that you kind of look at to decide between opportunity and profit?
Dylan Terrill [00:13:21] Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, there's one particular point we give. When someone applies for a loan, for example, we give them a credit score, we call it. So there's no formal credit score there as there is in America. And we have a credit box. Right. So based on the letters that we have that will provide us capital for us to lend to these borrowers, we make a decision so that you can think of it as like a risk rating from zero to one hundred. And then we further write that into like letter. So it's like a through D. So we have like and a credit would be perfect. Like this person has very good credit history. We can view all of their documents and then a D would obviously be the worst. And then based on our credit boxes that we have, we can either accept or deny. So sometimes we can pick somebody that seems like much higher risk. We can give them a slightly pricier loan and we can work with them in some of our best borrowers, to be honest, started out with somebody that just had limited credit history. We just couldn't understand it. So we unfortunately gave them a higher priced loan. They repaid it pretty quickly and then we reduced it from there.
Shikher Bhandary [00:14:25] So with time, you know, based on how the repayment goes, their credit improves and they benefit by being in this relationship longer and longer.
Dylan Terrill [00:14:38] Yes, absolutely. And then from our standpoint, we can provide them like multiple types of credit. So if they have something for their just for their personal life or for their business, we're like a one stop shop. Oh, gotcha.
Jed Tabernero [00:14:51] That's cool, man. So wait, do you think this this credit indicator or their scores can can be used in in other parts of the economy, like have you guys talked about that, like giving this data to somebody else for them to use for four credit monitoring because it's so not available. Right. Nobody has credit scores. I would imagine this is exactly how it came up and developed nations as well.
Dylan Terrill [00:15:16] Yes, a good thing is like depending on the country. So in Uganda, where we mainly operate, there's something called credit reference bureaus. And so they do have not necessarily a credit score, but they're trying to build that data. And so they partner with people like us or microfinance institutions and other banks to sort of get credit history data for certain people. And that's based on their national ID. So we provide that data to that bureau and we tell our customers that. So if they perform well, they might unlock a different type of loan that we just don't provide or like a bigger loan that we don't provide from somebody else because they paid on time. And if they don't, then that's also sort of like the carrot and stick, right? So if they don't, then we report that in their credit history might be hurt from their own. And it's a good trend when we see from commercial banks, they're sort of to take up this data. So they're really happy with it. And I think we're working closely with the government on that and trying to push regulation. I think it's a stronger regulatory environment is better for everybody. It weeds out the bad players and also keeps us in good standing.
Jed Tabernero [00:16:21] Dude, this is crazy. So you're telling me you're helping you're helping build the credit economy in Uganda? That's pretty awesome.
Dylan Terrill [00:16:28] Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's a great part to be a great thing to be a part of
Jed Tabernero [00:16:32] because I feel like all of the regulations, even now, like in the United States, we're still building them. There's so much that we're adding on to it and adding on to it. And people maybe from the West will have a little bit more experience with how the regulatory space works. But also, it is it is a completely different economy in a completely different space. So but there is value in knowing what has worked in the past, at least
Dylan Terrill [00:16:56] for our economy. I feel I think the push for alternative data is really moving. So if you look at I think it was Experian, they created this thing called Experian Boost. It may have been Equifax, but either way, they want you to, like, put in data that you wouldn't normally have on your credit report. So things like like a Verizon bill or like utility bill and getting that in your or I think it was even like some Venmo transactions or something. But either way, it was just a show like, hey, there are more data points out there. Let's use as much as possible to build your credit score. And I think that's great. It's like a trend that we've seen and we're sort of a part of Africa and we would love to have that on the rest of the world.
Jed Tabernero [00:17:37] Why do you what do you think this is important, dude? Why do you think financial inclusion is important? Why? Why why this mission?
Dylan Terrill [00:17:44] Well, I think it's coming from like the US. It's really easy to get a loan here. There are numerous providers. Right. And if you have a business that's viable, more most likely you can find capital for that. And I think it's just really about equality. It's just like, hey, we see a part of the world and there's many parts of the world, not just Africa, emerging markets, developing countries, even developed nations that just don't have a good credit system. You see like a business that's really viable. They have great customers. They can grow beyond what they're at, but they just can't access capital. And that just seems ridiculous. And the sort of like payments was the first layer of this. So being able to transact with people and businesses through digital platform and then beyond that, you see financial services. So loans, savings and insurance and all that. And from there, I think you really bolster the economy, I think is one of the biggest ways you can have impacts, one of the easiest and most tangible ways of doing so. And that also translate into health care. So you have a stronger financial system like health care gets better and so on and so forth.
Shikher Bhandary [00:18:50] Do you have a do you have a personal story that really resonates, why you're so passionate about financial inclusion that really motivated you to go into this venture and past experiences? You did investment banking and analyst with Frank Banks.
Dylan Terrill [00:19:10] I could go there. You had to go there. Yeah. No, it's fine. It's fun.
Shikher Bhandary [00:19:14] It's you and like emotionally that really makes you passionate about the can.
Jed Tabernero [00:19:18] I guess it was it was probably those douchebags investment.
Dylan Terrill [00:19:23] I mean. Yeah, that'll do it. That'll do it. Yeah. I didn't last very long, I think at a school, you know, I didn't really know what I wanted to do in banking. For me it seemed like an easy way out. It's like I don't have to think about this much. It's it's sort of hard to attain. I can perhaps get good training. Let me just go for it. And then I quickly realized, you know, there's like after six months, you don't really learn that much, that there's not much like upward mobility. Most people leave after a year or two years. And so it didn't really make sense for a long term career. And then coming to San Francisco was originally New York, then Chicago, and then moved out here for work, just seeing like the startup ecosystem, like how fast people move, you know, autonomy and all parts of the company. It just seemed like the best way of doing business. So I jumped ship and went into the fintech space given my financial background. And then from there, you meet the right type of people and one thing led to another. And then I was and it's OK. But what keeps me there and I think what motivates me is just being there on the ground. I think that's the most important thing. A lot of companies that are based here in the US, they stay here. The majority of if you think about some of the consumer lenders that are also in Africa, like Taylor Branch or some of the biggest ones, their operations are really centered here, whether in San Francisco or in L.A., in a lot of their staff that they have. You know, that's not like their founding team is based there. And I think it's really important just to have an ear on the ground and really understand what's going on and be able to speak with borrowers that are going through this problem. And it's sort of what I alluded to before of meeting the farmers that have two acres of land or three acres land, but they can only afford to have two to invest and then to farm one acre and their family is just getting by like there might be two to harvest year, there might be one harvest the year. It all depends on the weather. And so it's like there's so many challenges that people are going through that we can solve and we can easily solve them through capital. So if we can connect investors in the western market with borrowers who are very creditworthy, that are just credit invisible right now, people don't know that they exist, we can really make a difference. And it's not like that whole like let me save the world type of thing. It's just like let's just make this equal and fair playing ground, just like that's just how it should be. And that's sort of what motivates me. It's like there's many pieces to this puzzle and I think it's just broken. And it's an interesting problem to fix.
Jed Tabernero [00:21:52] I still think you're Superman, but it's cool.
Dylan Terrill [00:21:56] Well, I appreciate that. But no, no, I mean, just really doing I think what is what is meant to be done. It's not anything like Noble or anything like that. It's just like, hey, this so-called problem, we can make money while everyone else makes money. Everyone at the end of the day is happier.
Shikher Bhandary [00:22:10] What do you think are the most important stakeholders that could help you address this issue of being more financially inclusive? Do you think that the government is more responsible for it? Do you think that there should be more startups like yourself, or do you want to see more involvement from other companies or the government?
Dylan Terrill [00:22:31] I think it's sort of three fold. So one would be the government. I we expect to see just better and tighter regulation around the whole financial ecosystem. And so that not only empowers local businesses, but also it helps build, like the credit bureau was talking about earlier. And I think that's really important, especially for the more rural folks. They really just need that. Just better systems in place, I think is is number one. Number two would be more involvement from the telecoms. So sort of the first layer of this whole system is like the telecom. It's really like the layer for payments. So the telecoms own the mobile money system. So you may have heard of like and paSÓ takes on different names, different forms in different countries, but essentially it's the same thing like being able to transact through mobile phones. I think that's a big layer that just need to be built out and more services enabled on. So usually that's a code system. I think that they should be open that up a little bit more and allow companies like a stock or other ones and run around the world to take advantage of those programs and take advantage of like that infrastructure that they have in place. And then third, as you mentioned, this is just more companies. I think this is a wide open space. Competition is really good. Maybe A isn't the best player for this market for the long term. Who knows? I think it would be great if just more sort of. Coming in with different ideas and innovating and then sort of like a demand from those guys in particular, just like build better products that are more sustainable for the borrower. I think there's a lot of startups that come in thinking they can acquire a bunch of users really quickly. They can raise money from Silicon Valley and they can I don't want to say it, but like seemingly taking advantage of local population, like some of our lending companies that we compete with, they charge extremely high interest rates that are just not sustainable. And it looks good on paper, but I think it will cause definitely a good debt squeeze at some point. Yeah, so so, you know, things like that. I mean, I could go on and on, but really just those three main things,
Jed Tabernero [00:24:28] shack's fuck those shacks. I'm just trying to think about what what would make you different from competitors are existing now and Ugandan's it is it the fact that you're really in and this is just my hypothesis, but that you really involved your as you were speaking about earlier, you're on the ground, you're meeting the local population, you're developing relationships with government. You're helping the regulatory space as well. What is it really that you think is your edge? As as an aside,
Dylan Terrill [00:25:01] looking at a commercial bank, it really just comes down to our tech platform. So we're beating them on speed. And I'm also on price given, you know, lower overhead, that operational efficiency type of thing, if we're talking about specific to competitors. So the good thing that we have is that we don't necessarily fit with one particular box. So we have competitors that compete with us on the consumer side and then we have other ones that compete with us on the business side, but none that really compete with us in the middle. So we sort of do both. That by itself, I think is a great value add is that can be a one stop shop for all these guys that are coming in. The other is that yes, of course, we have the hybrid model where we're meeting people in person, but then they can also apply online. And then in Uganda specifically, there's really only one other competitor that we have and we're just a little bit bigger and a little bit faster than they are. So, as I said before, you know, competition is welcome. It just so happens to be a little bit more of a wide open space. So that will probably change in the future. But as of right now, we're feeling pretty healthy with the competition that we have.
Jed Tabernero [00:26:08] Seems like you're making a lot of people happy in Uganda. Is there anyone you know you're making mad? Are the competitors. The commercial banks are like some other people that are actually loan sharks. Like, I would imagine there's some even a little bit of a pushback, right?
Dylan Terrill [00:26:24] Probably from some parts of the local population.
Jed Tabernero [00:26:26] So what what how does that materialize? What kind of pushback are they?
Dylan Terrill [00:26:30] Sure, sure. No, I mean, you definitely see it. I think the one good thing is with the commercial banks, we have pretty decent relationships. So interestingly enough, some of the banks own employees cannot get loans from the bank itself. So they will come to us for a loan, which is just absolutely ludicrous, or they will prefer borrowers to us, which is great, just based on personal relationships that we have with them. What we do see more is pushback from IFIs that are more local. So not necessarily the fink, the brackets of the world that are more of like a larger scale, multiple countries, multiple markets, but more of the local providers. So what we like to do is we like to work with them. So we essentially partner with them. We consider them as almost as brokers. We pay them like a referral fee if they have somebody that they don't want to work with or that they can't work with. For example, a lot of these are like what they call credit cooperatives or Sacco's and savings, I think savings and credit cooperatives, something like that. And so we work with them directly. We think of like, hey, we can be an auxiliary service to your members. We can provide, you know, loans at a larger scale, perhaps maybe a little bit quicker. But then we'll give you a kickback for working with us. And that's the best way that we found to handle that situation, because we've definitely been in the the problem where people are running negative ads about us in the newspaper or radio. So we definitely have to be careful. So, you know, you're always going to deal with it no matter where you are. And then I think when you're disturbing local economies, you're also going to push back. But luckily, if your compliance with the government, there's not much they can do on that side. And then if you're trying to treat people as best as possible, then you're going to be OK.
Jed Tabernero [00:28:11] So how was it for you, dude? Like you, you went to Africa to meet the local population. You have to hire a bunch of employees. This whole transition, this whole like, I'm I want to hear this story, man. Like, what were the what were some parts that were exciting for you? Were some parts that you were scared for your damn life, like,
Dylan Terrill [00:28:30] you know, like
Jed Tabernero [00:28:31] the juice. Gimme the cheese.
Dylan Terrill [00:28:34] Yeah, I mean, initially, it just everything happened so fast that you just sort of, I don't know, you're immune to any change. So basically, you know, for us, we we were around for a while, right? We were lending and sort of like a hobby, as I mentioned before, I turn into a business. And then we were like, we need to raise money. We were able to quickly raise Silicon Valley equity money. And that sort of propelled us on this journey. And then right after that, I left for Uganda and getting there, it's like it wasn't my first time in Africa. So I think that was helpful. But it's East Africa, which is a little bit different than West, where I spent some time in and going into the city, Kampala. Life is definitely different than San Francisco. I mean, you can get a lot of the modern conveniences. You can get an Uber anywhere you want. You can hail a motorcycle taxi, you can stay in the Airbnb, et cetera. But it's also just different. Like people look at you and I'm white. So I obviously don't blend in regardless of where I go. And it's just these are adjustments that you have to make. And how you approach people is you have to be maybe learn a few words of the local language, etc., just to have a smoother time and make sure that you're taking care of people, etc.. But overall, I mean, it's not there wasn't anything crazy. You know, it's just like eventually people accept you, they start seeing you, you're local at certain places and life gets better and better. There's definitely some sketchy moments when you're walking home late at night after a long day at the office and some guy is following you. And then I think the way that people break down is like if you approach them first rather than waiting for them to come to you. Well, and then having a conversation. One thing that I thought was really interesting and got to in particular is like we could be literally seemingly at war with a client like they do not want to pay us. They want to sue us, whatever it is. And at the end of the day, like, we're all shaking hands, we're laughing, we're hugging. It's like it's such a different type of environment. It's like people don't stay angry at you. People don't get aggressive with you for a long time. People are really willing to have that conversation, which I was really appreciative, especially as a foreigners like let me just be as local as possible, try to speak the language, you know, try to eat their food, et cetera, and just really try to blend in. And I think that's made for a more smoother experience.
Shikher Bhandary [00:30:58] So you learn to be very direct.
Dylan Terrill [00:31:01] Yes, yes.
Jed Tabernero [00:31:04] How did you start learning, you know, the local language? What did you who did you engage like? What kinds of do you take some classes on the side? Did you there. Was there a government program or some shit for for foreigners to come in and, like, learn about the shit or whatever? Like, how did you do
Dylan Terrill [00:31:20] the cofounding team that were Ugandan? So they knew everything that's just basically become became our guides in a way. And then they at a certain point, like after a couple of weeks, are like, ah, you just got to be thrown into the fire. It's like you're going to make mistakes, like you're getting something is going to go wrong. But that's how you learn and you learn as quickly as possible. So they were there to help us. Like, here's the place you should go, places you should avoid. Here's some language like, you know, some basic stuff that you need to know. And that really helped us, like, extremely grateful for those guys. There's definitely classes you could take a while there, but it was really just let me just live like a local, so to speak, like where do they go or do they eat all that stuff? And that really helps.
Shikher Bhandary [00:32:02] Which language is this?
Dylan Terrill [00:32:04] So depending on the region of Uganda or in Kenya, where we also operate in Kampala specifically, you have a few different languages. One the most popular is called Luganda. Yes. Which sounds like Uganda with an L. Yeah. And then the other region where we operate primarily is called a TESO. So it's the Tesser region in the languages.
Shikher Bhandary [00:32:30] Yeah. Why did you choose to work with micro, small and medium enterprises as your target customers. Is there is it easier to scale that way. Do you think you can make the most impact with these sized businesses or is this kind of your way of entering the market and trying to grow from smaller loans
Dylan Terrill [00:32:53] really in Uganda, talking about a population of about 40 million people and 90 percent or more of those same adults or are not working a corporate job? I think it's maybe even like two percent of people are working like a salary job. The rest are operating small businesses, whether they are a taxi driver or they operate a small retail shop, something like that. So that was like a really weigh in. It wasn't that we were lending to individuals, but we're lending to small businesses because that's what the most of the population was. Even farmers, they might not just be a farmer, they might have a small farm stand in the local town or they might have some other sort of hustle. And so really, that's what the population we wanted to address. It seemed like the most in the population and also just the largest.
Shikher Bhandary [00:33:40] And how did you get your first customers? Was your strategy was all word of mouth where you guys reaching out to people going walking on the farms and your boots? What was
Dylan Terrill [00:33:52] like. Yeah, so luckily since we were able to go from the Engineers Without Borders project, so that was started through Columbia University. We kind of were on the heels of that. So they had a bunch of like focus groups that were already established. So literally be like a thousand farmers, a thousand business owners that would come to the town to listen to these guys, to help them with their projects, essentially. So from there, we would be able to be like a if you need a loan, come to us right at the end and then you would have literally like half of those people, if not more like come up to your office or come up to at the time. Those are co-founders house and knock on the door and be like, I need a loan. And that really helps just kick off everything. Because initially, you know, as I mentioned, we weren't really going to be a business, so we didn't really care about acquiring customers. It was just like, let's fulfill a need. And then the demand sort of took over from there.
Jed Tabernero [00:34:42] So I guess I think I kind of want to learn more about you're kind of like transitioning to this kind of life, right? So, yeah. I mean, I guess I guess it was it was short your time in a really corporate job. And then you went to I'm going to call it saving the world.
Dylan Terrill [00:35:00] But you came
Jed Tabernero [00:35:02] into this to this space of like startups and doing things abroad, like how did how was that transition? Like like you're learning a lot of things, solving a lot of cool ass problems. Like what? Or the things that went through your head were like those challenges you had, like, you know, traveling to Africa as it is in itself, a huge burden, I feel like as more than twenty four hours a traveler. So you'd always come home like really tired and stuff like when we were living together, like, that's crazy, dude.
Dylan Terrill [00:35:32] The thing is, I guess it was more of a smoother transition than I made it seem. So after about a year of investment banking, I joined a startup called Lending Home. And so lending home provided mortgages online. And I was there for about two years while sort of building a stock part time. And so that allowed for the transition to be a little bit smoother. Like I just learned a ton. It was a small startup at the time that grew into like a multibillion dollar business while I was there. And so I got to see it. How how business really fundamental. Works and how they acquire customers and grow and all that stuff, so it's great training, it was like boot camp for me and then we applied a lot of that because another co-founder, Kayvan, who came from the data science team, he was also part of a SOC. We just sort of learned together and then we iterated from there. And I think that's that was like the really strong foundation that we both had. And then to listen to living in Uganda, it was easy. And a lot of times, to be honest, it was better like working with people and living with the same people, just like a lot more fun, like a lot of energy. We're all living in the same house. We're together like pretty much 24/7, like just a great community of people that are just dedicated to something and then coming back to the Bay Area and people are doing the different things. It takes like a week to schedule plans. It's like very impersonal. You're walking down the hallway, people say, hey to you, you don't if you stop and talk to somebody in a cafe, God forbid, like so it was like for me it was exactly what I needed at the time. You know, life is not necessarily glamorous. You know, the power might go out, you might not have hot water. But other than that, it's pretty great. The food's good. People are nice. What else could you need? It's a pretty good way of life, I think. And then also a great thing that they have there, which they should have here are motorcycle taxis, like the best invention ever. Some guy pulls up, you hop on the back, you pay him a couple of bucks, he takes anywhere you want. You hug him. You feel like you're nothing but right. And that's a great time.
Shikher Bhandary [00:37:36] So, Dylan, when did you feel most vulnerable, when you transitioned from doing this as a hobby on the side and going in, fully committing like this is going to be my full time job. I'm like committing to a completely.
Dylan Terrill [00:37:52] So there was a period of time where I knew I had to leave my current job. So that was working at Landingham. But we weren't we didn't have the money at a sock to pay for people to go full time. But I just knew that I needed to like work was distracting. Essentially, I wanted to build something. So it was a period of time where you just I wasn't earning a salary and we were raising money at the time, but it was taking a little bit, you know, being an African fintech startup, you get a lot of notes like we pitched and I think must have been one hundred and fifty investors in person filing on the phone, all that stuff, and you just get a shit ton of notes. So there was a lot of uncertainty. There is like, is this even going to work out? And my leaving a stable job for something that's just a pipe dream. And then once it finally did work out, it's just like great. And you celebrate for like 20 minutes and then you go back to work. And we've definitely had a lot of ups and downs. You know, we've had co-founder issues. Unfortunately, we've had to let go. A lot of people we've we've we've gone through it. And our journey has not been linear by any means. And so in those times, you question everything. But I think it's you get renewed hope being with the people that you work with, but then also the people you serve. You just realize like this is the best place for me, you know, where I can dedicate the most time. And it actually makes sense.
Shikher Bhandary [00:39:12] Cool. But I wanted to bring up to the audience and all the listeners that Dylan is an actor on the side.
Dylan Terrill [00:39:19] Oh, really, really
Shikher Bhandary [00:39:21] have been really
Jed Tabernero [00:39:23] have been waiting. This is I basically
Shikher Bhandary [00:39:25] I wanted to ask, have you ever applied or how have you used your acting career to do these VC pitches with investors? Are there certain techniques you found effective, some things you've noticed when you're looking to these investors?
Dylan Terrill [00:39:43] You know, taking a step back? I dove into acting because I felt like I was a bit shy in a lot of these meetings and just in general. And so I thought I needed a way to sort of get out of my my head and sort of be who I'm actually not just somebody that's behind this shell, so to speak. So being able to jump into a meeting with a guy who has a net worth of a billion dollars, who runs a fund that's hundreds of millions of dollars, you obviously get nervous. But being able to act in the moment, especially through improv, allows you to think on your feet and then really get out of your own head. And it's been extremely valuable for me, not just pitches, but also just everyday life. And I owe a lot. Being able to just have something creative, you know, outside of work, I think is really important, not just for entrepreneurs, but for everybody. Yeah. So it's been definitely a blessing for me.
Shikher Bhandary [00:40:35] Wow. So you have a sock to thank for your acting career?
Dylan Terrill [00:40:39] Yes, 100 percent.
Shikher Bhandary [00:40:42] I would have never thought that I started to get you to start acting. That's very
Dylan Terrill [00:40:47] cool. Yeah, no kidding. But it helps stress, too. I think, you know, you just need an outlet sometimes. And just like other people who don't know anything about startups just to have a conversation with, I think the Bay Area often unfortunately is a little bit of a bubble where everyone has this idea. And if you're an entrepreneur, like they want to pitch ideas and all that stuff and it's great. I love that. But sometimes I probably won't go anywhere, but it just fun. In the meantime,
Shikher Bhandary [00:41:12] you never know. It's a hobby now and you know, so.
Jed Tabernero [00:41:16] So let's educate the audience a little bit about what the type of acting Dylan does. Dylan, could you kind of go over?
Dylan Terrill [00:41:23] My acting career is very much just knew it started. I mean, taking classes for a couple of years now, but this past year, twenty nineteen was really where things kicked into gear as far as like producing content. So it's mostly been short films and I've done a couple of plays and then a couple like unpublished Web series stuff. But I think that's usually how it begins. Like if you want to be an actor, you usually start like either producing your own content or working on small productions that are doing like short films and then working away from there. The idea, if you are curious about the trajectory, it's usually like you do a little bit of that. You build what's called the real sort of like a demo, and then you try to find an agent and then the rest goes on from there. I'm not necessarily interested in full time, maybe whoever knows, but it's just a good sort of side project thing.
Shikher Bhandary [00:42:15] So. So you went from working full time, then creating a side hobby that you were interested in solving a problem and eventually going into full time, then going into being a part of this movement of giving access to people in developing countries for capital and really improving their lives, helping them with. Are businesses, so I want to ask, what advice would you give to someone young, some millennial out there that might be working in investment banking or working a job that they might not feel fulfilled? Or maybe they're thinking about ideas or dreaming about something, but they just don't have the confidence to go into it. What advice would you give to people to really find what they're passionate about, to try new things and to just figure out what their life calling is, you know, saving the world as you are.
Dylan Terrill [00:43:17] So it's funny when people reach out to me that they seemingly do all the time for my school or other schools to ask about investment banking, how to get in that sort of thing. It's such a rigorous process, but I always ask them why they want to do it. And some of them are just really gung ho that they've always wanted to be in Ivy be some of them are just a little bit unsure. And so for those guys, like, I really want to make sure that they understand the options that are available and I would recommend it to anybody is just like you have to really understand what's out there for you. There's a lot, whether that's a startup or a corporate job or, you know, building your own Shopify store or something. There's a lot of options. Right. And I think people don't necessarily know that. And they end up picking one thing and sticking with that. And that's the rest of, you know, they go from there. So that's one. And then I think part of that is like networking. I think that's something that everybody says, like just network more. But I think going a little bit deeper than that is like that's hard to do. I think taking action is really easy and that you go on LinkedIn maybe once a day or once a week, and then you look for people that have an interesting path, like maybe they're doing something on their own or they're in some corporate job or whatever it is. And you find that interesting. And I think a lot of times people will respond. And it's a numbers game, unfortunately, but a lot of times they do. People love to talk about themselves. And just by asking questions, I think you can learn a lot. That's like the easiest way to get advice is like don't watch YouTube videos about what to do because that's just going to be too much noise. Just ask particular people or people that you like or people that you haven't met yet. And I think that's extremely valuable. And then sort of like the existential question of like, what's my purpose? That type of thing that just takes self discovery, I think is just like you have to be really honest with yourself. You write a lot journal. That's the thing that's helped me. And even I don't know what the hell I'm supposed to be doing. I don't think really anybody does. But we're just on this ride, you know, interesting where things go. But yeah, I mean, to boil it down, I'd say, like just network and explore as much as possible. And it's you know, it's hard to think about what the possibilities are, but taking action, you can really explore things and figure it out.
Shikher Bhandary [00:45:29] Yeah. It just takes going to Africa to figure so far to the right.
Dylan Terrill [00:45:34] Yeah. Go to Africa and save yourself. You'll discover and find yourself. You can do some eat pray love
Shikher Bhandary [00:45:42] to have you
Jed Tabernero [00:45:43] figure with some hippopotamuses.
Dylan Terrill [00:45:45] That movie although is really shitty as like a good premise. But yeah. Watching some white lady find herself at the message and saying indeed indeed
Shikher Bhandary [00:45:58] I've been itching to ask you this question. So the second you brought up acting, right. Yes. Okay. What is the find Hodda. What does he find more uncomfortable standing in front of like reseize and asking and pitching your your idea between your business or like, you know, auditioning for a gig?
Dylan Terrill [00:46:20] I think for me it's auditioning like with VCs. I feel like I've done it so much that it's just on maybe that just sort of discredits VCs, but it's just like it's on autopilot. I just know my story really well. But like auditioning, you get nervous and then you sort of you're in the moment, you forget about it. But I think, yeah, with VCs, it's it's usually easy. You know, VCs, I think get a bad rep as like these evil guys that are like super hard to break down, but they're just regular people. They put their pants on the same way we do every day. You know, they're easy to break down and easy to chat with. And most of them are very friendly. They're willing to help you so.
Shikher Bhandary [00:46:59] That was a conversation with Dylan Teran, co-founder and chief business officer of a stock to learn more about his company and what they do. You could visit them at Osako. That's s a K Dot CEO. Thanks for listening to. Things have changed.
Shikher Bhandary [00:47:18] Be sure to subscribe to never miss an episode and follow us on our Instagram at THC underscore part.
Jed Tabernero [00:47:25] We're going to see you next time.