A talk with Spiros Margaris: venture capitalist, Top fintech influencer, speaker of BLAST 2017

by | Feb 27, 2017

In this interview, we introduce Spiros Margaris (twitter: @SpirosMargaris), Globally Ranked by Onalytica as the No. 1 Fintech and No. 2 Insurtech Influencer. Spiros is also a Venture Capitalist and Senior Advisor and he will talk on our Main Stage at BLAST 2017. He told us more about his career, giving also some valuable advices for those who work in the same area or would like to start doing it. Let’s get to know him better!

We know about your long career, but what projects are you currently working on?

To keep things interesting and fun, I have a broadly defined role at Margaris Advisory. I am a strong believer in the notion that, given the choice, life is just too short to do something you don’t like. Obviously, I could not always follow this rule, but fortunately it holds true for me now. So, I try to vary my responsibilities, from being a venture capitalist to advising financial institutions and fintech and insurtech companies.

Besides my commitments as an investor and senior advisor at the successful fintech companies Kapilendo and moneymeets in Germany and my sole role as a senior advisor at Fintech Forum, DSER, niiio and Werthstein, I started 2017 with a very exciting investment in insurtech.

I invested in the US-based insurtech company InsureScan, which was founded and is managed by very experienced insurance professionals. It is a fantastic asset with an existing client distribution channel. I also act as a board member or senior advisor to help in strategy development.

These are exciting times to be in the fintech and insurtech industries, where tremendous opportunities exist to explore new or improved business models that bring real added value to consumers.

You have also been a company founder, and you are an investor, too, so you have a privileged point of view about the elements that can contribute to a good match between start-ups and investors. What do you think these elements are?

I believe that to work together and create a successful venture, start-up entrepreneurs and investors must have mutual respect and a clear understanding of their respective roles.

An investor can bring the obvious elements of money and networks but also may provide new perspectives and strategies for the start-up founder and his team to pursue. Ideally, the investor also should come up with useful ideas and solutions. Ultimately, you hope that you have invested in a great team that understands your value but foremost knows how to execute its business strategy in an ever-changing and challenging business environment.

You are listed as the no. 1 global fintech and no. 2 insurtech influencer in Onalytica’s and a top ranked thought leader in many industry publications. In your opinion, which are the most relevant factors to be considered an influencer?

To be recognized for your influence and work and to be considered a thought leader among the many great women and men with whom I constantly exchange my thoughts is a great honour.

To be an influencer means that your efforts help to advance a particular industry – in my case, the fintech or insurtech industries – and are effective and useful. As I always say, and I do repeat myself again, a real influencer tries to make other people shine and uses his or her influence to help other great voices and ideas be heard.

Taking into account that Blast will open its doors to industries working in the fields of AI and IoT, in your opinion, in which fields will fintech have more impact in the coming year?

The insurtech and insurance industries benefit from advancements in AI and IoT – for instance, the improvements we see in the incredible, fast-growing autonomous car industry. I believe, however, that AI, IoT and big data also increasingly affect the whole fintech industry because industry advancements bring so many benefits for consumers and businesses.

Have you any tips to be a top advisor in the financial industry?

You can overanalyse something to the point at which your answer no longer allows you to take advantage of your analysis. I am a strong believer in mixing my analysis with my gut feeling when evaluating the people behind a start-up venture.

So, my advice to any aspiring fintech advisor is to keep working hard and, more importantly, help others share the fintech magic.

What is the most meaningful moment in your investment career? Have there been mistakes or victories that you consider as milestones?

I loved the excitement of launching two start-ups in New York and the dotcom crash that followed.

I often remind myself of two quotes that have a clear connection to what I firmly believe in and who I am. One quote is from Bill Gates, who got it so right when he said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

The other quote that fully encapsulates my beliefs is from Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Address: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.”

If you take the advice of these two quotes, I think you have a real fighting chance to succeed. It has worked and continues to work for me.

I am privileged to be an investor and a senior advisor who has had some dots to connect, and I have learnt from my experiences with successful fintech start-ups and from being at the right place at the right time. I suppose it’s important not to forget about hard work and good luck.

What about your near future? What are your next objectives?

I will focus my full energy on helping the companies in which I am involved to succeed in the fintech and insurtech space.

If these companies succeed, I succeed; if they fail, I fail, too. Therefore, my incentives are 100{c653bac874e230c60cb5d5d5e780b44e2af54b021d2579c749fcb3ad96398bd8} aligned with the founders and their goals, and I will endeavour to make them successful and create positive outcomes.

One of the missions of BLAST 2017 is to bring together people with ideas and those who can realize them. In your opinion, what opportunities does this kind of event provide?

An event such as BLAST is a great opportunity for everyone who believes and wants to make a difference in other people’s lives by utilizing individual visions and ideas. Of course, this event also is a great opportunity for all the investors who want to help great people realise their great ideas.

Although an investor has the money, experience and networks to help an entrepreneur succeed, a project needs the founder’s passion and a great team to excite others to believe in the company’s vision and potential.

The motivation for getting together to do something special should never be money but rather the opportunity for collaboration between an investor and entrepreneur to make something great and memorable.

That’s why an event such as BLAST 2017 is a fantastic common ground that allows great and inspiring minds to meet, and from there it is the responsibility of all participants to make the most out of the occasion and try to create magic.

I am looking forward to contributing to BLAST 2017’s success and maybe taking you along the very exciting ride called fintech.

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