Welcome to Startup of the Week. A column highlighting BC’s most innovative and exciting tech startups. Today, we’re featuring Vancouver’s Nava Ventures.
After being awarded first place in Startup Canada’s Sustainable Development Goals Pitch Competition and winning the finance category of the BoomStartup pitch competition—the socially responsible fintech company is looking to change the banking industry for the better.
Gurjeet Matharu, CEO of Nava Ventures, spoke to us about future trends that might impact the industry, their experience with entrepreneurship@UBC and what video games inspire them.
Q: Pretend I’m your Grandma, explain what your company does.
A: We provide innovative software to banks and financial institutions. Nava Ventures is an ecosystem of socially responsible fintech products designed for credit unions to increase member retention and engagement.
Our first product is meetNavi, an app focused on improving holistic financial wellness to encourage the next generation of socially responsible consumers. Our consumer facing brand allows banks and institutions to use our products rather than build their own, giving them a cost effective solution to compete with others in the industry.
Q: What was the impetus to start Nava Ventures?
A: Nava Ventures is impact driven. Our aim is to use capital for people and the planet.
Financial services can have a huge positive impact on communities, however many times profits come first. That’s why we use the latest technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), to empower our members and communities through a powerful recommendation engine. Our goal is to build transparent, modern and impactful financial products.
Q: You were part of entrepreneurship @UBC’s Core Technology Incubator program in 2020. How has this experience helped you grow your business?
A: Being members of entrepreneurship@UBC tremendously impacted our business. During the earlier phases, Nava Ventures was thoroughly challenged to hone our value proposition. Entrepreneurship@UBC encouraged our team to conduct primary research to verify these pains and develop a “sticky” solution. To date, we’ve had 250+ in-person interviews with our target end users, as well as credit union executives.
Currently, we’re working closely with Paul Needham, economist, FinTech and CleanTech serial entrepreneur who co-founded Simpa Energy India. Paul’s ability to understand problems and articulate solutions has helped us perfect our messaging to better resonate with investors and financial institutions.
The program provides valuable resources and mentorship opportunities that can help accelerate business growth. It’s wonderful to see how many Entrepreneurs in Residence are so passionate about the ventures they interact with. We look forward to the continued mentorship and guidance!
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: The fact that people underestimate the impact that technology is making in our everyday lives. The speed at which AI and data are progressing will have huge implications for the future, including for our economy and even how we live our lives day-to-day.
Ethics, privacy and cybersecurity are just as important—with more data comes more risk. Who are the people that are looking after our data, our AI systems, and what are they optimizing these systems for? What are their motives?
I believe if we continue to optimize solely for profits, there will be dire consequences for people, and for our environment. AI is built by people, and not always those with the greatest of intentions.
Q: What would people be surprised to know about Nava Ventures?
A: Nava Ventures has a very close knit team. We’ve grown up together, gone to the same schools, and participated in the same communities. Sport is also very important to our team, we have team members who have won provincial championships together and some that currently participate in jiu jitsu.
Our team is passionate, mission-driven and full of grit. We are extremely coachable and work hard to bring our vision to life.
Q: Is there a future trend that you think will most impact your industry?
A: Open banking has started to impact the North American markets.
This allows smaller companies like us to gain access to crucial infrastructure and build new products. The adoption of this system forces the financial sector to innovate, which will change how we do things in the future—gone are the days of traditional banking.
Q: Since you’ve gamified personal banking with Navi, what’s your favourite online game to play?
A: Currently we’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty: Warzone. However, the most impactful game I’ve ever played was Diablo II. Diablo really showed me how complex and deep gaming could be, from the story to the gameplay. Games have become a means to showcase art, solve problems and create communities.
Nava Ventures recently launched their crowdfunding campaign—click here to learn how you can become an investor.
Want to be featured as a Startup of the Week? If you are a BC-based tech startup that we should know about, or would like to suggest one, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.