My MAF Journey: Bridging Tech and Financial Inclusion
In celebration of the MAF Lab having hit its one-year mark, we want to recognize the role and work of our Tech Advisory Council in supporting our successes. We’ll be sharing a series of blog posts from TAC members, starting with one from co-chair Kathryn Weinmann.
Everyone should try cold-calling at some point. Let the likely rejection be a reminder that you’re reaching further than you have before. And it’s a total rush when you actually get through. Five years ago this summer, I reached out to Mission Asset Fund, and I haven’t looked back since.
I had tasted microfinance in college and consulted for big banks thereafter, and increasingly I wanted to help define the next generation of financial services. I looked at loads of fintech companies and nonprofits in the Bay Area, but there was something special about Mission Asset Fund (MAF). They had the values and personal touch of a nonprofit, but their approach to technology was more typical of a hungry startup eager to scale. So I guessed the email of MAF’s founder/CEO José Quiñonez, and by some stroke of luck he was free to meet that afternoon.
In our first meeting, José announced the passage of California SB896, game-changing legislation that acknowledged the importance of credit-building loans and empowered nonprofits to support them. I couldn’t believe it. While many fintech companies were struggling within gray areas of the law, this nonprofit was out changing it.
MAF develops critical tools to help people build empowered financial lives. And the effects are far-reaching.
Their Lending Circles program is distributed through a network of nonprofit partners across the country. Jose’s Hierarchy of Financial Needs helps people of all backgrounds by providing structure around an otherwise nebulous and intimidating topic.
For the past few years, I have had the privilege to serve as co-chair for MAF’s Technology Advisory Council (TAC). MAF is constantly innovating – always seeking to serve their clients and nonprofit partners better. The TAC supports that innovation and serves as a bridge to the startup community. We share our experiences to inform MAF’s tech strategy, product roadmap, and implementation approach.
Our team has a diverse set of backgrounds across software development, fintech, and social impact. Together, we strive to support the next generation of product initiatives at MAF.
I constantly learn from this exceptional group, who bring expertise from Google, Stripe, Salesforce, and other incredible organizations.
I have seen firsthand the thoughtfulness and intentionality that MAF brings to product development. Whether we are discussing the structure of the MAF Lab, beta testing the MyMAF app, or providing input on the product launch process, the MAF team grounds our contributions in specific goals that further the mission of the organization.
What’s more, my involvement with the TAC makes me better at my day job. I invest in consumer tech, often at an early stage. On more than one occasion, I have pointed founders to MAF as an example of putting the user’s needs first. MAF’s approach to realizing their mission can help us all identify and challenge the assumptions behind inclusive product development.
MAF changed my life, as they continue to do for members of the Bay Area community and beyond.
I am immensely grateful to serve on the TAC and support their mission to bring financial stability to the millions who live in the financial shadows. MAF’s clients are resilient, tenacious, and optimistic. So is MAF – and they inspire me to be that way, too.
About the author: Kathryn has been working with MAF since 2014 and now serves as Co-Chair of the Technology Advisory Council. She is an investor at Norwest Venture Partners in San Francisco.