Hi everyone! I’m Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working on financial technology. Today I’m going to learn about how Z1 is working to educate GenZ about personal finance. Join me as I welcome João Pedro Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Z1. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Hola, João! Let’s jump right in! Can you tell me what challenges you are addressing?
João: Well, Spiffy, GenZ represents one-third of the Brazilian population, and is the first digitally native generation. However, most GenZers don't have access to financial services or a bank account and are cash-based. They’re also much more independent financially than previous generations, yet don’t know anything about personal finances. Z1 initiates Gen Z on their financial journey with an independent account linked to a card where they can send, receive, and spend money while learning about financial literacy.
Spiffy: What motivated you to support GenZ as they embark on their financial journey?
João: My first startup was in the education space, building schools for the Brazilian middle class. There, I talked to several parents who defaulted on their tuition at some point during the year. The root causes for their defaults were lack of organization of their personal finances and taking on debt that they could not afford. This bugged me, especially because the traditional education system was not looking at this problem at all. When I left the company, I vowed to do something that would solve the financial literacy problem for the next generation.
Spiffy: I’m glad you followed through on that promise, João! Can you talk about how Z1 is working to create a more equitable world?
João: Our product solves GenZ’s lack of access to financial services. Having a digital solution for GenZ to receive and spend money autonomously allows youngsters from all around the country, independent of their economic status, to have the same chance at participating in the digital economy. Moreover, one of our main objectives is to be the most diverse company in Brazil. We already set an example for other startups by having extremely ambitious diversity metrics for hiring and marketing projects.
Spiffy: Have you reached any milestones that you’re particularly proud about? What kind of impact do you hope these will make?
João: Well, Spiffy, most of our job openings are exclusive to marginalized groups. Our internal metrics consist of having 40%+ people of color and 20%+ trans people in the company and 50%+ of women in our tech team. We have already delivered on the two former ones. We also have initiatives such as never participating in conversations including only white cis males. All of the milestones mentioned above impact other companies to act the same and give opportunities to marginalized groups, which are usually excluded from the tech world.
The four Z1 co-founders: Mateus, Sophie, João, and Thiago. (Photo courtesy of João Pedro Thompson)
Spiffy: I’m always curious to learn how entrepreneurs deal with failure. What about you? When did you experience failure, and what did you learn?
João: I left my first startup when I decided that my co-founder and I couldn’t work together any longer. Although I felt immense relief when I left, I also felt like I had failed at my first entrepreneurial experience, and felt pressured when I had to explain why I left behind a startup that had just raised $10 million Series A funding. After some therapy and meditation, I eventually realized that my only real mistake had been to choose the wrong co-founder and that I was 28 and had more than enough time to have another shot at building a successful company. That realization eventually led me to join my co-founders and start Z1—and I’ve never been happier.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
João: We would like to be a reminder to GenZ, the most vocal generation regarding brand behavior, governmental policies, and world affairs, that they can craft their future with agency and autonomy. In that sense, having autonomy over their finances and how they understand and deal with money is key in impacting the future they want to create for their generation and those who follow.
Spiffy: Now those are inspiring words to live by. Thanks for coming out to talk to me, João, it’s been an honor.
João Pedro Thompson is the co-founder and CEO of Z1, a Brazilian digital bank for teenagers. Prior to Z1, he was the co-founder and CFO of Vereda, a startup in the education space, and worked in investment banking at Itau BBA and finance at Kraft Heinz. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Babson College, USA. (Nominated by Gaingels. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 20, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.