August 24, 2020

Way back at the start of Barefoot Innovation, our very second episode featured one of the guests we have with us today. He is Shamir Karkal, CEO of Sila, and he’s joined on today’s show by his cofounder and Sila’s General Counsel, Angela Angelovska-Wilson.

That prior episode featured Shamir as the cofounder of Simple, along with Josh Reich. I think Shamir and Josh may have been the very first fintech founders I got to know, years earlier, and they have both been my friends ever since. Shamir has been on a journey that started in the tech world, and took him to Simple, and then to BBVA, and now to founding Sila. At every step, he has been building things that leverage digital technology to make finance more….well, simple. Easier for customers. Easier for financial companies. More inclusive. More connected.

As he explains in this conversation, he left BBVA motivated to democratize finance by making it easy for people to start fintechs and make programmable money. He had realized the missing element was an API platform for programming payments and money. So Sila is building a back-end payments network that connects any participant on its with instant payments, bypassing the ACH process.

Shamir and Angela explain the fascinating meanings of the word, Sila. They describe their business model, their customer base, and their back-end infrastructure based on Ethereum. They explain their revenue model -- they say their pricing is so good, especially for startups, that they put it right on their homepage.

And they share their vision of the money world of the future. They point out that programming has been transformed in the last decade, so that it’s easy today to integrate new technology into existing systems using software development kits, without the need for complex, expensive integrations. Why, they ask, can’t the world of banking and payments work like that? Why does it take three days for a global bank to move money? And what should a 21st century commerce system look like? Shamir and Angela think it should connect everyone on the planet; it should work over the internet; and it should enable anyone to build and ship applications on top of it, using standardized protocol libraries that developers can draw upon.

What we have today is broken. Many transactions get lost and can’t be followed. There is a lot of criminal activity that happens in the cracks. New financial rails will help regulators be able to see how money flows through the system.

Programmability, Sila says, will be the key to 21st century money.

A  note to listeners:  when the COVID pandemic hit, we shifted our focus on Barefoot Innovation to our special series on the future of regulation (more of those are coming). One result was that we had a few older shows recorded that were delayed in getting posted. This is one of those -- Shamir and Angela and I sat down for this conversation face to face, at a conference in California, months ago.

I know you’ll agree, it was worth the wait!

More on Shamir

A true FinTech pioneer, Shamir Karkal played a crucial part in building the infrastructure that would pave the way for online banking. In 2009, he co-founded Simple, the first bank of its kind in the United States, and later headed the Open Platform at BBVA.

Shamir was drawn to serve smaller companies, co-founding Sila in 2018 with the goal of empowering financial innovations.

Shamir studied physics and computer science at Bangalore University and is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon, and enjoys jiu-jitsu, long-range target shooting, and studying history whenever possible.

More for our Listeners 

Please follow AIR on LinkedIn and Twitter, and also follow me personally on Twitter @JoAnnBarefoot. And please be sure to leave us a five-star rating on your favorite podcast platform.

I am very excited to announce that my upcoming guests include Scott Cook, Founder of Intuit, Renaud Laplanche, Co-founder and CEO of Upgrade, Linda Lacewell, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, and Rebecca Romero Rainey, CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

I am excited to see the fall events schedule shape up! I will be speaking at many virtual conferences, including FS Vector RAFT, LendIt Fintech, Finovate DigitalSummit on Making Finance Work for Women, Fintech South 2020, A-Team Regtech Summit, as well as the Singapore Fintech Festival and Fintech Abu Dhabi.

The final judging for the G-20 Global Techsprint is coming in October, for which I am serving as a judge on Digital Regulatory Reporting. You can find more information on this here.

If you have not already had a chance, please make sure to comment on our Regtech Manifesto: Redesigning Financial Regulation for the Digital Age. We have already received many thoughtful comments and would love to hear more about what people are thinking.

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