Jan Christopher Arp
IMPACT INVESTING

Jan Christopher

#106

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Founding Managing Partner @ Holt Accelerator

Charting the course and learning – Jan Christopher

“Whether they’re even asking for it or not, I think that is an important piece to always remember where you came from. I think that’s important to building a community to remember those and give recognition to those who have supported you along the way.”

ABOUT

Jan is a fintech evangelist, passionate about improving society through finance and technology. He is Managing Partner & cofounder of Holt Accelerator that has currently invested in 20 early stage Canadian and International fintechs, in which those portfolio companies solve our society’s most pressing and emergent issues. Previously, he founded Fintech Cadence, a non-profit that has trained thousands of individuals in fintech, resulting in the creation of +100 fintech projects.

Prior to this, he was Head of Finance at Bus.com, helping it from incorporation to Series A, as well as Head of Finance at District 3, helping 20 early stage teams raise more than $15 million. He began his career as a Consultant for billion dollar investment banking projects in the space satellite sector. He holds an MBA from HEC, a finance degree from Ottawa University, passed II levels of the CFA, and was awarded Montreal Ambassador of the year (2018) from the Montreal Startup Awards.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Jan Christopher

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the supporters fund, ask an angel. I’m your host Jeffrey Potvin. And today we’d like to welcome Jan. Welcome to the show today. Thank you very much for joining us.
Jan: It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Jeffery: Well, we’re excited to talk to you because one of the biggest reasons that I think I was really diving into learning more about yourself was that you focus strictly on Fintech. And that is huge because there’s not a lot of investors that have really funneled themselves into one area of focus and then been really good at it. So, I think we’re going to start today off if you can share a little bit about yourself, some background, all the way back to your university days, even from bus.com. But share a little bit about that. And then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Jan: oh, we’re digging pretty far back there. So, I’ll try to keep this relatively quick so as not to make people fall asleep here. But I was always in finance. That was what I chose in university from the early days. So, me being in Fintech maybe is me just trying to justify my own existence or my degree that I had recently received. well recently is a bit of a stretch I would say. But since then, I became a consultant and I was doing M&A transactions in the satellite sector, billion dollars, plus always looking to automate things. I eventually said, how do I get more into this? I want to get really working hands-on with startups. What skills do I have? I started being the finance guy, helped about 15 companies, raised 20 million bucks, including bus.com which was sure. the bus, when I had joined them, and then the team and Kyle and Wolf when we were not even incorporated at the time, and working next to a space heater and an art studio trying to figure out how to make ends meet and helping them raise capital. At that point, I did that for a bit until they got to about series a. I left off at that point to start to explore what could be done. I recognized that the early stage ecosystem and Fintech was missing within Canada. We weren’t having the right conversations. the thought leadership was missing. that buzz that you get when you go to the valley that everyone’s just oozing with ideas and startups as a whole just felt like it was disparate and diverse groups unconnected across Canada that I said, how do I solve this. And so, I built this thing called, ‘Fintech Cadence’, the nonprofit that’s doing well to this day. it’s nurturing that next generation of talent and early ideas and projects and yeah, early startup shall we say. As they recognize, a good ecosystem requires a funnel and the next bit of that funnel was helping those venture businesses right at the growth stage that I still think is missing which makes for a wicked opportunity bumped into a fifth-generation family who also knew wealth management for hundreds of years. They said they want to do Fintech, that’s what they know based on the legacy of Sir Herbert Holt who was the largest serving chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada, and took it to grow its assets about 10x. So, they do know a little bit about how to build the financial services within Canada. internationally partnered up with them, we got started and we’re off to the races like that. So, it’s been a fun ride. I mean something about myself I guess is I’m always trying to give a hand back to those early sponsors. those early supporters that have helped me along the way and find a way no matter what the mechanism to reward them on the upside and remember them along the way. whether they’re even asking for it or not, I think that is an important piece to always remember where you came from. I think that’s important to building a community to remember those and give recognition to those who have supported you along the way.
Jeffery: I love it. That’s all brilliant. And a big fan of helping people and giving back. I think that is the smart way to do business. But I think it’s also when you’ve learned a lot, it’s really helpful to be able to figure out how you share that back and how you help that new generation of founders come through. And I want to take that piece and take a step back to even your bus.com days when you were working in this and you said you were working in this heater cold environment that you were trying to build from and it was really right down from the nuts and bolts of really what it takes to run a startup and be part of that. you have this hat that you’re wearing that’s all Fintech based which I think is phenomenal. I find that a lot of people in the banking sector tend to have a lot more knowledge of how to run a company and be part of a company than any other group. lawyers probably stepped in there as well because they get to do the paperwork side. But I just find that people that understand Fintech understand the numbers. They can really put together how this business looks today but also how it’s going to scale and can this be a business in five to ten years. So, in saying that, when you joined the bus.com, what experience did you take from that and how much of that you see coming out today in what you’re building?
Jan: I think the idea of looking at the top companies when it’s the c-suite level, there’s a big portion of the time they’re going to have a finance background, the understanding, the lifeblood of the mechanism of the organization to identify the areas to focus your time on and the problems and opportunities. It’s not always the case either. There could be schools of thought opposed to this in the sense that there is something called ‘shareholder value versus stakeholder value.’ and some will look to maximize shareholder over stakeholder and there’s the school. There’s debate on which one is better for the long-term benefits of all. But I’ll digress from that point, leave that as a bit of a cliffhanger and get back to say, when you’re in the finance position and increasingly, I’m seeing this more with those that were in the venture capital space as well, there’s like this, oh