Meet Farnoush Mirmoeini, Co-Founder, KYC Hub

Farnoush Mirmoeini

Farnoush is one of the co-founders of KYC Hub, where she leads product management, AI/data science, and growth strategy. She has over ten years of experience in AI, quantitative financial and risk modelling and has published several papers on AI applications. Prior to KYC Hub, Farnoush worked at several start-ups, moving to HSBC where she led the development of new models for inflation swaps. Her effort went beyond her team and involved senior risk leaders as she generated buy-in and inspired a wider effort within the organisation.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the co-founder of KYC Hub which we set up in part due to my frustration of the lack of practical technological adoption of artificial intelligence and computing in the fight against financial crime. I lead product management, data science, and the company’s growth strategy. I have worked in STEM all my career, for over 15 years and in fintech for about nine of them. I started studying engineering in 2000 and went on to get a Master’s degree in statistical signal processing and stochastic optimisation. During my Master’s I became fascinated with the financial markets and decided to work in finance rather than a traditional engineering job.

KYC Hub is the first global infrastructure for customer due diligence empowering companies to make better and more efficient decisions. What makes KYC Hub different is our deep investment in automation and modularity.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not specifically, however I had a general idea and strategy. I think it’s important to know your goal and strategy, however the world changes very fast and I believe it’s better to be agile rather than plan to the minute details.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Getting funding for female-led ventures is hard across all industries but even harder in fintech than industries with higher female demographics such as femtech. Fintech is still heavily male dominated. It may well be an unconscious bias, but I have at times had a sense of not being taken seriously and not being heard, with investors not seemingly giving my opinions enough weight, whereas I knew if a man had said the same thing their opinion would have been valued. The numbers prove this: only 2.4% of founding partners are female and in 2020 only 2.3% of VC funding went to female-led startups. Of course, there are exceptions and I have dealt with some amazing male VC counterparts. But the boys’ club needs to challenge its own biases, the pattern-matching habit of funding the same kinds of male-led tech companies they’ve funded before, that is where it needs to come from. After all, the numbers also show that when female-led firms do get funded, they’re more likely to be successful.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Building a company from the ground up has been both a great struggle and a great achievement. I think building anything puts one face to face with your deepest fears and shortcomings. I always wanted to build something, and add something to the world, however we faced many problems such as rejection from potential investors, our metrics falling short of our projections etc. Building a tech start-up is ridden with unknowns and is never smooth sailing, but when the product starts to work and you see its performance, when you start to see the initial traction from the market and happy customers, it is very exhilarating and you know you are on the right track.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I read a lot, and this has helped me quickly digest and assess new ideas. I read blogs on product management, growth marketing, and technology, and listen to several podcasts. I also read a lot of fiction (classics as well as young adult). I don’t have a favourite book and like to skim through many texts, but I like “The hard thing about hard things” as well as “Zero to one” about tech start-ups and business.

Not having a big ego and willing to do things myself has also helped a lot.  It is very important to be organised and be able to prioritise. As a founder there are always multiple competing priorities to manage, so you have to ruthlessly prioritise and focus on things with highest impact and ROI.

Finally, taking rest and having a break is really important. Burnout is a real thing, and not resting makes one inefficient and a poor decision maker, not to mention dull. I love challenging hikes, music and Reformer Pilates to relax.

Level Up Summit 2022

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What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Fintech brings together technology and finance, as well as a multitude of other sub-disciplines. One can find many different networking opportunities both offline and online. The key is to not network aimlessly, or to look for support without doing your homework. There are many supportive individuals and groups, but most people are busy, and usually the approach of “do you have 15 minutes for me to pick your brain” doesn’t work.

Being hands-on in the technology sector is very important. Technology changes constantly, and not being hands-on means you would soon become obsolete. It is important to keep on top of new technologies available to the market and how you can incorporate them into your products.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I was having this conversation with a fellow female founder, and we were feeling like there are not enough female applicants for fintech jobs to begin with. At times, women self-select out of more male dominated industries, and I think this is the biggest thing that has to change. I believe companies, both large and small, must be educated about diversity and inclusion, and not just about women, but also about people with different abilities. This is not just about the hiring process, but about the informal culture around technology, both within a company’s formal and informal structure, as well as technology events, conferences etc.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

At KYC Hub we make sure people’s voices are heard and they are seen and appreciated, and some of our fastest promotions in the company have been young women. I strongly believe in measures to improve equality, diversity, and inclusion, and I think everyone should invest in measures to encourage more diversity in the industry. It will give huge dividends in the long run.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

To not have woman as a separate category would be a big thing. A lot of times women’s achievements are reduced to just their gender. For example, I was once invited to join a panel at a tech start-up conference. I was quite disappointed to find out they wanted me on the panel about “women in tech” – so all my expertise and what I had to say became secondary to being a woman. While it is good to give woman a voice, it also puts women in a nice, neat category separate from everything else. Decision makers, mainly men at this stage, need to be involved a lot more. They are the ones who need to hear women’s voices, acknowledge there are problems and buy into the solutions, otherwise we will just have echo chambers of women talking about including women in tech, but the decisions are made elsewhere.

I would like to see events and groups being more inclusive to all age groups and genders, rather than having specific groups and events for just women, or other minority groups.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Depending on what function you work in, there are many different resources available.

You can learn a lot from LinkedIn and following senior professionals who post a lot either through their social media platforms or company/personal blog posts.

I think after the pandemic we realised that in-person events are not necessary, nor scalable. There are many events and conferences that are now being held virtually at a fraction of the cost and allows those who perhaps wouldn’t have been able to come to an in-person event to participate and learn from speakers and sessions virtually.

Books wise – I like “Tools of Titans” and “Tribe of Mentors”. However, there are a lot of books out there that are unnecessarily long-winded and at times outdated. Going off recommendations is always best!