“Now I have an invaluable network, access to resources, research, support and inspiration throughout my start-up journey.”
Fresh from her Sloan International Assignment in Silicon Valley, Norah Prida Bay, says: “I applied to study Sloan precisely to use the experience as an accelerator for my idea.” Norah is referring to New Finance, the venture she’s developed at London Business School (LBS). Described as a ‘WhatsApp’ style mobile app for saving and lending in groups, it aims to open up access to credit for nine million people in the UK who don’t qualify in the formal credit system before going international.
After spending her formative years in Mexico (she has also worked for Citigroup and VTB Capital in London), in 2009 Norah owned a beauty salon in the region. She observed her nail technicians using informal savings groups – called Tandas in Mexico – as a form of peer-to-peer lending/saving. “I witnessed first-hand the noble benefits of the system but also its inefficiencies and how they could be eliminated through technology,” says Norah: and her idea was born.
“I joined Sloan at LBS because I knew it was the ideal place to incubate my idea. It is like conducting a real-life experiment.”
Norah says that her expectations were high. She wanted technical skills, which she has achieved on the programme, yet she didn’t anticipate the level of self-reflection of her own strengths and weaknesses and the ability to develop such a strong and powerful network.
While Norah’s utilising the entire LBS network, her connections also stem from her class, which for Norah, could not be more diverse. Reflecting on their recent International Assignment, she explains her class visited Twitter’s headquarters. “I remember how proud I felt when Twitter’s Chief Technology Officer asked for brief introductions. Our group of 20 told him we were from 20 different countries, with different backgrounds and professional experiences. He was in awe of the diversity of our class.”
A class diverse and rich with experience has given Norah the opportunity to hear and learn from people with completely new perspectives, which, for someone who has run entrepreneurial ventures and is already armed with an MBA (with a specialisation in finance), is no mean feat.
Making the most of London, what Norah calls the epicentre of the FinTech revolution, she absorbs its dynamic environment. “London, the most extraordinary city in the world. The whole ecosystem is set to see start-ups succeed, from government policies to angel investors and willing early adopters,” she says.
If you’re looking to launch a start-up, Norah’s experience has given her three top tips: start small, think big and help the disadvantaged – key factors she’s applying to her own entrepreneurial pursuits.