According to Federal Reserve. That’s nearly 60 million people!
Sheena Allen, who grew up in Terry, Mississippi, started building apps in college, worked in Silicon Valley and Austin, is uniquely qualified to understand and embrace the opportunity of the unbanked. and underbanked. When others didn’t see the opportunity, she stood firm.
His company, CapWay, provides banking services and financial education through a mobile application. Social content presents financial information that Millennials and Gen Z can relate to.
Allen is a role model for all those women and girls who are told “no, you can’t”.
While in college at the University of Southern Mississippi, Allen created his first app. It didn’t sell well, but she discovered her passion for technology. She continued to create apps, including Dublin, which at its peak was downloaded 10-20,000 times a day.
The first in her family to graduate from college, her parents always wanted Allen to have a more traditional career. But Allen was stubborn and saw something else in her future. To her parents’ chagrin, she wanted to become a technician.
Allen got a job in Silicon Valley. What a culture shock! In the rural areas where Allen grew up, it was not uncommon to drive 30 to 60 minutes to find a bank. Instead, residents cashed their checks at the local grocery store and, too often, when they needed a loan, they turned to predatory payday lenders.
“There were a lot of banking deserts, especially in the South and the Midwest,” Allen said. However, the problem is not unique to these regions and exists throughout the United States, including California and New York.
Allen saw the opportunity that the unbanked and underbanked represented for mobile digital services. “I felt it was my duty to take those two worlds, put them together, and find a solution to the problem,” she said. Since 2016, Allen has become prophetic about the advent of the cashless economy and mobile banking, but few investors have understood him. They thought the unbanked and underbanked were opportunities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but not in the United States
In 2019, Allen launched CapWay, a neobank and fintech startup for the unbanked and underbanked.
The pandemic has drawn people’s attention to social injustice and economic disparities in the United States. The upheaval is giving rise to a better understanding of the impact of racial, ethnic, gender and geographic inequalities on all aspects of life, including personal finances.
The point was highlighted when the government wanted to distribute stimulus payments to help those struggling during the pandemic: it took longer to reach those most in need. They were less likely to have a bank account and had to wait for checks to be written and mailed to them.
Timing is everything. “Now digital banks are popping up everywhere,” Allen said.
Unlike others, Capway is a lifestyle brand built around financial services. It’s not just about banking and debit cards, but also education about financial literacy and the lack of trust that low-income people and immigrants, in particular, have in financial institutions.
Young people, women, and people of color are drawn to the startup because the founder represents those groups. Allen’s grandmother had kept her money in the mattress. “People said to me, ‘I don’t trust banks,'” Allen said. “But, you understand me. Sign me up.”
“Our content is more relevant than NerdWallet,” Allen said. It’s written for people who have $70,000 stashed somewhere in their house, make $100,000, but still live paycheck to paycheck and can’t pay their bills for the next three months if they lose their jobs. It’s not just about financial literacy; it’s about people’s emotional problems with money.
“I didn’t want to be a role model, but I take that responsibility seriously,” Allen said. When most people think of the founders of technology, they think of a man who studied at Harvard or Stanford and is based in California, New York or Boston. “No, you can be a black girl from a country town,” Allen said. She is on the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
In 2015, when the opportunity to be in a documentary appeared, Allen jumped at the chance. Nora Poggi and Insiyah Saeed approached her after Allen presented at a conference. “Representation is important,” Allen said. Poggi and Saeed had directed and produced She started it and were at the editing of the film.
“Being an entrepreneur is associated with being a man,” said Nora Poggi, director and producer of She started it. One way to change that is to show that women are taking the leap and succeeding. The company subtly and less subtly signals to women that they are not welcome as high-growth tech entrepreneurs. The film sets the record straight and the producers wanted to include Allen.
The documentary was released in 2016. To this day, women and girls still come to Allen to tell him how inspiring she and the film are to them.
How do you inspire the next generation of female tech founders?