MEDICI now! Q&A With Tim Sheehan, CEO of Greenlight and Alex Baker, Partner at Relay Ventures

July 14, 2017     By : Elena Mesropyan

MEDICI now! Startup Stories highlight the companies that are shaping the new financial technology industry. Keep an eye out each week for new stories! If you or someone you know should be highlighted, send us a note. Without further ado…

MEDICI now! Q&A With Tim Sheena, CEO of Greenlight and Alex Baker, Partner at Relay Ventures

Company Name: Greenlight Financial Technology, Inc.

Name/Title: Tim Sheehan, Co-Founder & CEO

Industry Segment: Family/Personal Finance

Target Market(s): USA

Lead Investor in Latest Round: Relay Ventures: Alex Baker, Partner

LTP: Tim, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tim Sheehan: I’ve been interested in technology and finance for as long as I can remember. My parents bought me a Commodore 64 when I was a kid and I taught myself to program in Basic and Pascal. In my first job, I worked as a programmer for Fannie Mae and then migrated to technology product management. I helped build ESPN.com (at Starwave which was acquired by Disney) and then helped build and launch E*Trade. I ran product and ultimately co-led Yahoo! Finance, which became the most popular finance site on the web. Following that, I was tapped to be SVP & General Manager at Yodlee, the financial account aggregation engine that partnered with most leading financial institutions in the early 2000s and was later acquired by Envestnet. Later on, I served as SVP of Products, Marketing, & Strategy for Fiserv’s Biller Solutions division. I enjoyed my time as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center, and soon thereafter, co-founded Greenlight along with Johnson Cook and John Hagelgans. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people in my career and I’ve learned a ton from them.

On the personal side, I have a wonderful wife, Kelly, and we have four amazing kids. I like to play and watch soccer (especially the English Premier League and the European Champions League) and to spend time at the beach with my family.

LTP: Give us a paragraph pitch of your company.

TS: Greenlight offers the world’s first smart debit card for kids that enables parents to pick the exact stores (e.g., Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, etc.) where their children can spend. Greenlight provides kids with a personalized Greenlight debit card and enables parents to easily manage their kids’ spending using the Greenlight mobile app. Parents can instantly send money to their kids anytime, anywhere. Real-time smartphone notifications tell parents where and when their child spends. Parents can also automate allowances, instantly turn their child’s Greenlight Card on or off, and have change automatically returned to them. With Greenlight, parents can give all the advantages of digital payments to their kids, while keeping them safe and showing them how to save and spend their money in smart ways.

LTP: Alex, at the beginning of June, Relay Ventures announced an investment in Greenlight. Can you share your thoughts on the company? What made this investment possible?

Alex Baker: We have looked at a lot of payments businesses over the years, and Greenlight stands out because people today carry far less cash but need an easy way to give their kids money. People are willing to use and pay for solutions like those delivered by Greenlight, which close this gap between physical and digital cash. Greenlight also has an impressive and experienced management team comprised of people with deep FinTech experience.

In addition, Greenlight’s focus on the family is very important for cultivating financial literacy and positive financial habits in children. Having the tools to monitor their expenditure and to learn to save at their fingertips is key for their target market.

Finally, Greenlight is the ONLY debit card in the world that offers store-level controls, and has already seen significant traction in the market as a result. It’s an important investment in financial literacy for the next generation.

LTP: Tim, in a sentence or two, what problem are you solving today?

TS: Parents are not carrying cash as frequently as they used to because they are paying for most of their purchases with their debit and credit cards, yet they still need to give their kids pocket money and allowances. Also, cash can be lost or stolen; and it’s anonymous, so parents often don’t know where it was spent. Greenlight solves these problems by providing a smart debit card for kids that is safer and more convenient than cash, enabling parents to easily manage their kids’ spending using their mobile phone.

LTP: Who are you selling to?

TS: Greenlight is ideal for savvy parents of kids aged 8 to 18 who want to empower them to make smart decisions with money while keeping them safe.

LTP: Why did you start the company?

TS: Having four kids in our family, Kelly and I are asked for a few bucks a lot! 🙂 Not having cash as often as we used to, we found this to be a big problem. We would sometimes borrow from one of our kids to give to the other. With my 25+ years in FinTech, I started thinking about how a prepaid card could be controlled from my phone, how it would be possible to integrate into the authorization stream and limit spending to a specific store (as opposed to a category of stores), and how convenient and safe that would be for our whole family. A small team of us talked to more than 100 other parents who shared with us that they were experiencing the same problems. The rest, as they say, is history!

LTP: What’s the most important change coming to your segment in the next 3-5 years?

TS: Most purchases will be made via mobile phones.

LTP: What’s your next milestone?

TS: We’re focused on empowering parents to raise their kids to be financially smart. We’ll be rolling out some exciting new capabilities next month.

LTP: Anything else you want to say to our audience?

TS: Having recently added our 10,000th paying customer following our January 2017 launch, and being on track to process more than 1 million transactions this year, we’re just getting started and plan to help parents worldwide to raise financially smart kids. Greenlight is specifically designed to help parents teach their kids how to be smart with money; we hope all of the parents out there reading this will give Greenlight a try.

Bonus – User’s Choice Question(s)!

LTP: Tim, what keeps you awake at night?

TS: There are so many people that Greenlight could help! There’s no time for sleeping! 🙂

LTP: Alex, we appreciate you being a long-time fan of LTP and a supporter of MEDICI since our early days. What do you find particularly useful about our platform?

Alex Baker: LTP and MEDICI do an outstanding job of putting everything in context. I love your value chains! They provide a global view of the competitive landscape that our portfolio companies and prospects operate in; and in turn, a view on where we can expect the competition to emerge.

Thank you, Tim and Alex!

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Elena Mesropyan
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Elena Mesropyan

Global Head of Content at Let's Talk Payments
Elena is a research professional with a background in social sciences and extensive experience in consumer behavior studies and marketing analytics. She is passionate about technologies enabling financial inclusion for underprivileged and vulnerable groups of the population around the world.
Elena Mesropyan
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