As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen Anderson’s.
As part of the 5% of women CEOs in the male-dominated fintech industry, Kristen Anderson has made it her mission to provide the growing freelancer professional pool with the tools to have more confidence and security in their finances. Catch is a Y-Combinator company that has raised $20 million from world-class investors like Crosslink Capital, Khosla Ventures, and Kindred Ventures. Kristen leads the company’s finance, growth, and marketing functions.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in Reno, Nevada, in a blue-collar community. The reason I was able to go to college — and be a first-generation graduate — was because of the benefits my father had through his union job. My parents taught me a lot about finances and benefits, and the stresses that come along with it, so I truly know and understand just how important they are and the financial security they create.
I received my master’s in International Business from Hult International Business School and bachelor’s in Mathematics and Economics from Pepperdine University. After college, I worked to design and scale innovative savings products that now serve more than 80 million consumers. I also served as the Director of Product at an early-stage fintech company, helping launch one of the first student loan repayment benefits platforms.
What do you specialize in, and why should someone choose you over your competitors in your field?
Catch is the first and only personal payroll and benefits company built for freelancers. Using Catch, people can automatically route their income — for free — divvying it up for taxes, retirement, and savings.
The current experience of looking for independent health insurance today is confusing and cluttered. People didn’t leave their full-time jobs to become experts in insurance jargon like deductibles or to learn the nuances between HMO and PPO plans. There are too many hurdles in the way of them getting their work done. That’s what Catch solves. Catch helps individuals identify and apply for quality health and dental insurance at the lowest possible price.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting?
Early on in my journey as a founder, I underestimated the value of my time. There is a change in perspective, transitioning from being an operator — someone responsible for a task or a function — to running a business. Finding tools that help you automate a lot of time-consuming tasks and delegating tasks to team members, who are experts in their field, is incredibly important when it comes to running an effective business.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
One of the myths about being a founder or an entrepreneur is that you have total control over your day. Yes, there is greater flexibility in your schedule. However, there is an ocean of various tasks that all need to be completed. Like our customers, some of the manuals, yet necessary tasks can become a drain on my day. It’s important to stay vigilant that I’m spending my time where it’s most useful for our customers, the business, and myself.
Another myth is that it gets easier with time. As a founder, you have to get really comfortable making difficult decisions. The specific tasks, challenges, or decisions evolve as the business does. Being able to find a sense of calm and assurance is a superpower. Personally, I’ve found that reminding myself of why Catch was started and how important the problem that we’re solving is, provides a guide for my decisions and a source of grit.
What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?
As someone who daily speaks to folks that left a traditional 9–5, my number one piece of advice would be to create your own security. Create a baseline for your business, so you know when to scale up or scale down. Run the numbers for what you’re going to need and then build your safety net by getting insurance and setting up your personal payroll.
There is truly no better time to take a chance and try your hand at freelancing. Research shows that there are 11.5 million job openings as hiring cooled and quitting soared in March.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? What would you tell yourself ten to twenty years ago that you wish you knew then?
- Remember that it’s okay to say no. Working at growth-stage companies my whole career has shown me that it’s okay to say no when you have too much on your plate. What you say ‘no’ to is as important as what you say ‘yes’ to. And your mental well-being is pivotal to your success.
- Growth takes time. I’ve had the door closed in my face too many times to count, but I’m proud of where my team and I are today at Catch. People will say no, so don’t get discouraged. One opportunity could manifest itself into 10 more. Take a breath and stay grounded.
- Remind yourself why you started. Catch is solving a massive problem — creating financial security for the millions of Americans working independently. We’re climbing a mountain and there isn’t time to stop. At a startup or young business, the inertia needs to remain moving forward. Use the reason why you started as motivation to keep going.
- Give yourself grace. Not every day is going to go as planned, but you have to cut yourself a break. We’re all trying our best, so give yourself grace when you’re going through challenges.
- Trust your gut. There isn’t always a “right” answer, and there isn’t ever enough data to be sure when you’re in the early days of building. There are a lot (a LOT) of people who are happy to sit on the sidelines and tell you what to do, but at the end of the day, you are the one who is in the arena. Sometimes your intuition is the best tool you have to make decisions.
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?
I used to be an avid traveler, I’ve lived in multiple countries and loved every minute of it. When I started Catch, I realized the importance of being easily accessible for my team, which led me to minimizing travel. So if I had to choose one of the biggest “sacrifices” that I’ve made in the past five plus years, it would be rooting myself in New York to ensure that I am here for my team when they need me. To build something big and enduring you will have to give things up, but the best things are often the hardest things.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Across industries, female representation in C-suite and founder positions is incredibly low. For example, I’m part of the five percent of fintech CEOs that are women. Five percent. Research shows that businesses with female decision-makers have higher returns. Research also shows that teams with diverse experiences make better decisions — so, of course, you want diverse teams at the very top, making the most high-impact decisions. You need an array of perspectives, which means you have to have an array of representation, even outside of gender.