Sonya Williams & Brooke Roberts

SHARESIES: Women in FinTech

It’s International Women’s Day, so what better occasion to celebrate some of the awesome wāhine that are part of the New Zealand Startup Ecosystem.

Sharesies has working to open up the investment market, inspiring people to invest and making it easy for them to do so (with as little as $5) since they started, as participants in the inaugural Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator, in 2017. We caught up with Sharesies co-founders Brooke Roberts and Sonya Williams to celebrate the growth of the NZ FinTech ecosystem, talk goal-setting and influencers.

What makes you excited about the future of the NZ FinTech sector? Any companies or technologies you’re keeping an eye on?

There’s so much more opportunity for finance and technology to come together to really help Kiwis be financially empowered. By combining these two worlds we’re attempting to help solve this at scale. On the latest tech, it doesn’t cost us much more to serve 100,000 customers with $1 to invest, as it does to serve one customer with $100,000 to invest. We’re really excited about our plans in this space. We also love seeing the fintech ecosystem growing around us too—with startups like Hnry, Jude, Choice just to name a few.

Sharesies’ role is to inspire others to invest and make it easy for people to do so and, in that journey, you’ve raised investment yourselves. What are your key pieces of advice for others raising investment for their company?

Key advice is to only raise if you need to raise. And if you need to raise, make sure you’re thinking about future raises too—for example, look to make sure the founders are holding on to equity and rights so that your business is still ‘investable’ in the future (people investing in later funding rounds will consider this a risk, if founders get too diluted then they may not have enough skin in the game to stick it out when times get tough). Actively look for potential shareholders who really believe in why your business needs to exist and also who believe in you. At the end of the day, they’ll own part of your business, so it’s important to know they are passionate about what you’re doing and are on the journey alongside you.

You’ve been ticking off some pretty big achievements lately – with over $39 million invested, 300k deposits, over $500k paid in dividends in under 2 years – how do you set goals for yourselves and your company?

Being a growth company, with heaps of opportunities ahead of us, we need to be really focused on how we spend our time to make sure we are really helping create the most financially empowered generation. All of Sharesies gets together every year for a day to set the Sharesies strategy. From this, we break down what we need to achieve into quarterly objectives and key results (OKR’s). We then use Trello to break down the tasks we each need to do to achieve our objectives and measure the results.

What benefits did you find going through an accelerator programme?

We can boil it down to three key benefits.

  1. A start date.
    This was important for us as we, along with Leighton, went on extended leave from our roles to kick-start Sharesies. Joining the accelerator gave us a committed date to go full-time to create Sharesies.
  2. Connections.
    In the first week, we were connected with experts and advisors from lawyers and tax consultants to global fintech leaders. It was great to have all these people lined up for us to connect with.
  3. Space.
    At the time we were deciding where we would work from. Having a dedicated place to work from for 3 months (which turned into 6 months) was great as with 7 founders we needed a good amount of space 🙂

Who is a/the person who has influenced you in your life (not your family) and why?

Sonya: Not one person springs to mind. There’s the saying that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and I would say that’s probably the biggest influence for me and something that is always changing throughout my life. In starting Sharesies, it has been great to be surrounded by amazing co-founders, the growing Sharesies team and also the amazing people who have been willing to share their advice with us along the way.

Brooke: I find it hard to narrow down to a person as there are so many amazing people who have influenced my life. Riffing off what Sonya said around the ‘5 people’, I recently became a mum so now I have a group of new parents around me who have been super supportive as we navigate ‘how to parent’.

What’s one question you wish you’d be asked in an interview? And what would your answer be?

Q: What impact do you see Sharesies having on New Zealand?

A: We’re creating the most financially empowered generation. Financial wellness is a key part of our overall wellbeing as a nation and right now so many Kiwis still feel like investing isn’t something they can do. The belief is that you need too much money, there’s too much jargon and the finance industry only care about people with heaps of money. We’ve removed those barriers, and now we want all Kiwis to know that they can be an investor.

We’re also excited about helping New Zealand businesses grow. By getting more Kiwis investing this will result in businesses having access to more capital (money) they can invest in growth.


Applications to Kiwi FinTech close 24 May. Get in touch now!

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