David Stedman, CEO BrightDime
BrightDime social platform:
Upon graduating from UNC with a degree in economics, I started my career at NCNB (now Bank of America) before going back to UNC for an MBA. After Kenan Flagler Business School, I worked on Wall Street in New York (Salomon Brothers, Goldman Sachs) and London (Barclays Capital). I ran a trading desk for Barclays before launching my own hedge fund (Assiduous Strategic Investments). After 20 years in the trading world that catered to the wealthy, I decided to refocus my career on serving the people that needed financial help most: the man in the street, the average Jane and Joe. My partner, Caleb Rowe, and I started BrightDime to do just that.
What was the tipping point in making the change from being a banker on Wall Street to helping the average Jane/Joe?
There was no single event that created the tipping point. As time passed the need became greater and greater especially as the middle class continued to shrink. We researched what was available to the public, and there were no digital solutions that provided coaching, education budgeting, goal track and more through a single platform. In addition, some vendors were offering financial literacy as a way to sell their other products. In some cases, the products they sold could hurt the employee’s financial wellness. We were not sure we would be successful; however, we knew our product was unique and better than any other solution in the market.
Connection to CFH
Our leadership team at BrightDime has been involved in the fintech world in Charlotte for several years. We actively volunteer as coaches with QC Fintech and Innovate Charlotte, participate in and facilitate learning sessions, meet with the CFH Board, and very regularly collaborate with other fintech companies with ties to CFH. Though we market BrightDime nationwide, the fintech ecosystem in Carolina has created the foundation of our business growth. It is a top priority at BrightDime to contribute to and continue to benefit from the CFH organization.
The middle class continues to disappear. Most people are living paycheck to paycheck. Money is the leading cause of stress in America. People don’t have budgets, aren’t planning for the future and don’t know if they’re spending their paychecks wisely. This doesn’t have to be the case! My passion is to offer the tools and coaching that leads people to financial freedom so that they can spend their time thinking about and doing the things they really love. For me, its spending time and sharing experiences with my family and friends, working with smart interesting people and helping the younger generation get a leg up through nonprofits like The Relatives, an organization that helps at risk youth that are caught between foster care and adulthood. The Relatives provide support, shelter and a road map to help these young adults become productive members of our community.
My partner and I didn’t seek to be in the fintech industry. We just realized that fintech was the smartest and most efficient way to succeed in our mission and reach our vision. At BrightDime, we envision a world where every individual has a bright financial future. Our focus is to provide the most innovative and effective ways for financial wellness to become a lifestyle to everyone. Fintech companies can move quickly to game changing technology, but it is the partnership with larger organizations that enables scale. In our case, this scale allows us to truly make a difference in the financial lives of employees across America.
Why the Carolina Region?
Picking the region had more to do with lifestyle and personal goals. My partner and I are both from Charlotte and have settled here with our families. We love the great weather, distinctive food, and a strong sense of community. From a business perspective, there is strong talent, progressive companies and increasingly a focus on growing fintech.
What is Next?
Companies are offering BrightDime to their employees as a benefit. This makes our coaching and platform free or very affordable for the employee. Companies understand that offering employees financial wellness is the right thing to do but also realize that BrightDime can make their workforce more productive. Recently we have seen a huge pickup in growth. BrightDime’s reputation as the most innovative and personalized solution in the market is spreading. We want to spread our goodwill across America and make America financially sound again. A recent partnership with Benefitfocus, a leading cloud-based benefits platform, will go a long way in making this happen. We will also have a couple of other big announcements in the coming months. We are excited about our future and growth trajectory.
What advice do you have for others interested in Fintech?
Talk to anyone that will listen about your product and listen carefully to their ideas. Pay particular attention to people that have lessons learned from their own start-ups. However, things are never black and white, right or wrong. Learn how to play well in the grey zone and think through all the options on a risk/reward basis. Always be willing to change direction. Learn to be thrifty with your capital.
Fintech is constantly innovating and moves at a much faster pace than the banking world. Because of this we have to continue to iterate and create so we stay at the forefront of our market. I also love that people in fintech are pulling for each other. It’s a community where everyone wants the other to succeed. In that vein, I would tell anyone looking to get into fintech to “go for it”! People will be there to help along the way. There’s always a worry of failure but not getting in the game is much worse.