Q&A with OakNorth Co-Founder Rishi Khosla FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature

The 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator follows five highly successful programs produced by FIS and The Venture Center. This year’s Accelerator will be conducted entirely virtually. In our FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature series, we’re peeling back some layers and getting to know the 2021 cohort founders. We hope you enjoy hearing from the cohort companies – be sure and save the date for Demo Day on August 26!

For our first Founder Feature, please meet Rishi Khosla, Co-Founder and CEO of OakNorth. OakNorth is the creator of the ON Credit Intelligence Suite, proven cloud software that is transforming commercial lending with banks around the world. Learn more at onci.oaknorth.com.

The VC: Where did the idea for OakNorth originate?

Khosla: The idea for OakNorth began in 2005 when my co-founder, Joel Perlman, and I were looking for a working capital facility to support our growing business.  At the time, this was Copal Partners, a financial research firm we founded three years previously. Despite being a profitable business with solid cash flow and retained clients, none of the commercial banks were willing to lend to us. The facility was too small to offset the bank’s costs for assessing and analyzing our financials and structuring a credit offering for our needs. A few months later through one of our institutional client’s special situations desk, we managed to secure funding. So, an institutional division of a bank was able to support us, but the commercial lending part of the bank was not…   

After scaling Copal Partners to a 3,000-employee business and selling it to Moody’s Corporation in 2014, we set out to address the funding gap we had experienced first-hand and help growing businesses achieve their potential. 

TVC: What problem does OakNorth solve?

Khosla: OakNorth seeks to empower the “Missing Middle”.  These are growth businesses that significantly impact economic and employment growth but still struggle to secure fast, flexible debt finance.  

Historically, there’s been a massive focus on tech efficiency within the retail and small SME space, and a massive focus on people within the corporate and large business space. As a result, the segment of the market we focus on (mid-market growth companies) has been overlooked and underserved for decades.

Whether you’re an owner-managed business looking for a £500k loan, or a small cap listed business looking for a £20m loan, the issue is the same and your requirement for a bespoke, structured lending solution is the same.

TVC: What’s the best book you have ever read?

Khosla: The best books I’ve ever read are “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” and  “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel. I found them helpful in terms of understanding the challenges of wartime CEOs and that this was particularly relevant given the challenges of the last 15 months with COVID.

 TVC: Who has been your most influential mentor?

Khosla: My father has been a great influence on me on my business journey so far. The biggest thing I’ve learned from him is that if you have a strong work ethic, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. 

Read the full article here