“Before the A” is a show dedicated to telling the stories of fintech founders who’s startups are seeking their “A round” of financing. Fintech founder Paul Kesserwani joined John Siracusa on the podcast to share Cushion’s mission, his professional life prior to becoming a CEO, and words of wisdom for more fintech leaders. Cushion, a Flourish portfolio company, automatically negotiates bank fees and credit card interest on behalf of consumers.
John Siracusa: (01:31)
So why don’t we talk about first, what does the Cushion do?
Paul Kesserwani: (1:34)
Sure. So at Cushion our goal is to basically build a digital version of a CFO for the consumer. So essentially a product that will manage your finances for you, but that’s a very ambitious goal and we had to start with something concrete that could gain consumer trust. So we built the first product that would negotiate people’s bank fees and credit card interest for them automatically.
John Siracusa: (01:55)
Okay. Why did you decide to do that?
Paul Kesserwani: (2:01)
Yeah, definitely. So back in 2016, I was taking some time off after my long stint at Twitter and my parents were having some financial issues.
John Siracusa: (02:10)
What did you do at Twitter?
Paul Kesserwani: (2:12)
I founded the revenue operations team there and our goal was to scale revenue both in the U S and internationally. And I also spent about a year as a product manager for their ads API. Yeah. So my parents go back and forth between the U S and Lebanon. That’s where I grew up and they had some issue with the U S bank and they couldn’t really get a hold of them. So I had to kind of triage the mess. And in the meantime they had fees that were compounding over time. And so while I was dealing with their situation, I realized that I had done so much traveling during my Twitter days that I had accrued hundreds of dollars in fees, like foreign transactions, monthly service charges, etc.
They definitely compound. And dealing with the bank is just not fun, but not only that, I felt like our loyalty of being with them for 15–20 years didn’t count at all. And so that started to really infuriate me and I thought well I’m gonna probably go start a company at some point and I really need a service to manage my finances for me. Cause I’m going to be very busy. So I set on a mission to find that product that led to downloading every single consumer finance app, surveying hundreds of people and realizing that there was a lot of products out there that sent out alerts and notifications where they put the work on you or they automated something very trivial like canceling a subscription or moving money from a checking account to a savings account.
But I remember thinking what about the, the meaty stuff that requires a lot of 20–30 minutes of time, you’re actually running a bunch of calculations and then going and acting on it and I couldn’t find that product. Now I realized holy snap, over a hundred million Americans need help.
Where’s this product? Why doesn’t exist?
And so I set out to build that company.