David Vélez, Founder and CEO of Nubank | Summary and Q&A

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May 2, 2022
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Stanford Graduate School of Business
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David Vélez, Founder and CEO of Nubank

TL;DR

Nubank, the largest digital bank in the world, was founded by David Vélez and has grown rapidly, overcoming challenges and focusing on customer obsession and cultural values.

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Key Insights

  • 🌎 Nubank's success stems from its relentless focus on solving problems and creating impact in Latin America's banking industry.
  • 😤 It is crucial to find the right balance between experienced insiders and innovative outsiders when building a team.
  • 💪 Creating a strong organizational culture is essential, and it should align with business objectives and drive meaningful impact.
  • 😀 Latin America faces a shortage of tech talent, especially engineers, which poses an opportunity for the region to reinvent itself and prevent further income inequality.

Transcript

[MUSIC] David, Bienvenido

Gracias. >> Welcome back to Stanford, welcome back to the GSB. Ten years ago, you would have been sitting out in those seats contemplating your graduation just six weeks away. Today, you founded New Bank, the world's largest digital bank with over 50 million customers and valued at almost $30 billion. So, on behalf of a... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did David Vélez's family background influence his entrepreneurial journey?

Vélez's family of entrepreneurs instilled a sense of hustling, problem-solving, and leadership. They encouraged him to question norms and find his own path in business.

Q: What motivated Vélez to start Nubank and focus on the banking industry?

Vélez saw the banking industry as the hardest and most impactful challenge in Latin America. He aimed to bring competition to the oligopoly structure and provide better banking options to the population.

Q: How does Nubank maintain its customer obsession and cultural values as it scales?

Nubank's culture deck acts as the constitution of the company, outlining its values and principles. Vélez presents this deck to every new employee and emphasizes transparency, simplicity, and alignment with customer needs.

Q: How does Nubank address the potential damage of financial products, such as consumer debt?

Nubank focuses on providing products that align with customer needs and uses advanced underwriting and fraud detection systems. The company aims to be transparent in its communication and maintain a long-term relationship with customers.

Summary

In an interview at Stanford University, David Vélez, the CEO of Nubank, discusses his journey from Stanford student to founder of the world's largest digital bank. He shares about growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, his time at Stanford, and his experience at Sequoia before starting Nubank. Vélez also talks about the importance of culture, the challenges in Latin America's tech and engineering talent market, and his decision to sign the giving pledge.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did growing up in a family of entrepreneurs influence your career path?

Vélez talks about how his parents and extended family were all entrepreneurs, and how he grew up in an environment that encouraged problem-solving and taking charge. He shares anecdotes about working in his father's button company at a young age and how his upbringing shaped his mindset and aspirations.

Q: Why did you decide to attend Stanford for both your undergraduate and graduate studies?

Vélez expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to study at Stanford as an undergraduate and graduate student. He talks about the special influence the university had on him, the friendships he made, and the impact it had on his personal and professional development.

Q: What were you looking for from Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)?

Vélez shares that he wanted to start something but also make a meaningful impact, especially in Latin America. He reflects on the importance of continuous learning and challenging oneself, and how he wanted to connect his education at Stanford with the goal of creating an impact in the region.

Q: Why did you choose to work for Sequoia after graduating from the GSB?

Vélez explains that he saw the opportunity at Sequoia as a chance to be closer to entrepreneurship and venture capital investors, as well as to learn from and work with some of the best entrepreneurs in the world. He saw it as a stepping stone towards starting his own business in the future.

Q: How did you balance working at Sequoia and studying at Stanford?

Vélez describes his intense schedule, waking up early to work at Sequoia from 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM, attending classes at Stanford, then returning to Sequoia until late evening. He acknowledges the sacrifices he made, including giving up social activities, but highlights the importance of finding a balance and focusing on what truly mattered.

Q: When did you know you were getting traction with consumers?

Vélez explains that Nubank initially faced challenges and setbacks but started gaining traction when a niche publication highlighted their card. He remembers the sudden surge of customers and the realization that they were onto something. This event marked a turning point and demonstrated the demand and excitement for Nubank's products.

Q: What is the driving force behind Nubank's culture?

Vélez emphasizes the importance of culture and its alignment with business objectives. He shares that Nubank's culture is based on values such as ownership, transparency, and customer obsession. The company's culture deck, which was co-designed by the initial team members, serves as their guiding principles in decision-making and shaping the organization's identity.

Q: How do you maintain Nubank's culture as the company grows?

Vélez explains that maintaining the company culture requires a conscious effort. He mentions the monthly culture deck presentation he personally conducts for new hires and the ongoing focus on hiring individuals who embody and contribute to the culture. Vélez highlights the importance of integrity and aligning actions with words to reinforce and preserve the company's values.

Q: What challenges does Latin America still face in terms of tech and engineering talent?

Vélez acknowledges the lack of tech and engineering talent in Latin America as a significant challenge. He highlights the urgent need to attract and nurture more engineers in the region. Without addressing this issue, Latin America risks being overtaken by foreign technology companies and exacerbating income inequality. Vélez stresses the importance of entrepreneurs and engineers in driving the region's economic and societal transformation.

Q: Why did you decide to sign the giving pledge?

Vélez and his wife, Maria, signed the giving pledge because they saw their growing wealth as a responsibility to make a significant impact. They felt they didn't need the money personally and wanted to use their resources to address societal issues and income inequality. Inspired by others, Vélez believes in using wealth for philanthropy and making a difference while still alive.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • David Vélez, founder of Nubank, discusses his journey from growing up in Colombia to founding the world's largest digital bank.

  • He highlights the influence of his entrepreneurial family and his time at Stanford as a GSB alum.

  • Vélez emphasizes the importance of problem-solving, questioning norms, and creating impact in Latin America.

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