Meet the Team: Janina Lieser
Q&A with Silicon Foundry’s Principal
Janina Lieser is a Principal at Silicon Foundry working closely with Members including Invesco, NatWest, and Standard Chartered. Before joining Silicon Foundry, Janina led Product & Marketing at Grasshopper Bank, the first digital commercial bank in the US serving startups, VCs, and private equity firms. Prior to that, she worked across different FinTech startups and financial services organizations in London, San Francisco, and now New York.
Tell us about your career path — what are the key experiences that led you to Silicon Foundry?
My first job paved the way for me. I was running Cisco’s European customer reference program, which involved identifying early adopters and writing case studies for the sales and marketing teams that demonstrated how Cisco technologies were transforming businesses. I was fascinated by the impact technology could have on customer, employee, and partner experiences, and ultimately an organization’s revenue. That role helped me understand I wanted to be in a position that was responsible for creating those innovations and driving change. The roles that followed spanned across both corporates (RBS, Deloitte) and startups (Monitise, Pivotus Ventures, Grasshopper Bank), often as a middle(wo)man building bridges between different groups of stakeholders. I have worked in product, marketing, and customer success, which has allowed me to see the whole product development process from the incubation of an idea, to building and scaling it, marketing and selling, and then implementation and service. I was drawn to Foundry because of the impressive and varied member base, broad connectivity to the startup ecosystem, and high impact work we do with both.
You’ve joined Silicon Foundry from the startup side of things. How does this perspective impact your approach to working with Members?
The move into the startup space from the corporate world was quite a battle. Seven years ago, I desperately wanted to work for a startup, but a key concern I heard during interviews was that I was too “corporate and institutionalized.” Luckily, my roles in the corporate world involved engaging with many different startups and eventually I was able to join a startup that I had worked with previously.
My approach is really influenced by having been on both sides of the corporate and the startup worlds. It gives me a lot of of empathy and understanding for the constraints each side operates within. It turns out that knowing how large organizations operate, the processes they must adhere to and the stakeholder requirements they manage is a great asset when helping startups navigate what can be a minefield. Having also been on the startup side, I know the pressures for growth and the short runway you have to make things happen. Unfortunately, many can’t afford a twelve-eighteen month enterprise sales cycle. Being smart about who you partner with, how you build, and how you approach sales can be key differentiator when looking to sell into, partner with or be acquired by a corporate.
What “superpower” do you bring to the team?
Where I thrive most is making things real and actionable — turning a vague idea into a vision, turning a vision into a logical roadmap of steps, and figuring out how to motivate people to take those steps. I like turning chaos into structure and making sense of what may seem non-sensical. Given the space we operate in and who we work with, there never is a shortage of opportunity, but knowing how to prioritize, where to start, and where to go next is crucial not only for our members, but also for us as a company.
Given your industry focus on Financial Services, how do you envision the growth of this practice area at the firm.
I started my first role in Financial Services at the WORST possible time, October 2008: the height of the financial crisis. RBS, which I had just joined, went through the most dramatic time in its history and was being bailed out by the government. The media were tearing into RBS and other banks. I always felt that banks had this huge opportunity to impact society in a positive way, but failed to deliver on that impact. Money enables everything we do and I didn’t understand how banks weren’t a more active part in people’s lives, supporting them by being more than just a transaction enabler. We are now at a point where banks recognize this potential and are actively working to extend their services beyond the traditional expectations of a bank. Banks today want to be more relevant and tightly integrated into people’s lives. There is a meaningful opportunity for us to help banks define what relevance means across their retail and institutional clients, and identify the enabling technologies, partnerships, and business models that can power these experiences.
Looking into the future, I expect we will see more members interested in FinTech solutions from outside of the financial sector, as more organizations recognize the value of embedding financial products and services into existing experiences. Think Human Resources platforms/payroll providers, commerce platforms, communities of interest…Banking-as-a-Service platforms have enabled players to (relatively) quickly and easily stand up new banking propositions, create beautiful end-to-end propositions, and leverage the captive audience they have.
What sector or industry trend are you most fascinated by at the moment?
While COVID-19 has brought so much tragedy, from lost lives to lost business to lost dreams, it has also been a fundamental driving force for change and innovation — at a pace no one could have imagined. I am eagerly watching how this will impact consumer behavior in the long-term and change how we shop, eat, learn, communicate, travel, play, and work. I am curious to see how the arts and entertainment industry will bounce back and create new digital, immersive experiences, what types of new movie formats and production techniques may be deployed to continue to feed our Netflix cravings, how we make eating out feel safe (and comfortable again), how we reinvent meeting culture, and how we turn ‘Zoom fatigue’ to ‘Zoom magic.’
Most of all though, I am interested in how we build (and maintain) communities and connections, beyond the way we do today. I expect more and more companies to think about how they can facilitate this and create new mechanisms of engagement with consumers that are increasingly lonely and disconnected.