Meet the Team: John Zamora
Learn about our team members and what led them to Silicon Foundry.
Prior to Silicon Foundry, John was a Senior Business Analyst at a Series A fintech startup in Southeast Asia, where he gained experience in venture-building in emerging markets. He also brings a background in advising F500 corporations on global business strategy at the Albright Stonebridge Group and managing investment portfolios at AllianceBernstein. He earned a degree in Global Business from the University of Southern California where he was a Questbridge Scholar.
What are the experiences that led you to Silicon Foundry?
Coming from a family of first-generation Americans, I thought I’d become an immigration lawyer until I discovered social entrepreneurship at USC. Inspired by start-ups like Tala, Loon, and Zipline, which leverage emerging technology to solve global challenges, I interned at USAID with teams that supported innovative social entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Having seen public sector innovation at work, I wanted to understand how change happens at large corporations, investment firms, and start-ups. This led to working with teams at the Albright Stonebridge Group (a global strategy firm led by Madeleine Albright), at AllianceBernstein (a leading investment manager), and at First Circle (a fintech lending start-up).
From these experiences, two consistent themes emerged that led me to Silicon Foundry:
- Globalization and emerging technology have blurred the lines separating public, corporate, and start-up organizations — sparking new opportunities for firms to accelerate growth through cross-sector collaboration.
- Culture shifts and new business models have enabled consumers and businesses to reimagine the role of financial services, leading to fundamental shifts in how we transact, invest, borrow, and save.
I’m excited to continue feeding this curiosity in emerging technology by partnering with Members as they navigate paradigm shifts and optimize for impact.
How has your time spent working in emerging markets affected your perspective on innovation?
Venture-building is tough: it’s often cited that 90% of start-ups fail. Having recently spent a few years in the Philippines working to scale a Series A-funded fintech start-up that lends to SMEs, I developed an appreciation for the challenges and rewards of emerging market venture-building.
You’re in an environment where data and connectivity are unreliable, laws can change overnight, and the occasional earthquake, volcanic eruption, and typhoon (all of which hit Manila in 2020) can make your chances of success seem even slimmer.
Despite these challenges (and perhaps because of them), innovation in emerging markets has boomed. As an example, looking at Southeast Asia on the Global Innovation Index 2020: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines all now rank in the top 50 (far from the case just a few years ago). Additionally, Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta now ranks 2nd in start-up Genome’s Top 100 Emerging Ecosystems 2020. Start-ups in these markets seek to reinvent entire industries or create new ones. Their growth has been empowered by digital adoption, decentralization of information and technology, a surge in new accelerators, and an increasing volume of venture funding.
While instability in local conditions can slow progress more often than in developed markets, there’s no shortage of excitement from resilient founders in these regions looking to build creative, localized solutions that address fundamental problems. As large corporates are usually the most influential ecosystem enablers in these markets, I’m curious to see what innovative outcomes can be achieved by increasing complementary partnerships.
What’s your “superpower”?
My Myers-Briggs personality type is ENFP, aka “The Campaigner,” which may stem from my experiences studying global business and supporting a team of diplomats in Washington, DC. My favorite conversations are usually about abstract and meaningful ideas and I enjoy helping others in building roadmaps to get from point A to point B.
What’s a top-of-mind trend/technology you’ve been excited about lately?
Financial technology (fintech) has always fascinated me. We live in a time where entire banks can live solely off of mobile screens (Chime), non-financial firms like Walmart and Amazon are looking to enter the ring, ownership of digital art can sell for millions of dollars, and cryptocurrency is no longer a foreign concept but an institutionalized offering (just look at the mass adoption of Bitcoin.)
Personally, I’m also curious to understand how younger, emerging consumers and investors are reacting to fintech innovation in two areas:
- When (two of my favorite) Grammy award-winning artists like RAC and Flume began using non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to sell mixtapes and songs for thousands of dollars, these actions sparked conversations about the potential benefits financial innovation can bring to the creator economy.
- With all hype surrounding GameStop in recent months, I’m interested to see how start-ups like Public (allowing you to see and invest into stocks that your friends invest in) and Republic (breaking down barriers to venture investing) will impact this new generation of social investors.