My favorite quote is: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" (Seneca) My favorite sport is: Tennis
James da Costa
Providing access to financial tools to youth on the African continent
BEING UNAFRAID TO THINK BIG. When James da Costa told potential investors he wanted to build a bank from scratch, they looked back skeptically. He understood the risks, hurdles, and scale of his venture, but the potential impact of the enterprise is what keeps him and his three other co-founders motivated. "The best advice I've had was from the partners at Y Combinator, Michael Seibel and Dalton Caldwell, who said that 90% of companies that fail do so because people give up. Actually, if you just keep going, if you just try and find a way, you will probably get out the other side."
James is the co-creator and COO of Fingo, a Neobank based in Kenya aimed at African youth that provides access to financial tools to people who have historically not had access to these services. The platform eliminates the paperwork, laborious process, and excessive fees involved in opening and using a bank account on the continent. "We're the first five-minute bank account you can onboard with in Kenya. But most importantly, we're a product and service built by young Africans for young Africans."
Central to Fingo's USP is that it mirrors the culture, incorporating local lingo and a social chat dynamic, and is a true reflection of a generation often misrepresented. "If I think about Kenyan youth, it is an incredibly inclusive and encouraging environment, but there are a lot of challenges. Young people simply don’t have access to global wealth creation opportunities. That has a real impact on people's lives, but it also makes entrepreneurs out of everyone."
POSITIVELY REFLECTING A MISREPRESENTED GENERATION. For James, as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, it's essential that inclusivity is embedded into Fingo to demonstrate allyship and make strides in removing the stigma on the continent, even with small gestures such as catering to those with fluid gender identity. "There are laws, regulations, social and family expectations in place that make things a bit harder."
Fingo is in part a result of James' global background, with roots in Kenya, India, and the UK. He was raised in the small northern UK city of Sheffield, where he admits he could never bring his full personality to the table, leading him to "run away to achievement."
After earning his economics degree and working at McKinsey's global management consultancy, he traveled extensively around India, Kenya, and China. It inspired him to co-found The Mandala Group in 2016, a social enterprise that enabled illiterate parents to read to their illiterate children.
James has two central goals with what he hopes to achieve with Fingo. On a local level, to create an enduring company and develop a product that positively impacts people's lives. With a macro outlook, he hopes to make a lasting impact on the East African tech landscape. "If I can help to create an ecosystem of enabling others, of safe environments that allow people to thrive, and where existing entrepreneurs support and cycle capital into up and coming entrepreneurs, that would be a legacy I'd be really proud of."