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Celebrating African-American Voices and Fintech Innovation on the Finovate Stage

Celebrating African-American Voices and Fintech Innovation on the Finovate Stage

To kick off Finovate’s commemoration of Black/African-American History Month this year, we’re highlighting some of the Black and African-American fintech professionals who represented their companies and their fintech innovations at our Finovate conferences in 2023.

Andre Llewellyn – Marketing Consultant/Advisory Board Member with AI Squared

Along with company CTO Michelle Bonat, Andre Llewellyn helped demonstrated the new Generative AI-based features on AI Squared’s platform at FinovateFall last year.

The company’s technology enables financial services companies to leverage Generative AI – and their own data – to maximize their enterprise assets.

A marketing consultant and AI Squared Advisory Board member, Llewellyn is a marketing veteran whose insights helped fuel new product and brand launches for Procter & Gamble, Instagram, Hashflow, and Candy Digital. He is a graduate of the NYU Stern School of Business.

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Michael Duncan – CEO and Founder of Bankjoy

Michael Duncan’s Bankjoy made its first Finovate appearance in 2016.

The company, which returned to the Finovate stage in 2022 and 2023 for FinovateFall, helps community banks and credit unions access modern banking technology. Bankjoy’s solutions help FIs better target specific market niches and deliver superior digital banking experiences.

Duncan (CEO) co-founded Bankjoy in 2015. Headquartered in Royal Oak, Michigan, Bankjoy has more than 60 clients, more than 120 integrations, and serves more than 1 million customers and members of banks and credit unions. This week, the company announced a new partner – Oregon State Credit Union – that will deploy Bankjoy’s online account opening and loan application.

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Ryan Nichols – Solutions Engineer with DataVisor

Mountain View, California-based DataVisor made its Finovate debut last year at FinovateFall 2023.

Solutions Engineer Ryan Nichols (shown) joined company CRO Kevin McWey on stage as they demoed DataVisor’s Fraud & Risk Platform. The company’s solution supports the entire fraud workflow in a self-service solution that is single and flexible.

A software developer and solutions architect with experience at firms like CenturyLink and Internet publisher Giant Oak, Nichols joined DataVisor in 2021. As of the spring of 2023, he is both a Cryptocurrency Tracing Certified Examiner (CTCE) and a Certified Cryptocurrency Risk Specialist (CCRS).

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Nate Gibbons – Chief Experience Officer with QuickFi

Nate Gibbons, QuickFi’s Chief Experience Officer, is no stranger to Finovate audience – nor to the Finovate Best of Show awards.

The company, an innovator in embedded financing for business equipment, has won Best of Show on two occasions: FinovateSpring 2022 and 2023. And Gibbons was part of the winning team both times (along with colleague Jillian Munson, VP of Process & Automation with QuickFi).

An alum of the University of Rochester Simon Business School, Gibbons is also a Certified Lease and Finance Professional (CLFP). Previous to his tenure at QuickFi, he was Project Manager and subsequently Vice President at First American Equipment Finance.

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Malia Lazu – Founder and CEO of The Lazu Group

Malia Lazu is founder and CEO of The Lazu Group.

The company is an Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion firm that consists of The Urban Labs (services) and Lexicon (products). The Lazu Group made its Finovate debut last year at FinovateSpring, demoing its CULTURL Heritage Calendar that offers “content, ideas, and resources for creating timely communication to promote empathy and curiosity and encourage cross-cultural dialogue.”

Lazu is a speaker, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an author. Her book, From Intention to Impact: A Practical Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, was published this year. Lazu is also a former banking professional, having worked as EVP and Chief Experience and Culture Officer for Berkshire Bank in Boston.

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Matthew Parker – Founder and CEO of ModernTax

ModernTax founder and CEO Matthew Parker introduced his company to Finovate audiences last year at FinovateSpring. ModernTax is a data company that makes tax and financial data on non-public entities more accessible. The company has created a verification platform that includes more than seven million businesses, and ModernTax has validated tax records for “hundreds of thousands” of them.

Before launching ModernTax, Parker was co-founder and CEO of, a SaaS platform that connects accountants, enrolled agents, and tax professionals to their clients online. We caught up with him last fall to talk about the founding of ModernTax and what it means to have a more transparent financial ecosystem.

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Ariam Sium – VP of Product with FinGoal

FinGoal first introduced itself to Finovate audiences at FinovateFall in 2021. But it was the company’s return to the Finovate stage the following spring that earned the Colorado-based fintech its first Best of Show award.

Led by Ariam Sium, VP of Product (shown) and Jenn Underwood, Product Analyst, FinGoal’s demo of its Aggregator Switch Kit showed how developers can readily transition from their current data aggregator to access the most enriched and reliable data available.

Finovate VP and host of the Finovate podcast Greg Palmer sat down with Sium in the wake of FinGoal’s Best of Show win last year. Check out their conversation from last summer.

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Benjamin Harvey – CEO of AI Squared CEO

AI Squared made its Finovate debut at FinovateSpring 2023. The company, founded in 2019 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., specializes in helping companies integrate AI and machine learning functionality into any web-based application. Leading the company’s demo was founder and CEO Benjamin Harvey.

With a Master’s degree and a Doctor of Science in Computer Science – as well as years spent as both a Research and Assistant Professor – Harvey brings a wealth of academic experience to the challenge of entrepreneurship and innovation in the fintech space.

We discussed this, and other aspects of his background and goals, in a Finovate blog interview back in August of last year.

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Photo by Christina Morillo