Phin Upham: how fintech startups can fight the crisis caused by Covid-19
Phin Upham: how fintech startups can fight the crisis caused by Covid-19

Phin Upham: how fintech startups can fight the crisis caused by Covid-19

By Roberta Di Mario - 12 Sep 2020

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Samuel Phineas Upham, referred to as Phin Upham, is a US fintech investor. He is a managing partner of Haymaker Capital, a private SF investment firm focused on both early-stage technology and advanced technology.

In a recent interview, he explained how startups and investors should use the fundraisers set up to fight Covid-19, illustrating how investors should respond to the recent crisis. 

Phin compared the historical period we are living through to an experience he had in college: with his psychology class he was taken 40 km away from school without money or documents with the task of surviving for three days. Upham says that it is like being on a desert island with no clothes and no possibility to get in touch with the rest of the world: 

“I think the current environment kind of reminds me of those two scenarios, you have a bunch of people who only existed in fintech, when things were good and you could get venture capital money and it was all about bluff and marketing and getting out there and asking for stuff and your evaluation was your negotiating point and now we’re in the island and there’s nothing, there’s the ‘you have to figure out your own stuff’.”

He also pointed out that the VCs are not doing well and that in the last period technology companies have gone from being the bad guy to becoming heroes, promptly overcoming the crisis by hiring staff. 

However, he goes on to say:

“I’m kind of scared for VCs, in the sense that it’s gonna be a lot harder to start a VC and a lot harder to start a startup”, worrying that banks, instead of helping startups, might be taking them down.

For Upham, payment and money transfers have always been the most exciting part of the fintech industry and niche companies have higher growth margins. Incidentally, with new technologies, customer acquisition costs have fallen significantly.

As stated by him, fintech has always been innovative in trying to do something new, but Upham thinks the industry has lost so much because it has only offered new tools or cheaper versions of traditional products, forgetting that in reality to solve the crisis problems have to be solved radically, from the bottom up.

In conclusion, he has addressed his interest in culture. In the FinTech world, there are huge sums of money involved, there are regulations involving supervision and culture becomes incredibly important.

Who is Phineas Upham

He graduated in philosophy from Harvard and completed his studies at a graduate school (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) regarding the support and encouragement of technical innovation. He was a visiting scholar at Columbia Business School and the Department of Economics at New York University. 

Throughout his life, he has always strived to help others by volunteering to spread awareness of South American and Caribbean cultures, for instance.

He is a long-term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has published three papers that are fundamental to his research and interests: 

  • “Emerging Scientific Research Fonts”,
  • “Positioning Knowledge: Schools of Thought and New Knowledge Creations”, 
  • “Communities of Innovation: Schools of Thought and New Knowledge Creation”.

He was CEO of Thiel Capital, a company specializing in private fintech investments and, thanks to the prestige gained from this experience, he has contributed to the growth and improvement of many fintech companies including Avant, OnDeck and SoFi.



Roberta Di Mario

Roberta Di Mario, born in Rome in 1993, is a university student. After obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Business Management, she is currently studying a Master's Degree in Management and Finance.

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