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Financial technology veteran settles in at business accelerator SixThirty

Atul Kamra, Managing Partner, SixThirty

The new managing partner of St. Louis-based financial technology business accelerator SixThirty is bringing plenty of experience to the job.

Atul Kamra has spent more than a quarter century in the financial services sector including a stint overseeing investments and advice quality for Wells Fargo Advisors.

He joined SixThirty this spring. The program pumps up to $100,000 into financial technology startups each year, while providing training, mentoring and networking opportunities. It's supported by venture capital firm Cultivation Capital and the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

Kamra recently spoke with St. Louis Public Radio about the region's Fintech sector, his vision for SixThirty, and how his experience should be an asset for program.

Here are some of the highlights:

On the role of SixThirty

He realizes the accelerator is in competition for the best ideas, but says a strength is that it goes beyond the traditional role of taking an idea and trying to move it to a product. Kamra wants to attract startups with some traction and hopefully revenue and then serve as a gateway to St. Louis's financial services community.

On measuring success

Kamra says he is focusing on a couple of key metrics: how well SixThirty is able to attract and grow the best new ideas in the financial services sector and whether the startups develop into entities with significant value to themselves, the community and financial backers.

On the qualities of a successful entrepreneur

He says it takes a combination of "discontent and endurance." Kamra is convinced that most startup founders are not happy with how something is getting done. They want to improve the process. He says they also need to have the endurance to stick with their ideas. "Persistence is the one human characteristic with the highest payoff."

On applying his background to the new job

Kamra says his previous work at large companies provides the knowledge of how things get done and how key decisions are made. That knowledge allows him to bring "the art of the probability" to those trying to grow their ideas.

On the strengths of St. Louis

He says most entrepreneurs are under the impression that more people will notice them if they locate along the West Coast. But the big players in the St. Louis region are starting to recognize the importance of innovative companies. The startups that become part of SixThirty have access to advice from some leaders in the industry including Edward Jones, Stifel Nicolaus and Scottrade, which all have a large presence in the region. St. Louis is one of the largest financial technology hubs outside New York City.

On the best way to raise visibility

At the core, this solution sounds simple enough. Kamra says it is essential to link the accelerator to the fundamental purpose of driving economic activity in the city. He says attracting the best ideas and helping them commercialize could bring more financial technology entrepreneurs and a cycle of success will take hold.

"I think we can make some good chemistry happen here."

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.