Tech Spotlight: An Interview with Hrishi Dixit, Chief Technology Officer

We are introducing a new interview series from the YieldStreet Blog – Oxpecker and Impala – with members from the YieldStreet team. These talks will help you get to know us better as a company, our values, and what makes us tick. (Side note – our logo depicts an impala and an oxpecker. Learn why here). Our first discussion is with Hrishi Dixit, YieldStreet’s Chief Technology Officer. Hrishi has over two decades of experience in the tech space as both an engineer and angel investor. What was your childhood like? I was born in Pune, India and moved to the U.S. in 1994. Our family owned a bookshop – the oldest in the city – and it was like a second home to me. My parents were very liberal and progressive. They both had intellectual backgrounds. Both encouraged my sister and I to pursue our passions and they were always proud of our accomplishments. We were not wealthy growing up but never wanting. What were you like as a student? I was a geek. My sister is very artistic, she is a writer and an actress. I had always been interested in science, math and computers. I got my BE in mechanical engineering because computer science wasn’t offered at my college at that time. After undergrad I got a scholarship through Cornell and Xerox to go to grad school in the US. Tell me about Gordian Labs. Gordian was a boutique software consulting and product development company I started in 2006 with some friends from California. We did software development projects for some large financial institutions but largely enjoyed bootstrapping young tech startups like LearnVest and Twilio. And then you joined LearnVest full time? Yes, I joined LearnVest full time in 2009 as a technical founder and CTO. I built the underlying technology and put together the tech team from the beginning. It was exciting to be a part of the company as it evolved from a content company to providing money tools to a planning engine. Working through each step was important and always provided an extra challenge. How did you get involved with YieldStreet? I met Milind in late 2014 through a professor at Columbia who taught a class, a joint offering between the CS department and the business school. We both served as advisors to the program. He pitched me on YieldStreet and I thought it was an amazing idea. I served as an outside advisor for two years after building the baseline technology stack, before formally joining in February 2017 as CTO.
“A lot of the innovation happening in fintech hasn’t necessarily been around discovering new industries or products, but rather taking financial products, which have traditionally been very unwieldy and confusing, and improving the user experience.”
Why has technology disrupted the financial sector so abruptly? A lot of the innovation happening in fintech hasn’t necessarily been around discovering new industries or products, but rather taking financial products, which have traditionally been very unwieldy and confusing, and improving the user experience. Because of this dynamic, there has been an increase in awareness and enhanced accessibility. Then there are technological developments, like blockchain, that have found an initial home in fintech but have implications far beyond. Where do you see YieldStreet in a few years? I think there are a few broad expansion areas, but the most important is growing our audience. Unlike a traditional financial firm, we can reach millions of investors at once, something that wouldn’t be possible through just human interaction. I think we will be able to start serving investors earlier in their financial journey and the best way to do that is by building new products. What other tech companies do you look to as inspiration? Acorns has done a great job with its ease of use and interface. Companies like Fabric (life insurance) and Better (mortgages) have simplified extremely complicated services to the benefit of their users. Spotify has done remarkable work in customizing a product for a particular person by using behavioral data. Discover Weekly is an amazing product in terms of accuracy. Although not a fintech product, it’s a role model for how to use data to personalize a product. What do you like most about YieldStreet? The whiskey bar…but it’s really about the people and the culture. Everyone has such an amazing pedigree. From a working level, YieldStreet achieves the three things I find most important in building a product: it’s meaningful, it generates revenue and it involves interesting technology challenges. It seems obvious but it’s hard to come by all three. There is also something to be said about the experience of the founders. Michael and Milind have a dynamic skill set combo and have decades of complementary experience.
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