A trendsetter in the fintech space, nbkc bank confirmed Wednesday it was discontinuing its popular Fountain City Fintech accelerator after two cohorts. The news follows the departure of the accelerator’s leader, who has joined a San Francisco startup eying Kansas City for its next hiring hub.
“This is the first time in my life that I’ve been running toward something instead of away from something,” said Zach Anderson Pettet, the founding managing director of Fountain City Fintech — now director of strategic partnerships for Bond.tech, a fintech platform that connects banks, fintech companies and brands.
Pettet’s last day at the community bank was Friday, he said, emphasizing the change was prompted by the professional opportunity with Bond, which is expected to see Pettet stay in KC for a keystone role with the startup — building relationships in the Midwest and a team in Kansas City.
Fountain City Fintech was heavily tied to Pettet, and his departure was a primary reason for the bank’s decision to discontinue the accelerator, said Eric Garretson, CFO and fintech strategy leader at nbkc.
“We owe much of the success of [the accelerator] to Zach and the incredible team he built around him, most notably Megan Darnell,” Garretson said, referencing Fountain City Fintech’s program manager. “They have challenged us to think differently, tackle problems we otherwise wouldn’t have, and brought an energy and good humanship to nbkc (we also picked up some of his lingo)!”
Darnell also is no longer with the bank.
“We know both Megan and Zach will continue to do great things,” Garretson continued. “We will always be huge fans of both of them and sincerely appreciate all the work, sweat and tears they have put into propping up and running [the accelerator] the past two years. We simply could not be more thankful for all they have done for the fintech community nationwide, the startup community in KC, and for nbkc.”
The accelerator had been heralded within the industry for its novel approach to solving “less-than-sexy” challenges facing community banks while also helping fintech startups scale with a real, active community banking partner. It graduated cohorts in December 2018 and October 2019 that tackled challenges ranging from consumer credit card debt to mobile banking for Gen Z and financial empowerment for women.
Throughout Fountain City Fintech’s run, Pettet and Darnell credited the program’s vitality to Garretson and Brian Unruh, the bank’s president and CEO.
“There’s so much that I’ve learned at the bank,” said Pettet, a lauded UMKC graduate and veteran of multiple startups before his time at nbkc. “They taught me how to be an operator and a business person in a way that I was not before. And they taught me an industry in a deeper way than I ever thought was possible. They gave me an opportunity to create something. They took a chance on me and let me run with it in a way that I don’t think most companies would, much less most banks. Their culture and the petri dish that I was allowed to enter and help develop was one of a kind. And I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity.”
Garretson noted only the 75-day accelerator would be discontinued, with the bank remaining committed “to working with fintechs of all sizes and stages. … Our support of entrepreneurship will continue full-force.”
As Pettet transitions to life at Bond, he’ll be focused on opening the startup’s Kansas City office — expected to be physically located within the Industrious coworking space on the Country Club Plaza, at least initially, he said.
“We’re hiring and will be totally remote and distributed, totally open to non-SF engineering hires, open to staff compliance hires, everything,” Pettet said. “It’s not super obvious what team growth is going to look like yet, but there’s a desire to build a team in Kansas City and have more of a footprint here.”
Click here to learn more about Bond.tech.
Tying Kansas City’s fortunes to a West Coast startup is a win-win for the companies, the communities, and Pettet himself, he said.
“I’m grateful to be working at Bond where I’ll be able to have a larger impact on the financial technology industry across the country — but also I get to live here and continue to help build fintech in Kansas City,” he said.