We’re a FinTech startup providing the consumer financial services experience of the future.
By that I mean that we are digitizing typically high-friction services to drastically improve the consumer experience, but also to significantly improve the scalability and reach of those same services.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Ray Tavares and I’m the CEO and a co-founder of Blackspark. I’m a serial startup founder, having also co-founded Epoch Integration which was acquired by BlackBerry.
Growing up in Kanata, Ontario, I was surrounded by high-tech and the companies founded in the region during some really exciting tech eras, so I feel like entrepreneurship is in my blood.
I love the challenge of creating a business from scratch and being responsible for every early decision. It’s gruelling at times, but the sense of accomplishment is unrivalled by any other type of work.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Ignore the noise. The past two years have been unconventional for the entire world, but the tech startup industry has been exceptionally volatile.
A massive surplus of funds flowed into the ecosystem, most of it unchecked by proper due diligence, which created a “grow at all costs” mentality across the sector.
Of course, we are now witnessing the widespread fallout of that errant approach, but while the bubble was inflating, it was sometimes difficult to tell the real from the embellished, or outright fake.
At Blackspark, we kept our heads down, executed and managed to sidestep any resulting predicaments. But it hasn’t always been easy to avoid getting caught up in the vacuous hype.
So yeah, I’d remind myself to ignore the noise and stay true to my values and convictions.
What problem does your business solve?
We enable modern delivery of consumer financial services.
We have started with assisted tax preparation because when you do that in a delightful way for customers, you create a trusted financial service relationship with that individual and their family members, potentially for life.
They trust you to take care of their sensitive information and advise them about how to increase their wealth.
You also grow with them on their financial journey through various life stages, which gives you the opportunity to help them with additional products and services in a timely fashion, when those offerings are most relevant.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
We’re inspired to build a business that provides real and enduring value for customers.
A lot of consumer financial services today are surface-level rebranding of existing products that are offered to customers in a very spammy way, without consideration of relevance or timing.
We believe that long-lasting value creation requires a different approach. Consumer financial services is a massive industry, but the opportunities are underpinned by trust between provider and customer.
That comes through individualization and ensuring customers that you are always considering their best interests.
The really tricky part is figuring out how to remain true to that ethos and also scale as a business. But that challenge is what keeps us going and keeps us innovating, every day.
What is your magic sauce?
We develop technology to solve problems in a unique and better way, so that we are the only ones that can offer the solution. That’s how we create a competitive moat.
Of course it would be easier to just mimic a competitor’s product, but there is no sustainable advantage in doing that.
For example, our tax preparation service is a step-change in both consumer experience and back-office automation, compared to the industry status quo.
It required a full re-design of how personal tax preparation is done, which in turn required us to invent continually, for several years.
The end result indeed seems like magic sauce to the customer, but in fact it is the culmination of relentless iteration and improvement over an extended period of time.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We want to be a leader in the market, with loyal customers that turn to us first for their financial needs. To achieve that, we’ll need to continue innovating and delivering real value.
A start-up’s greatest strength is its ability to move quickly and address opportunities as they arise.
We are in an unprecedented era for opportunity in consumer financial services, enabled by modern technology. We want to continue executing at the forefront of that opportunity.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
In 2022, we achieved EFILE certification of our tax preparation platform with Canada Revenue Agency, on our very first attempt.
It was a monumental challenge, due to the compressed timeline and sheer volume of certification testing requirements.
At times, we felt as though we weren’t going to make it, but we persevered day in and day out.
I’m extremely proud of that effort and the true grit displayed by the team. It was definitely a defining moment of my entire career building startups.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
We’d love to hear from potential partners in financial services, such as banks, wealth managers, tax firms and even other fintechs – if you are looking for ways to truly differentiate your brand and drive revenue opportunities, get in touch.
Also, we are always happy to network with new investors that see the unique value that we are delivering. Please reach out through our website: https://www.blacksparkcorp.com/.