In today’s social media-infused corporate climate, a company is often inseparable from the personalities who built it, and personal branding of CEOs means as much to many consumers as the product itself. Today, large tech corporations are driven as much by cults of personality as by revenue, and those who can distinguish themselves from the swarms of Silicon Valley startups stand to receive a place in public consciousness.
Spring Labs, a blockchain financial technology company, is spearheaded by three strong personalities who know what it takes to set a goal and then implement the steps to make it happen. They started with just the knowledge that online transactions frequently compromise credit, identity, and other private information, and built a solution that addresses this widespread problem. With data breaches at massive tech firms handling millions of users’ details, like Equifax and Facebook, making the news almost monthly, their solutions could not be timelier.
Spring Labs: A Decentralized Platform for Secure Transactions
Because its platform is decentralized and not reliant on a single network or computer, Spring Labs is a safer option for protecting data during transactions. Private data isn’t stored on the network and is not replicated, making it virtually un-hackable, and the system is scalable to suit any sized operation. The company focuses on establishing trust by ensuring that data sources can be easily verified. For consumers, Spring Labs helps users monitor their credit and contest inconsistencies and provides protection from data breaches that can devastate their credit score or leave them vulnerable to identity theft or doxing. Spring Labs reduces manual processing costs and gives companies control of their data and how it is used. Financial institutions also enjoy protection from damaging data breaches, which are becoming more common every day and erode trust between corporations and their customers.
The Equifax hack in 2017 exemplifies why protecting data should be a top concern for consumers. Over 140 million Americans’ credit data were stolen, and they had no control over how that data was used or who could access it. Spring Labs aims to mitigate the risk of such attacks by giving its clients control and preventing access to private data by malicious sources.
Spring Labs is the result of the pooled expertise and experience of its three founders. As an immigrant-founded company, is hardly unique amongst game-changing tech startups. About 60% of tech startups had an immigrant founder in 2018, corralling over about $4 trillion for the U.S. economy, and this number is ballooning each year. What sets Spring Labs apart is that all three of its founders are immigrants; each from a different nation, and each with a unique story that drives them to succeed in the competitive U.S. technology market.
John Sun: Serial Entrepreneur & Investor
Two of Spring Labs’ founders, Adam Jiwan and John Sun, were drawn to the United States by its opportunities for quality education. John Sun serves as Spring Labs’ President. His mother brought him with her from their home country when she came to the U.S. as an international student to obtain her master’s degree. He grew up in the United States and learned to thrive in a foreign culture as an academic, investor, and entrepreneur. He followed in his mother’s footsteps and attended college himself at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After his graduation, he landed internships and made connections that led him to meet Spring Labs’ other two founders.
Anna Fridman: Soviet Refugee to Self-Made Entrepreneur
The third co-founder and General Counsel of Spring Labs arrived in the United States under a different set of trying circumstances. Anna Fridman was born in Leningrad in Soviet Russia, and her father had to contend with the difficulties of being a Jewish mathematics professor under the Soviet regime. To protect Anna and her brother after their mother died, their father sent them to live with their grandmother in Estonia until he was able to seek refugee status in the United States.
Anna was just 13 years old when her family moved to the U.S., and the transition challenged her in ways she was not prepared for. She spoke almost no English, and her father, unfamiliar with the U.S. school system and other aspects of life as a child growing up in the United States, was able to offer very little parental help. Anna and her brother had to sign themselves up for classes, learn English, navigate the social difficulties of being a teenager in a new, unfamiliar place and, eventually, attend college and begin working.
Anna overcame every barrier to success, graduating second in her high school class and gaining a full academic scholarship to UCLA, where she earned her business economics and law degrees. She credits the support of other immigrants for her laser-focus on education, and for aiding her transition from the life she knew in Estonia to the U.S. She says, “When we immigrated, we had no money, no car and couldn’t even imagine owning a house or a condo, but I don’t remember giving it much thought at the time. What we did have was clear support from everyone around us, including fellow Soviet immigrants, that education is the most important priority at any cost.” Like her fellow Spring Labs co-founders, her studies paved the way for her success and provided the guidance needed to become an immigrant entrepreneur.
She also credits her grandmother; a woman whose determination knew no bounds. She ran away from her small Russian village at 13 and lied about being 18 to gain entry to a Soviet trade school. By age 20, she was a respected judge who challenged the system and won acclaim from her coworkers. Anna said in an interview for Medium’s article, “Meet The Women of the Blockchain: Anna Fridman, Co-Founder and General Counsel at Spring Labs,” “She raised me to expect challenges and not break down when faced with them and I think that is the most important skill I could’ve ever been given, and one of the most important things you need to have in business.”
Adam Jiwan: Thriving Far from Persecution
Adam Jiwan’s story is significantly more turbulent. His family, all of Indian descent, became victims of Africa’s devastating nationalist movement in Tanzania during the 1960s and 1970s. Even though his family had lived in Africa for generations, suspicion, and hatred of racial minorities and those perceived to be “foreigners” resulted in his relatives enduring horrible treatment that caused them to flee Tanzania and seek safety in other nations as refugees.
“Many of my father’s extended family members were badly abused,” said Adam Jiwan, CEO and Chairman of Spring Labs, in an interview with Forbes. “I had great aunts who had their hands cut off and property confiscated, and they left as refugees.”
Adam’s father fled Tanzania to become an international student in Canada. Like John Sun, Adam grew up in a foreign culture and became an international student himself when he enrolled at Harvard. His American education and ties to Canada opened doors he never would have had access to if his family had remained in Tanzania, and he has since participated in numerous startups on a global scale in Canada, the U.S., Ireland, and the Bahamas. These ventures gave him the experience and business acumen needed to become the CEO of Spring Labs.
Avant: Where Spring Labs Was Born
Spring Labs’ three founders were brought together by their separate roles at Avant, an online lending platform started by Anna’s husband, Al Goldstein. Avant is, as of 2018, is a $2 billion company with over 500 employees and over 600,000 clients. Since 2012, Avant has originated over $4 billion in loans and raised over $600 million in equity, making it the fourth-largest online lending platform. John Sun was one of Avant’s co-founders, Anna was one of the company’s first employees, and Adam was a key seed investor and board member.
As a company handling sensitive financial and credit information, Avant revealed the many pitfalls of existing security to Spring Labs’ three founders, who came together and brainstormed about how these gaps in security could be addressed. “On TV shows, people come up with business ideas as a way to “make money.” In the real world, entrepreneurs identify a problem and try to solve it” says Stuart Anderson, a Contributor at Forbes, about Fridman, Jiwan, and Sun. For Spring Labs’ founders, this is certainly the case. Their time at Avant gave them real-world experience that helped them develop the services their future company’s customers would need to secure their systems and protect their customers. They gained an insider perspective of the lack of control companies and consumers have over their data, as well as the fact that most consumers have no control over how or to whom their data is distributed and learned to work together to create solutions.
Spring Labs’ founders’ story is unique among the many immigrant entrepreneur success stories in the tech sector. Their ideas and innovations are informed by both their unique perspectives and shared experiences. Their mutual appreciation for education and the ability to overcome enormous obstacles as strangers in a foreign land have equipped them to surmount any challenges they face as Spring Labs continues to grow. Adam Jiwan said of his co-founders, “When you’re fortunate enough to find success alongside people you like, trust and work beautifully with, you don’t turn your back on follow-up opportunities that present themselves.” Individually, Adam, Anna, and John are impressive as individuals and as innovative entrepreneurs, but together, they can change the structure of online finance and make the internet a safer, more intuitive place for everyone.
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