Embracing adversity: the journey of a fintech founder and podcaster

Meet Sarah Malter, the entrepreneur behind Kapitalise and Creative Adversity. Hailing from New York, Sarah's upbringing around technology and her passion for performance paved the way for her diverse educational journey, which led her to the world of fintech, female founders, and entrepreneurship.

Sarah talks to Startups Magazine’s Sheryl Miles about seizing opportunities in the face of challenges, why failure is the first step towards success, and the power of asking for help.

The unconventional path to entrepreneurship

Growing up surrounded by technology, with Sarah's parents both being computer programmers, Sarah developed a unique perspective from an early age, and her education was anything but conventional.

“[My parents] were old school mainframe programmers. We grew up around computers and technology … I studied genetics, astrophysics, and psychology for my undergraduate degree – as well as musical theatre.”

Sarah’s love for performance led her to pursue a master's degree in musical theatre in the UK, from which she naturally gravitated towards corporate training and neurolinguistic programming.

From there, Sarah's training career flourished, and she worked with notable companies like Mars, GSK, and MTV, empowering C-level employees with presentation styles, skills, and change management techniques.

Her journey then took an unexpected turn when she was approached to help build a company within the R&D space. She accepted the challenge and played a significant role in building the company. However, her entrepreneurial spirit soon led her to identify a technology gap that could revolutionise their offerings. When her solution was not adopted, Sarah took matters into her own hands. Sarah embarked on a path that eventually led her to launch Kapitalise in 2014, and its sister company, Kapitalise Technology (Kap Tech) in 2017, which is the technology development arm of Kapitalise.

Creative fintech: empowering innovation with R&D tax credits

Kapitalise is an advisory service that assists companies seeking to successfully file R&D tax credit applications with the HMRC. By unlocking tax credits for innovative companies, Kapitalise plays a central role in recognising and rewarding companies for their risk-taking and push for innovation.

Like all great products and services, accountants and R&D tax credit providers soon realised the value in the product and began to ask if there was something Kapitalise could create to help them.

“So, we pivoted slightly to create a platform for accountants and R&D tax credit providers to help them and their clients.”

Kapitalise Technology, initially an in-house SaaS product, evolved into a platform that simplifies the R&D tax credit process for accountants and R&D tax credit providers, transforming how companies plan their research and development endeavours.

Podcasting and Creative Adversity

With her background in training, her long-standing passion for podcasts, and her interactions with successful women in business, Sarah saw an opportunity to contribute something unique that would add value to the medium. The result was Creative Adversity, a podcast that dives into the inspiring journeys of female leaders, offering them a platform to share not just success stories but also, and more importantly, the valuable lessons they learned from their failures.

“I thought it would be great to capture some of these stories, because these women are running [everyday] companies, and they have these fantastic journeys that wouldn’t necessarily be heard.”

For Sarah, adversity is the key to becoming a successful leader, and through her podcast, she reframes challenges as opportunities for growth and learning.

Fail forward by embracing adversity

Sarah's conversations with successful women on her podcast revealed a common thread – failure was a steppingstone to their success. Reframing adversity as an opportunity for growth and learning is the central theme of her podcast, and Sarah believes that overcoming challenges is crucial for becoming a successful leader. By reshaping perceptions of obstacles, Sarah wants to empower individuals to persevere in their business pursuits.

"For men, the idea of failure is different [to women’s], they’ll say: ‘I’ve failed. I’ve gotten up. I’m going to do it again,’ but women feel like they can’t fail, or that it’s not okay to fail. And that’s the change that needs to happen. And that’s why more men are succeeding more with entrepreneurial avenues. If we change that, you’ll see a lot more women in positions of leadership."

Challenging gender bias in entrepreneurship

As a woman in the tech industry, Sarah has faced her fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to securing funding. While women are as capable as men in business, there's still a gender bias that exists, despite there being studies supporting the theory that whilst men tend to solve immediate concerns, women will look at the bigger picture and the future benefits.

Layered on top of surface biases and funding difficulties for women, Sarah highlights further obstacles faced by female entrepreneurs, especially during pregnancy or when raising young children. Questions around family plans during fundraising discussions are examples of the bias women often encounter.

“Both times being pregnant happened to fall during fundraising times. And the questions that were asked were interesting … such as ‘are you planning on having more children’ or ‘how long are you taking for maternity’ … and I wondered ‘if I was a man, would I have been asked the same questions?’.”

Whilst Sarah acknowledges that in business meetings it is nice to be asked about her pregnancy or congratulated on the birth of her children, it also isn’t the time or place because she is there to talk business – and is left, again, wondering if men are spoken to in the same way.

Building a support network

Drawing from her experiences, Sarah encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to leverage their own personal network of family and friends to begin with to seek support. She attests that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

She also stresses the importance of resilience, with her own journey teaching her the transient nature of setbacks and how these setbacks that can lead to breakthrough moments.

"I’ve learnt … that everything is temporary. It might feel like the sky is falling in, but it’s just a phase and you will get through it, and you will learn from it. It’s the days when everything feels like it’s closing in on you that may lead you to a pivot point, which can lead to a breakthrough."

Embrace adversity and unleash your potential

Sarah’s journey demonstrates the power of embracing adversity and using it as a steppingstone to success. From her eclectic educational background to her innovative ventures in fintech and podcasting, Sarah shows the power of resilience and learning from failure and has lived those experiences.

As more women tear down old structures to create their own architecture, Sarah's story is a reminder that everyone can pursue their dreams and succeed.

So, the next time life throws you a curveball, remember: FAIL is just the First Attempt In Learning.