Ark Kapital CTO: ‘We want a tech team with 50pc women developers’

3 Jun 2022

Elin Bäcklund. Image: Ark Kapital

The fintech start-up’s CTO discusses the ongoing challenge of finding tech talent and the value of data and technology within the finance industry.

Elin Bäcklund is the chief technology officer of Ark Kapital, having joined the company in October 2021 to lead the development of its AI platform, Ark Intelligence Machine (AIM).

The Stockholm-based fintech recently raised €165m in a combination of debt and equity funding.

It aims to enable tech companies to grow faster and smarter through long-term loans – maintaining control for founders and reducing risk for investors.

Bäcklund holds a master’s degree in engineering physics with computer science and comes from a background in front-end development. Previously, she was head of Motherbrain, the AI platform of venture capital firm EQT.

In her current role, she works on the research and development of AIM. She also builds the company’s engineering team and is responsible for the company’s IT operations and security.

‘By working with data… we can impact how money flows and contribute to a more democratised and unbiased economy’

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing?

We’re targeting a tech team with 50pc female developers, which is challenging since tech talent is a scarce resource in general and the share of female developers is very low.

To be able to achieve gender diversity, we have to work creatively, invest a lot into recruiting and build a truly inclusive culture. We also work to improve diversity in the pool of talent from which we try to hire by offering mentorships, internships and support to young female engineers.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation within your industry?

The finance industry has been doing very well historically and I believe the need for technical innovation has been lower than in other industries. Today, the financial sector is more competitive and innovative fintechs are emerging.

By working with data and technology in finance, we can impact how money flows and contribute to a more democratised and unbiased economy. This is super exciting.

All the world’s existing company data can be used to simulate outcomes and model businesses, but entrepreneurs still do trial and error to understand what works best. At the same time very few financial players use this granular company data to make financial decisions.

At Ark, we’re making information and financing more democratised by building AIM, a tool that captures raw data from all the standard tech platforms, analyses growth metrics and provides non-dilutive financing to entrepreneurs.

How can sustainability be addressed from an IT perspective?

I’m certain that technology will play a pivotal role in the creation of a sustainable future. For example, just look at the way we at Ark now develop AIM to gather and gain insights from data, while analysing and tracking all progress. This has the power to increase productivity and efficiency.

A quick win closer to home is prioritising resource consumption. It offers a direct change that lasts, as you also initiate longer-term investments in renewable energy, more efficient hardware and the like.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

I have to say machine learning. When applied to the right type of problems such as niche ones with multiple variables to consider, machine learning is extremely powerful. For example, we can easily apply machine learning to predict customer behaviours over the years based on millions of data points of their and other customers’ history of engagement with an app.

As more and more businesses apply this technology to differentiate themselves, we will see more data-driven, and hopefully less biased, decisions.

How can we address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

Obviously in the long run we need more cybersecurity professionals and, to get there, we should make sure there are role models and education alternatives within this area.

On a company level I believe the solution is to hire technical leaders that are curious to learn about IT security and can adapt to new situations. Focusing as much on being able to handle a security incident as trying to avoid them. Evaluate the risk and adapt an appetite that works for the company.

Being at a start-up, we have the opportunity to design the organisation as well as the IT systems from the start and security is an important part of that design. We are hiring experts and making security part of our culture.

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