Crummer Grad is Helping Expand the Fintech Industry in Orlando
With 17 years in the payments industry and being named to two of OBJ’s biggest lists this year, Garima Shah ’11 is making a name for herself in the fintech industry.
You could say Garima Shah ’11MBA and fintech have grown up together.
Shah entered the world the same year online banking was introduced in Britain, where she was born before her family—which is from India—moved to the United States and eventually settled in Satellite Beach, Florida.
She was in middle school when the term financial technology was coined, and in high school when banks in the U.S. first introduced transactional websites.
“If I think about my lifetime—I was born in ’83—the fact that I’m the same age as online payments is crazy to me,” said Shah. “I don’t even know how my life would be without the idea of electronic transactions. It completely fascinated me, and that’s what drew me into the industry.”
For the past 17 years, she has worked in the payments industry, with companies such as Payment Alliance International, Century Payments, Direct Connect, and currently as president of the start-up Biller Genie, a cloud-based software that automates invoicing. And it’s in these roles that Shah has built a name for herself, this year garnering two of Orlando Business Journal’s biggest titles: 40 Under 40 and CEO of the Year.
“Fintech is a very intense, competitive space, and few women have built the reputation that Garima has,” said Tom Aronica, CEO and founder of Biller Genie. “She is known not only as an individual contributor but as a thought leader, a speaker, an evangelist, and as a sought-after fintech executive.”
An engineer and technologist by trade, Aronica created Biller Genie in 2018 as a solution for the nearly 90 percent of business that send and receive invoices manually. He brought on Shah in January 2020 to help re-launch the company.
Together, they have grown the company from a solution that was given away for free to adding 100 new paying subscribers every month. Today, they have more than 30 full-time employees, with 23 in the United States, 13 in India, and one in El Salvador. They have collaborated with companies such as PNC, won multiple awards including the 2020 Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition and 2021 GrowFL Companies to Watch, and raised a seed funding round of $3.5 M from multiple industry veterans including Henry Helgeson, whose company Cayan was acquired by TSYS for $1 billion.
Driven to Do More
Talking with Shah, the first thing you notice is her bubbly energy and infectious enthusiasm for whatever she’s discussing—from launching Biller Genie during a pandemic to her two daughters, ages 6 and 9.
She credits her parents for both, as well as the drive that keeps her doing more, including launching a biweekly livestream, Gab with Garima, and opening a full-service wellness spa in Windermere called Amplivive.
When her parents moved from India to the U.S. by way of England, her father, a physician, had to do his residency all over again. She watched him work to open up his own practice when they moved to Florida, while her mother worked as a computer programmer and raised Shah and her brother.
“They have a done such an incredible job and built this amazing life for all of us. Growing up it was ingrained in us that intelligence without diligence would get you nowhere,” she said. “My dad even today, he still works a very full day. When he’s not working—he got his pilot’s license, he got his MBA, and he’s doing all these other things. And my mom is constantly pushing the envelope bringing light to major issues that impact the community and championing multiple causes at any given time. I have always felt like I owe it to them to be successful.”
The legacy Shah herself is already leaving can be seen in the people she hires and mentors and her efforts to give back to the Central Florida community, whether speaking at Synapse to promote Orlando as a fintech hub or being involved in nonprofits such as 100 Women Strong and Shepherd’s Hope.
“Garima is a people person,” said her husband Nikesh Shah ’11MBA, who is president and founder of Southern Hospitality Management & Development. “She builds great relationships. She loves to give back. She’s not involved in anything she doesn’t have a passion for, and she is truly invested in the people that work with her and for her.”
She regularly gets letters and emails from past employees telling her about their new careers and promotions, some thanking her for her role in their trajectory. As an example, Nikesh speaks of one employee who Shah fired before hiring him back in a position better suited for him. Shah worked with him for two years to help him reach his goals, and after she left the company, he reached out and hired her back.
“I’ve hired over a thousand people in my life,” Shah said. “Some are still with me and have stayed with me at five different companies over the past 17 years. I think that my ability to be a good leader has always been because of the teams of amazing individuals who inspire me to learn and grow every day.”
The Road to Biller Genie
Like so many little girls of East Asian heritage, Shah dreamed of becoming a Bollywood star—not of becoming president of a fintech startup.
“I really wanted to be a Bollywood actress, but I mean that ended pretty early,” she said with a laugh. “By the time I was in college, my dream was to create a Super Bowl campaign, and I thought I’d work in advertising or mass communications, but when I started looking at jobs in that industry I realized that they weren’t exhilarating or fast-paced enough for me.”
After earning a bachelor’s in advertising from Boston University, Shah moved to Miami and instead of working in advertising, she took a job as a door-to-door saleswoman, much to her parents’ chagrin.
“While it was probably the hardest job I’ve ever had my life, I truly believe that was the most defining job in my entire career—learning how to be in the hot sun, knocking on a hundred doors a day, getting kicked out of businesses, but then also learning how to sell and overcome objections,” she said. “It was more about your own mental attitude and perseverance. I loved that, and I got so much from it. I realized that I could do it on my own, so I ended up opening a sales and marketing firm in West Palm Beach. My first client was First Horizon Merchant Services, and that’s how I got into fintech.”
After earning her MBA from Crummer, she went to work for Direct Connect, where she learned how to refinance businesses—“understanding debt structures, equity structures, that kind of thing,” she said—and where she first met Aronica.
“I bought his company back in 2013,” she said. “We were adversaries at first because we were on opposite sides of the same transaction, but we became friends over time.”
It’s a lesson she credits with learning at Crummer, where the team environment taught her to see the value that everyone brings to the table. On Shah’s first team in the Executive MBA program, there was a member from the construction industry, a corporate ops director at Disney, and a human resources executive in the pharmaceutical industry.
“We clashed often and hard, but it taught me there was so much more that I could gain from listening—and acknowledging when I’m wrong,” she said.
In fact, when Aronica first mentioned the idea for Biller Genie to Shah, she told him there was no way there was a need for that product. Surely, most companies weren’t still using paper invoices in an ever-increasing digital world. But after talking more with Aronica and doing her own research, she realized just how necessary it was.
“An average business in the U.S. has 27 days worth of cash on hand—that’s if they have net 30 terms on an invoice,” she said. “We know that most people pay late, but think about what that does and how much that cripples a business’s lifeblood, right? Twenty percent of startups fail in their first year and about half succumb to business failure in their first three to five years, but of that 88 percent of them fail because they have no cash flow. It’s not because their product was bad. It’s not because they didn’t have revenue. It’s because there wasn’t cash flow. Biller Genie helps automate that.”
And thanks to Shah, Aronica, and fintech, Biller Genie is reaching more businesses and making it a little easier for them to succeed.