Addressing today’s challenges of saturated digital connections, Denise Hayman-Loa, Co-founder & CEO of Carii, has developed an award-winning digital platform that allows communities to connect and communicate around the world while retaining private ownership of their content, bringing people together across boundaries.
Denise has more than three decades of expertise in management in the financial services and technology industries, as well as in business planning, entrepreneurship, and customer interaction. In the ten years after the company’s founding, she transformed it from a modest beta platform to a fully-fledged solution, winning numerous accolades, clients, and team members in the process.
Denise has been interviewed numerous times, notably by the BBC, and is currently regarded as a thought leader in the social business software industry. Along with managing the firm, she offers advice to Carii clients from various industries as they implement the Carii solution on communication and business strategies.
Denise spent 29 years in senior positions in the financial services industry before she founded Carii. During this time, she focused on sales, client relationships, risk management, technology, strategy, and business building at companies like Salomon Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and as a management consulting partner at Ernst & Young.
A creative thinker with broad experience, Denise shares with CIOLook her journey in the finance and tech domain and the challenges and incredible success she has experienced along the way.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Carii, Inc. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I started my career in NYC at Salomon Brothers on Wall Street back in 1980 when the technology division was one of few places where men and women were treated fairly equally. I was lucky because they put me in a training rotation program to learn the various jobs in the division – starting with literally loading tapes on mainframe computers in the huge data center. Mike Bloomberg was running the division at the time, so I knew all the people he founded his company with. It was inspiring to see how brave they all were in launching Bloomberg in that era.
That said, it was never easy to be a woman in Financial Services with the predominance of men in the industry. I had to work hard and deliver every step of the way to progress – the conventional wisdom was that to succeed, a woman had to be better than any of the men. I did that and continued to move ahead with my career, though I often needed to move to new firms to learn new skills and get promotions and raises.
I will say that I was also lucky to work with a long list of very smart people who provided me with both challenges and role models. A big step was when I transitioned to consulting at E&Y instead of running technology teams inside companies. That taught me how to build a business because each partner had to sell, deliver and collect on their own work and build a team to deliver the projects for their clients. And then, I went to work at a client, Goldman Sachs, where I was hired as an intrepreneur to deliver the firm’s risk management technology to institutional clients. It was a great experience to create a full business offering and build out the marketing and model.
I moved to front office sales after that and further developed the sales skills which I had already been working on in other roles. I worked in that capacity for another ten years, both within firms and independently.
After 28 years in the industry, I decided to transition to a different kind of start-up – a horse farm! I did that successfully for ten years, learning many new skills along the way until my husband came up with the initial idea for our current community platform, and I transitioned to that. And have been doing that ever since.
Tell us something more about your company and its mission and vision.
Carii, Inc. (Product name is Connective) is a community ecosystem platform that meets the communication and collaboration needs of businesses and organizations such as investment firms, social impact organizations, and professional networks. The mission is to enable our clients to amplify their work and engage their community in a secure branded environment where they own their data. The platform solves for the current fragmentation in social and engagement technologies – and puts the control in the client’s hands instead of with a public social platform.
We have been building the award-winning platform over the course of eight years, with the benefit of great feedback from the market and our clients.
Enlighten us on how you have impacted the Technology niche through your expertise in the market.
We are constantly working on advancing the platform to use the most modern techniques and approaches. We are always exploring and pushing the envelope to stay ahead of trends and service the market with the most flexibility possible.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
First and foremost, we are client driven – we build long-standing relationships with our clients and make every effort to be as responsive as we can, given practical realities. Communication is key for both clients and team members. We value our team, and they have all been with us for many years, which translates into a healthy environment where they feel that they are growing and being recognized for good work.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
We are constantly assessing new technologies that can provide value to our solutions. In some cases, we decide to build it ourselves, and in other cases, we integrate it with specialist technology. Everything we build is created as a flexible engine that can be re-purposed for all clients, so our clients also benefit from new advancements.
What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the Tech sector? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?
Blockchain technology is a significant change that we have been actively engaged with since 2017 and are now beginning to implement/integrate. AI will also have a major impact on certain aspects of our solution. The other unique opportunity is to incorporate virtual reality/metaverse technology where applicable to enhance experiences.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Carii, Inc?
We are looking to expand our reach and implementations to amplify more communities – with the requisite team growth to support those communities and clients. We are especially interested in supporting sustainability and regenerative solutions to expand reach and recognition.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Tech sector?
Make sure you have a product idea the market is interested in – that fills a gap no one else has filled. Make sure you also have a well-rounded and diverse founding team that will challenge you and each other to be the best you can be. And get good advice from other entrepreneurs who have “been there, done that.” But also know your own mind and be prepared to stick to your beliefs.