Lindsay Cohen: CMO of Align Income Share Funding

Lindsay Cohen found her dream job through old-fashioned networking—with two classmates from Northwestern. Studying in the same undergraduate math program was the CEO and COO…

Lindsay Cohen found her dream job through old-fashioned networking—with two classmates from Northwestern. Studying in the same undergraduate math program was the CEO and COO of her current company, Align Income Share Funding, where Lindsay currently serves as CMO.

“When they raised a Series A funding round, I reached out to see if they needed someone to lead up marketing,” she shares. “They did; so now I work with two of my oldest friends, in a role I love and at a company I treasure.”

But Align isn’t Lindsay’s first job in the startup world. Prior to working at Align she launched and sold two startups of her own. Find out how Lindsay is working alongside her team to launch a fresh new product in a long-established industry and shaking up the way we think about loans in the process.

How do you organize your day?

I start every morning by creating a to-do list. I tackle the items based on a combination of importance and level of effort. I try to pepper in some quick accomplishments in the middle of longer-term assignments to break up my day.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

Our company is doing something groundbreaking. We are the first company in the United States offering Income Share Agreements (ISAs) for flexible use. ISAs are a more flexible alternative to a personal loan, where people’s payments are based on a small percentage of their future income, instead of a fixed interest rate. We offer people the opportunity to get money for what they need with terms that are flexible – offering a sigh of relief to people burdened by debt. Our product is helpful to a large population of the country, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to come up with $500 on short notice.

It’s important to me that the company I work for does not only serve the top 5% of the economic bracket, which is difficult to find in the startup ecosystem. Prior to joining Align, I started and sold two startups—one in the education space and the other an e-commerce site for moms. Being from a middle-class Midwestern suburb, it’s important to me to not be working at the next “Uber for X” or to be trying to figure out how to get people to spend more money that they don’t necessarily have. I also love my job because I have a lot of flexibility, autonomy and reach, and I work with people I trust and admire.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

Although there can be challenges coming to market, when someone has an idea for a new clothing product, there is an established process for releasing that innovation to the market. Consumers are used to seeing new fashion labels, and there are channels for sharing that information and product.

Consumers are not used to seeing something new in the personal finance market. Being new in this industry actually works a little against you. It takes time and effort to gain trust. People aren’t looking for the “hottest new place to get money with fair terms.”

The challenge of trying to launch a new product into a very established market that has rarely innovated keeps me up at times. It’s difficult educating a consumer base on a new product when there’s been very little that’s changed in the space in decades. Media aren’t accustomed to writing or speaking about the space. But it’s important to me, regardless of these hurdles, to keep trying to get the word out about Align. I know that with enough time we will have enough satisfied customers with interesting stories that we can tell. And once we start telling those stories, I am confident people will lean in to learn more.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I view work/balance as a delicate equation that needs to be refactored every single day. I have three little kids, so I try to make sure I see them as much as I can and that the time we spend together is high quality. I outsource as much as I possibly can that’s not work or quality time. I also try to make my life as efficient as possible. I have a simple haircut that makes getting ready easy. I don’t get my nails done very often. I cook once on Sunday nights for the whole week. I have a makeup routine that I can get done while my hair straightener warms up. And finally, I stick to a simple, classic wardrobe.

What are some of the rules you live by?

  • Treat others how you wish others would treat your children (even more generously than you would treat others).
  • Travel the world.
  • Celebrate the little things.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

To be an entrepreneur you need to be scrappy and perseverant. You also need to be an effective communicator and confident.

To be a good marketer you have to be intuitive and empathetic and decent with numbers.

What books have you read that have impacted the way you view the world?

  • What Color is Your Parachute? :: I started off my career as an actuary. I was miserable. My brother-in-law was a life coach and recommended this book to me. It gave me a path on how to get out of an industry that I loathed.
  • Abundance :: In a world where we discuss conservation as a means to an end, this book frames the conversation as how we can all have more with the resources available to us.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?

Start your own business as soon as you possibly can. You will learn more from that experience than you will from any other job or classroom.