Frantz Romain is the co-founder and CTO of PROFIT, a free banking and accounting solution for small businesses. He is also a 2016 NJIT graduate with a degree in Information Systems and a serious passion for computers. VentureLink@NJIT and the NJIT Venture Fund had an opportunity to sit down with Frantz and discuss some of his childhood, NJIT, and entrepreneurial experiences. More below!
Chelsea: We’re curious to learn more about your background, what drew you to NJIT and how you ended up as an entrepreneur. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Frantz: I grew up in Jersey and have lived here my entire life. Before NJIT, I went to Roselle Catholic High School, Chancellor Avenue Elementary School in Irvington, and Burnet Middle School in Union.
I have always been passionate about computers. Do you remember that chubby MAC computer? I had that as a child. I also had the Vtech precomputer that came with the BASIC programming language, which led me to programming by mistake since I wanted it to be like the grown-ups. It really was an accident, I started learning that if typed certain codes that things would happen and then I just kept learning. In high school, I took computer science, and then I took a bunch of courses at NJIT to stay up-to-date, even though it wasn’t my major.
Chelsea: Amazing. So has programming been where you’ve spent the majority of your time? Or do you have any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
Frantz: I’ve always liked sports, especially basketball. I played in high school and still play for fun.
Chelsea: What made you decide you wanted to attend NJIT?
Frantz: I wanted to stay somewhat close to home and I had a bunch of friends who came to NJIT in 2010 and 2011. They studied all types of stuff and it seemed like a good experience. I figured ‘why not just apply and come to NJIT to be with my friends?’
Chelsea: Makes sense! It’s great to have the opportunity to stay so close to family and friends. Can you talk to us a little bit about your time at NJIT? What did you study? When did you graduate? What types of things were you involved in?
Frantz: I studied information systems at NJIT and graduated in 2016, I also took some computer science courses.
I did have some cool experiences while attending NJIT. My favorite class was a research and innovation course. We received a grant to pursue a project we called the “Drowsy Driving Project”. Back in 2014, I was super curious about how to use technology to monitor someone’s facial expressions while driving. Through the course, I ended up partnered with a classmate who was a physics major and very big into ocular technology. So, we came up with a business plan and built a technology that used computer vision to see if you could detect when someone was starting to become drowsy while driving. That grant and class was what really exposed me to entrepreneurship. Actually, I think the grant might still be around.
Chelsea: That sounds like an amazing course. Along those lines, as you were starting your career after school and now that you’re an entrepreneur, what do you think was useful about your time at NJIT or the community now?
Frantz: The best part of NJIT is the community. I made a lot of friends who were into programming and then, when I graduated, ended up working with people who went to NJIT. It’s been a big boost to my career and reinforcement of my interests to be surrounded by people who are into technology.
Chelsea: Switching gears a little bit, I’m excited to learn more about why you got started in entrepreneurship. What motivated you to found it ? How do you think your NJIT experiences played into that decision?
Frantz: Vin and I noticed the problems faced by small businesses and wanted to do something about it. Actually, did you know that 50% of small businesses fail in their first five years? Vin ran his own small business for 10 years, so he was familiar with the challenges business owners face first-hand. For a lot of business owners, the financial aspects are not their core competency. They start their business because they’re skilled or passionate about what they’re doing, unfortunately managing their finances takes a back seat. To help them we created PROFIT. PROFIT is the only online bank for small businesses that has combined banking and bookkeeping into one platform. We provide small businesses free checking accounts with built-in accounting software that does bookkeeping for free, saving small business owners time and money.
I also started my own business to help me pay for school. I built apps for clients and I had my own painful experiences of reconciling my transactions and managing my financial statements. It definitely drove home the importance of doing the financials side of the business.
Chelsea: I love the focus on supporting the small businesses and helping them to do better with their accounts and business management. What are you most excited about as the founder of PROFIT?
Frantz: I am most excited about seeing more business owners become successful. The more successful businesses are, the more successful our company becomes, so incentives are aligned, but it’s not just about that. I’m excited to solve real problems for business owners and do it in a way that helps them grow.
Chelsea: What are you concerned about as a founder?
Frantz: I’m worried that there will not be enough successful small businesses in the future. We need entrepreneurs to take risks and get out there for all of us to keep moving forward.
Chelsea: Why do you say that? Is there a trend we should know about?
Frantz: Yes, based on historical data, 70% of small businesses will fail in the next 10 years. Most will fail because they couldn’t manage their finances properly. Even though recently more people are leaving their jobs to found companies, I want to see more than 30% succeed. That’s where most jobs will be created, so it’s important.
Chelsea: How are you and your team planning to engage with NJIT over time?
Frantz: We’re planning to hire from NJIT, especially on the technology and business side.
Chelsea: I’d love to see more of that! I know you all have hired one graduating senior already, which is great. In closing, do you have any words of advice for aspiring students, faculty, or alumni who are considering starting a company?
Frantz: I have two thoughts on advice. First, if you have an idea, go for it. Maybe do it as a side hobby, in the beginning, but don’t be afraid to start. And second, when you do start the company, be sure to make time for yourself and your family.
To learn more about Bank With Profit, check out their website: https://www.bankprofit.com/
To learn more about the NJIT Venture Fund, check www.venturefund.njit.edu
To learn more about New Jersey Innovation Institute, check www.njii.com