01 Mar 2019

Napkin Finance: Say It in a Picture

by Julia Hanna


The humble cocktail napkin is a tried-and-true medium for honing a concept to its essential elements. For Tina Hay (MBA 2002) it’s also a business. As founder and CEO of Napkin Finance, Hay oversees a multimedia effort to simplify financial concepts ranging from tariffs to escrow to blockchain by sketching them out within the space limitations of a fouror five-inch square. With a library of hundreds of digital napkins and counting—along with short videos, actual paper napkins, and a book to come later this year—Napkin Finance is on its way to realizing Hay’s goal of being the go-to resource for anyone who wants to understand money and finance.

Courtesy Napkin Finance

The company was an accidental outgrowth of another startup Hay founded—a payment platform targeting millennials that also included some Napkin Finance–style educational materials. “We saw how much the napkins we created resonated with users,” says Hay, who now partners with banks (including UBS and JPMorgan Chase) that offer the napkins to customers. “People have always loved the form factor, the simplicity of it.” Napkins can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to create. The changing regulatory landscape around Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs, made that particular napkin a challenge, for example.

“In first-year Finance at HBS there was a lot of focus on spreadsheets and numbers,” says Hay, who studied communications at UCLA and worked in the film industry. “As a visual learner, I found it very powerful to understand the reasoning behind the different concepts. There’s storytelling, even in finance.”

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2002, Section G
follow @tinajhay

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