Sesie Bonsi of Bleu: “Step is redefining financial inclusion”

Envision a future where monetary value is exchanged seamlessly and efficiently over long distances with no friction and low fees. Credit is extended without interest, and entrepreneurship and creativity are valued at a premium. Working long hours is no longer a productive means of earning a living. Community is the most important aspect of daily […]

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Envision a future where monetary value is exchanged seamlessly and efficiently over long distances with no friction and low fees. Credit is extended without interest, and entrepreneurship and creativity are valued at a premium. Working long hours is no longer a productive means of earning a living. Community is the most important aspect of daily life, and education is first and foremost a necessity and a right.


As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Sesie Bonsi.

Sesie Bonsi is the Founder of Bleu, a financial technology platform focused on enabling touchless payment experiences toward a cashless future. Bleu provides merchants of any size the ability to virtualize payment acceptance on any operating platform or using new or existing payment hardware, while also giving customers the freedom to choose what they are paying with, how they are paying, and when they are paying. His mission at Bleu is to democratize payments so that merchants and customers have accessibility, flexibility, and autonomy in the way they choose to exchange value with one another.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Auburn, Alabama, the 3rd child of two African immigrants from Ghana, West Africa. My parents came to the US for their education, and both received doctorates from prestigious universities in their respective fields. I’ve always been in awe of the tremendous courage and determination it took them to leave everything they knew to try to create a better opportunity for the family. Their story and the stories they told me about growing up in Ghana have played a big piece in the development of my world outlook and what it takes to make a difference.

After graduating high school, I went to the University of Alabama. I was a psychology undergrad. I was trying to determine what in society triggers collective change. A positive shift towards shared values. This intellectual quest eventually took me to law school. For me, the law was the outward reflection of the values held by a certain society. I wanted to understand the system in-depth, with the hopes that inspiration would follow.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Callum Coates: Living Energies: An Exposition of Concepts Related to the Theories of Viktor Schauberger. Viktor Schauberger was a visionary forester, scientist, and inventor in the same realms of Tesla, and Einstein. During his life he produced theories and answers to every single environmental question pressing humanity today, but unfortunately, he was disregarded and cast out amongst his peers. He died destitute and ignored, but he never gave up on his quest to move humanity closer to nature. His story is not unlike every visionary in the quest for a conscious awakening of human existence and his purpose was so clear and the message so direct. It resonates with me because I believe we all have a specific purpose and a specific gift to contribute to the world in some way, and when you find it, you must move towards it, regardless of what the doubters may say or think.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My favorite life lesson quote is “Pain is real, suffering is just suffering.” What this quote means is that the pain or anguish that you may experience from an event or circumstance is real. Do not deny this pain. Feel into it fully, and then use the pain for growth. However suffering is something that is created by you or more specifically the ego. It is the attachment to the pain which causes suffering. Some people experience a small amount of suffering and grow a lot. Some people experience a lot of suffering and grow very little. Some people experience a lot of suffering and grow a lot. Some people experience a small amount of suffering and grow very little. The growth is connected to the individual and the action they take to do the work for themselves, not the degree of suffering attached to the pain.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is to have conscious awareness and sensitivity to the mission you are on, without the attachment to any singular moment. True leadership is not about suppressing the emotions or feelings, staying “strong”, or “powering through”. It’s the ability to sit with presence through it all, feel through it all, without attaching to what comes up in the situation and in the moment. Then taking conscious action to move towards the shared goal. For example, there have been several times where deals have fallen through at the last minute, or investors have backed out. As a founder, it hurts. It’s painful when things happen to the business because in many ways they are happening to you directly. Rather than attach to these events and carry the weight of the anger and the pain and the sadness, you have to release them and move forward with the deeper lesson learned on your journey.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

I think a breathing exercise is the single most important thing anyone can do to relieve stress and stay present. I personally like to mediate with the objective of there being no objective at all. Just witnessing the breath for 20 mins to an hour. This puts my nervous system and my body in a calm and focused state rather than a heightened sense of arousal. It also increases the CO2 concentration in the blood, allowing more oxygen to be delivered to the brain so you can make sound decisions.

I remember numerous times doing live demos for potential clients and the demo not working or malfunctioning during the demo. By remembering my breath, I was easily able to move through the demo and put the attention on the possibilities of what is capable, not on what was happening right now in the moment.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

I have personally lived at the intersection of race, diversity, equality, and inclusion in all facets of my life. For me, I don’t think the crisis evolved to a boiling point. The crisis has always been here and those of us in the minority suffered invisibly. What happened was the epidemic forced the world to stop, and people could no longer ignore or distract themselves from what they were seeing on their TVs and phones about the reality of the country. Disparities in access to health care, disparities in economic sustainability, disparities to safety and security, all structured on very old systems based on our racist past.

The real crisis now is figuring out how to restructure these systems and recreate them with a new image for the future before it becomes unsalvageable. The crisis is finding a collaborative model for rebuilding the idea of community and city, where there is a true representation. If we don’t we are doomed to repeat these same events over and over.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?

I’ve worked with organizations throughout my career such as the AIDS Outreach Center, I started a chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy at my University, and I have pushed and promoted equality and inclusion at every level.

One of the most powerful initiatives I was a party to was a Techstars open forum where founders of color were allowed to share fully what these current events were like for us. We were allowed to share our stories and other founders were allowed to ask questions about the next steps and how to take action. By working directly with founders creating companies and startups building technology, if they can grasp and understand the impact at the early stages, we can change corporate cultures and create more open and inclusive environments for the future.

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

I will specifically address the industry I’m in. Women are responsible for 60% of all payments made worldwide every year, but occupy only 30% of the entire fintech workforce. In the world of startups, women fintech founders only make up 7% of the total pool. This dwindles even further when looking at female founders of color.

I think payment companies that fail to diversify will eventually fail spectacularly. Diversity breeds innovation by lending multifaceted perspectives and experiences. As payments evolve into experiences, this will be critical to product development to make them more useful and more intuitive, thereby creating larger opportunities and adoption. Businesses cannot cater to one spectrum of society and expect to last long. These influences need to be made at the highest levels, in the boardrooms and executive meetings.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

The first step we need to make is to exercise forgiveness as a nation. Forgiveness to the communities that have been damaged and destroyed by systemic racism. Forgiveness is a bridge. It doesn’t matter that the current businesses and politicians are not responsible for creating the systems that have caused so much harm to minorities, it’s the acknowledgment that they have directly benefited from these systems and apologize for the errors of the past. This has never been done in this country, but it has been done in others. The German government publicly apologized for the Holocaust. The Australian government publicly apologized for their treatment of aboriginal communities. It is the first step to healing.

The second step is moving from the individual to the collective. The only fundamental truth in this life is that we are here to share. Share resources, ideas, experiences, love, connection, community. We have been taught as a society to reward those who place the needs of the individual higher than the collective, which only leads to suffering for everyone. We must remove the incentives that suggest it is better to take for yourself than it is to share.

The third step is thinking with radical imagination as to what the answers to systems of finance, politics, health, and housing could be. The system is broken. Little changes won’t be enough to move the needle in any significant way for the majority of people. We need radical ambition to think outside the bounds of what we currently think is “safe”. Open up to these ideas and really explore the potential.

The fourth step is redefining financial inclusion. What financial inclusion actually means is including alternative energy, conservation, reforestation, sanitation, education, community enrichment, and cultural preservation into your bottom line. It should mean thinking about the world as an interconnected source of abundance.

Fifth step is a realignment of values. Envision a future where monetary value is exchanged seamlessly and efficiently over long distances with no friction and low fees. Credit is extended without interest, and entrepreneurship and creativity are valued at a premium. Working long hours is no longer a productive means of earning a living. Community is the most important aspect of daily life, and education is first and foremost a necessity and a right.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

Yes, I’m incredibly optimistic that we can change as a society and as a culture and move towards a more equitable existence. I think you are seeing people starting to do this already by working remotely and moving out of cities and into areas that are more aligned with their wellness and create more space to share with their families or in nature. The values are shifting and people are already more open to taking the necessary steps to better their day to day lives. This has a ripple effect on society and how we communicate and how we organize. I think the changes and the resolutions will be exponential and will happen very quickly.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to grab a tea with Ken Chenault. I find it would be fascinating speaking to someone who I highly respect and admire about leading a Fortune 500 company during multiple economic crises, and how he is intimately involved in reshaping culture in financial services and how those ideas intersect with one another in creating visions of the future for black Americans.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me online through my website www.bleuco.com and my LinkedIn.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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