19. June 2013–
In a world where having only one bank account seems to be increasingly becoming a rarity, jumping from one app to the other to check the state of your financial affairs can be a time consuming and irritating process. Enter soon-to-be-launched Numbrs, the app founded by Swiss incubator Centralway and headed up by ex-Groupon associate Julien Arnold, which aggregates all your bank accounts in the one place to provide a more comprehensive financial overview.
We caught up with Arnold to find out how he was headhunted by Marc Samwer, why Numbrs has such an aggressive expansion plan and how he plans on putting the fun back in banking...
Who are you and what are you doing?
Numbrs is a multi-banking app which brings together all your financial accounts in one place. We want to be the users’ single point of contact with their financial life.
So you have, for example, credit cards, bank accounts, miles and more cards, and we let you put it into one app to give you an overview of these accounts – it gives you a new bank statement and makes it far easier to manage your accounts. You can also perform transactions and make payments from within the app.
How did you come across your idea?
I am German, I used to live in London and now I live in Zurich. So I have a German, British and Swiss bank account and it's such a pain to keep an overview of them. Banking apps are really not fun, that's why I wanted to make a nice-to-use app that integrates all of these together in a perfect summary.
Who are the founders and how did you find each other?
I have two cofounders – Dennis Just and Johannes Hübner. I studied business and got into VC by writing my thesis on exit management of VC investments. For this, I interviewed Marc Samwer and Neuhaus Partners and all those guys who hang around Berlin.
I then worked at Neuhaus Partners, but kept in contact with Marc Samwer at the time. He really wanted me at Groupon so I started in its London office – when I started we had about 200 staff. About seven months later when I quit and went to Switzerland, we had 750 people right the IPO. So it wasn’t really a startup, even when I got there.
In Switzerland, I met the CEO of Centralway, which is a company builder in Switzerland, and they were looking for a founder for their first venture. We discussed the Mint model – which is were the idea came from – and went from there. We started working on it this year.
What makes you different from everyone else?
So the basic idea comes from Mint, but I don’t think they are directly a competitor because they are in the US and doing personal financing.
We are going a step further and doing multi-banking, which means you can also do transactions and have a future timeline – that’s our USP. We analyse your past financial behavior and can say what will happen in the future, so how your future behaviour with your financial life will develop. We can suggest to save in certain areas if you want to reach a goal, say to buy a car in a year – we advise you.
How many users do you have?
At the moment we have 2800 closed beta users to make sure we have the perfect app. We could launch now but that’s not what we want, we want it to be perfect first. We'll hopefully launch in the beginning of July, in Germany first.
What is your business model?
We haven't emphasised that at the moment. We want to get to critical mass first and make the user happy. We have a few business models in mind, but we will see.
Who is financing you?
We got funding from Centralway – quite a large funding round of over €6m – people keep asking me what we have planned for it. We have a very big approach, we don’t just want to do Switzerland – we’re going into Germany first, then the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland. For me, Germany is already done, I'm already planning the other launches. We're looking at offices in the UK, and we’re looking at going to the US as well.
That's quite aggressive expansion – is that something your background at Rocket Internet taught you?
What you learn at Rocket is that it’s all about execution. Numbrs is a very technological topic, but it still has to be executed well. We want to go into the different countries as fast as possible – it makes sense for us.
We are looking into Google Glass a lot and we’re quite keen to see what they will do next with it. So I’d say Sergey Brin, and talk about Google Glass obviously.
"The only business tip I will ever give is..."
Don’t be afraid, I get that advice a lot from Martin, our CEO. He pushes me, but in a good way. As a founder, you worry a lot. But my worries are taken away if I have just one conversation with him, so I'd say just do it and you'll find out if it works later. Pretty much Nike's "Just do it", really.
Any advice you'd give fellow startups?
Always good to have some sort of guidance or a mentor to discuss difficult decisions. It’s really good to have a cofounder, or great manager, or VC/incubator behind you for these discussions.
Where will you be in a year's time?
Numbrs will be international, we will be as perfect as a Dropbox or Mailbox app. Of course we want to go in the direction of a Mailbox $100m exit, but for me it’s more about creating a really, really cool and easy-to-use product so it’s actually fun to do banking. I want to take the pain out of banking.
How have the banks reacted to Numbrs?
We expected the banks to be against us, but we had amazing conversations with them. They are very keen to see what we’re doing and willing to share their knowledge. We’re talking about banking, there are a lot of restrictions and legal clauses. And obviously security is a big issue. That’s why we are testing so much – we have to be even more secure than the banks, because we have multiple banks in the one app.
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