Curve: Growth lessons from a leading FinTech
In the run up to the Innovate Finance FinTech Growth Forum on September 19th in London, we sat down with a few notable members to find out how they handle growth, their capital raising activities and what challenges lie next.
Today, we speak to Charlie Taylor, growth lead at Curve.
Briefly describe your company – what does it do and what problem does it solve?
What we are building at Curve is a way to connect together your financial life – all of your bank accounts, debit cards, credit cards, and any other services you use for spending, sending and saving money. It’s a simple, safe, smart way to manage your money through one smart Curve card, and an even smarter mobile app.
Once you start putting all of those things in one place, there are a lot of new ways to save time and money. Freelancers and business owners can then link it to their expenses, for example, to remove some of the admin that eats away at their time and give them more time back to focus on running their business. Over time we will be connecting more and more of our customers’ financial lives, so that they can focus on the good stuff while Curve takes care of the rest.
Charlie Taylor leads growth at London’s Curve
So how much capital have you raised so far and by what means?
We’ve raised around £10 million so far. The business raised £1.5 million seed capital in 2015 – that got us started and we built the ‘alpha’ product on the back of that. As the business grew and the product launched, we worked towards an £8.5 million Series A funding round, which closed this summer – with some great investors on board including Santander InnoVentures, Oxford Capital and Breega Capital. That round included a ‘bridge’ round of around £2 million in late 2016, which supported our team’s growth as we built out more features for customers.
Did Curve have scaling plans from Day 1?
What we’re building is genuinely disruptive and new, so the focus on Day 1 was to prove we could build something that works. We had to show it could be a viable, working product, which could gain traction and solve problems for a market segment. Scale comes after that: when you’ve got the basis of traction then start building a scaling engine. So certainly scaling ambitions, but not scaling activities.
So very focused from Day 1?
Yes, I think you have to due to constraints on resources and time and money.
So between ambition and plans for scaling – have any of those plans changed?
The plans haven’t really changed. We have a good base of customers now using the product. We are getting some good feedback from our customers. We think we have enough traction now with the product to start ramping up customer acquisition and building out the infrastructure of the business to support larger operations. So we are swinging into action from a technology perspective, from an operational perspective and marketing perspective – to drive scale-up, support it and to maintain the standards of customer experience that our customers have told us they really enjoy getting from us.
What do you consider your biggest growth challenge?
The biggest growth challenge is scaling effectively into growth channels and penetrating into markets more broadly. For Curve, and for many of our colleagues in FinTech, we are bringing innovative new tools into people’s financial lives. There is always a group of people who are excited about new products, and now in London, excited about FinTech products. But it’s about winning people’s attention beyond the core of people who like trying new things – getting people’s attention and explaining what we do very effectively and very quickly, so we can build the user base beyond that initial kind of beachhead. That is a huge growth challenge in terms of messaging and finding effective channels.
Over 75,000 people have signed up for a Curve card since last year
Has Brexit affected Curve in any way?
It hasn’t affected us so far. We are growing into the UK and we have customers across Europe. We partner with a European bank and their regulatory environment isn’t changing anytime soon – so it hasn’t affected us from those perspectives. Talent is one way in which we may be affected.
To what extent do people from across Europe, who have made a huge contribution to our business, still want to come to the UK? That is something that will be an open question for the technology sector as a whole, and we will see how that plays out – but we’re confident about growing the business, and bringing the benefits of Curve to more people who want a simpler, smarter way of managing money.