On April 10th 2018, princess Ariane, 3rd daughter of the King of the Netherlands, celebrated her 11th birthday. It is also the day we chose to deposit Cashbee’s statutes. These two data points have strictly nothing in common, but like any entrepreneurial adventure, we had to start somewhere.
Eighteen months later, we have released the simplest savings App ever on the App store.
We thought it was a good time to briefly reflect on our young existence, as we are entering the key phase where the fruit of our labour will be confronted with “the real world”, i.e. you.
Do “something” together
It is at the end of an intense tennis game between Cyril and Marc, the ultimate (tight) score and (enthousiastic more than technical) level of which will remain secret forever, that the question was tabled: “What about starting a company together?” Intriguing question, but to do what? In reply, we rapidly retained three principles: (1) use our cumulative experience of over 40 years in strategic consulting (Cyril) and investment banking (Marc), (2) very practically facilitate the financial lives of the many and (3) radically innovate, in the context of the rapid evolution of the regulatory and technological environments in finance. And that’s when we remembered the numerous spontaneous questions we had been asked by friends and family over the years: *“As a finance expert, which bank would you advise me to bank with?, “Other than the Livret A, what should I do with my savings?”, “I’ve been told that Apple shares were a sure bet, should I buy some?”, “We wish to buy a property. While we are house-hunting, should I leave my money on my bank account?” or “I never seem to be able to save money, can you help me?”. In this small list, we perceive a fundamental contradiction between the universal desire to save, and succeeding in actually doing so in real life, often due to lack of time, confidence and/or financial knowledge. Our idea was born: offer a simple, secure, and fully digital solution to help the French put money aside, and earn interest on these savings.
There is no FinTech, without Tech!
A highly pertinent observation, which has lead to the best decision taken to date: convince Chaker, a brilliant doctor in computer science and a highly experienced Chief Technology Officer (and we are being modest) to found Cashbee with us, with the aim to execute our ambitious project, attack the archaeïc universe of individual savings, and put cash back to work for the benefit of its owners.
From concept to product
Would we have proceeded if we had known about the challenges we would need to overcome? Yes, in all likelihood, but it is clear that we started off with a fairly optimistic view of some of the hurdles we faced: the lengthy and demanding administrative process to become a regulated paiement institution, the difficulty to recruit experienced software developpers, the challenge to combine the regulatory constraints with a fluid and easy to navigate in-App client experience … In short, nothing goes fast enough, and almost everything costs more than expected!
We had the benefit of starting our business after lengthy and complementary professional careers, but our admiration for entrepreneurs that succeed in transforming their vision into an actual service or product has increased tremendously. Continuously overcoming anticipated or unexpected obstacles requires tenacity, strong (some would say blind) convictions and a healthy dose of resilience. In our case, the need to simultaneously respond to regulatory requests, develop our technology, recruit specialists and sign solid partnerships lead to several instances of extreme pressure. But it is in these moments that the team came together and our company’s culture was forged. The pride that we take today in presenting you with our solution, in real life, stems from these joint efforts!
A few crucial choices of which we are proud
Without having been faultless, we believe to have taken a number of key decisions which we stand by today. Firstly, even when certain “experts” recommended that we work with free-lance developpers to rapidly build a Proof-of-Concept, i.e. a quick and dirty version of our App, to gain time, we deliberately chose to internalise our technology from the start. We saw this as the only way to deliver a secure, efficient and user-friendly product. It can no doubt be improved upon, be we are convinced that our App truly helps our users to simplify their financial lives, in a simple and secure manner.
Secondly, we have chosen to carry our regulatory approvals in our own name, and therefore to submit ourselves directly to the supervision and the controls of the Banque de France. This undoubtedly constitutes a more demanding, more time-consuming and more expensive path to launching a new financial service, as it requires the construction of sophisticated systems to store and protect data, manage risk and ensure regular reporting. But again, we were more than willing to trade time and some of our capital for the certainty to be able to offer a robust and efficient service, validated by the supervisory authorities. We want to help you better manage your money. For that, we know we need your confidence first.
Finally, we have made no compromises on our recruitment. Consequently, it took us more time to constitute our team. But in the same vein, we can today affirmatively and proudly state that it has no equal. With a certain assumed biais for highly experienced profiles, our technical team understands and carries our strategic and commercial vision as much as the client service and marketing experts.
We all need it. And we received lots of it. We were alerted by friends that Platform58, the FinTech incubator of La Banque Postale was being created, allowing us to join it from its launch. We received financial and intellectual support from highly experienced Business Angels. We struck commercial agreements with high quality partner institutions, open to innovative ideas and willing to trust our start-up. And we are going live when the macro-economic environment is highly receptive to our concept: it is very complicated to find appropriate savings solutions, combining positive yield, liquidity and risk minimisation in a negative interest rate environment. The preservation of purchasing power has rarely been as topical as it is today.
… But the real test, comes now, with you
Following 18 months of intense work, hundreds of pitches repeating our mantra (the French deserve a simple and secure service, to save better and more), the design of complex technology to deliver a simple service seamlessly, multiple exchanges with our supervisory authorities, relentless efforts to hire and build the best team, and after having incurred substantial operational expenses… we now arrive at the true test, the only one that matters: will you like our product and adopt our solution? Will our App truly help you put more money aside? Will you sign up (for free) in order to put your dormant cash to work, and start earning interest, without having to change banks, in a fully secure manner? We want to find out, so please let us know on Cashbee.
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