Koho is on a mission to change banking in Canada, particularly for Millennials. The company’s goal is to provide low-cost (free), highly functional mobile savings and spending accounts. Dubbed “the mobile hub for your money,” the company is generating a lot of interest. Emma Bullen spoke to CEO, Daniel Eberhard.
Why attempt to solve banking?
Koho started from a place of frustration. From a consumer perspective, traditional banking institutions leave a lot off the table. We’ve got these giant banks, making huge profits while we pay some of the highest bank fees in the world, and navigate outdated experiences with little choice as consumers. It got really clear for me when I found out that my brother had spent $85 in banking fees over three months.
EB: How did you go about doing it?
DE: We raised our first round of funding and secured partnerships with People’s Trust, Galileo, and VISA. After our second round of financing, we launched in March 2017 to a waiting list of 10,000 users.
We’ve got these giant banks, making huge profits while we pay some of the highest bank fees in the world, and navigate outdated experiences with little choice as consumers.
EB: 10,000 is a lot of people. How did you generate so much interest?
DE: I think the story is naturally interesting, so we’ve gotten a lot of support from the press. We also did a lot of public work early. We knew it was going to take a while to get to market, so we wanted to make sure the pain we were solving was real.
EB: What does success look like?
DE: We’re fortunate in that the only way to build a large brand is by staying true to our values, so we’re not expecting to be in competition in those. Success is hundreds of thousands, launching net-new financial products and becoming a household brand.
EB: How do you differentiate your brand voice from the big institutions?
When we started, we wanted to be immediately different from other banks. Our voice has continued to become much more refined. It’s human, irreverent, and hopefully supportive and defined. We’re not for everyone. We like to say, “Big cause, low ego.” We don’t care about tradition.
EB: How do you reach your users?
DE: Our focus is on Vancouver and Toronto. We use paid traditional digital media to spread the word about our services. When it comes to finances, word of mouth matters a lot to people. We’re starting to hear some great stories from people who are able to afford the tattoo that they always wanted, have paid off their student debt, or are taking trips they didn’t think they’d be able to afford. Moments like that are really rewarding and sharing them with our community is powerful.
We like to say, “Big cause, low ego.” We don’t care about tradition.
EB: What’s your team culture like?
DE: We have team members from Google, Alibaba, and Hootsuite and a bunch of smaller companies. There’s a lot of transparency. If I’m holding a board meeting, I’ll walk the whole company through the same slides. My team knows about the company finances and the operational capacity. They trust that when something is important, I’ll tell them.
We’re not very showy, and we identify and reinforce on execution. The real bonding moments are when you’re working hard to reach a goal together. As a team, we’re good at putting our heads down and getting shit done.
EB: Are you hiring right now?
DE: Yes, we’re mostly looking for staff in Toronto. There are roles available in development, finance, marketing, and product. We’re looking for people who are smart, and we look at where their motivation comes from. Working at a startup can be compelling, but what we’re looking to solve real problems for real people. Candidates have to believe that what we’re doing is worthwhile.
EB: What does your hiring process look like?
DE: I’m usually the first interview. We then have a technical and cultural interview, followed by a final interview with me. It’s important candidates know what they’re walking into — the history, the culture, the values. The team has put a lot of work into this culture so it makes sense they should be really active in the hiring process.
Learn more about Koho at koho.ca.