The Benefit of a Tough Crowd

JUMO office view

You can’t hide the truth. At least that’s how I feel every Monday when I stand up in front of our team and talk about what’s going on in the business. Take a few Astro Physicists, mixed with Forensic Psychologists and a generous dose of Engineers … and you have a crowd that can smell nonsense from a different post code. Nonsense busting is really important if you want a self-correcting culture that’s not afraid to ask hard questions.

The new “tech socialism” requires a product to have a clear, positive impact on customers — if you don’t have it you simply won’t get the talent in the building. And you need a lot of special talent if you want to build a data-orientated business. At a predecessor to JUMO, afb, we had ambitious plans to make a difference but when we looked in the mirror in late 2013 what we saw was painful. Our products did not cut it. We were not reaching people at scale.

We decided to focus our energy on our mobile start-up and laid out a plan to build a platform for emerging markets that makes it easy for people to access low cost, real time and simple financial products. The core team believed deeply that everyone, everywhere deserves access to basic financial tools and that technology has removed the barriers to that becoming reality.

Our thesis was that credit is at the top of the needs hierarchy for emerging mass markets and that we had to prove that these assets were behaviourally predictable at very large scale. Without proof, Banks would not be interested to participate.

Mobile networks have the prime real estate for digital transactions in markets where people are more mobile than online, and so we spent a lot of time working out how to help them grow the value of their ecosystems by facilitating Banks using their rails to reach people.

We setup a pilot in Tanzania and within a few months it became clear that there was a huge amount of potential. We juggled iterating the product, building systems capacity and automated fraud attacks. Meanwhile, the customer response was very positive.

Three years, ten million loans, six countries and 4 mobile networks later we are now creating these assets for large banks. We are standardising our services to support partners so that we can be more open and help banks to reach everyone from business owners in cities to subsistence farmers in rural areas.

We are now working hard on savings products and the challenge that people face in trying to find low-cost, easily accessible and trusted investments. There is a lot of excitement about putting savings and borrowing tools together, in our customers’ hands, in real time, as they want them.

Our mission is to make it easy for Banks and Mobile networks to grow huge financial marketplaces that customers love. If we stray from the course we have set, we are counting on our nonsense busters to set us straight.

Andrew Watkins-Ball is the CEO and Founder of JUMO.