The first 500 hours.
What the hell do you do when you’re starting a bank… from scratch.
The cogs of our startup had already been turning for a few months, there’d been meetings in the Tate modern café, interviews in Wagamamas, finance discussions in the White Hart, but there’s something about the day you turn the door handle of your new office that feels like ‘this is it’. This is day one. The clock is ticking now. (Well, the rent has started after all.)
The walls are bare, the desks are empty and the email accounts don’t yet exist. But the beauty of a blank slate is that it gives you the chance to consider and question your beliefs and assumptions for every little thing. Who gets the window seats? What about food in the office? Are Fridays even worth it?? We found ourselves rearranging the desks so that everyone could enjoy the views. A ridiculous venn diagram was drawn about food rules. And, Fridays have since been anointed ‘Hack Fridays’ consisting of a morning of shared reflection, a team lunch and an afternoon of passion projects.
Company culture is something we’ve considered from start. Yet, while it can be encouraged and supported, it can’t be forced. A culture grows first from people’s shared humour and attitudes, it roots itself in observed habits and formalities and blossoms on the fun of ‘away days’ and intensity of office all nighters.
And after 15 weeks, we’re now a team of 15 people. Our interviews were immense. “Come in for a chat” one of us would casually say in a Whatsapp message. Before the unsuspecting potential would find themselves sitting on a still-flat-flatpack, surrounded by an ever growing crowd of us chatting and probing en masse, like a barrel of curious monkeys. We’re a diverse team and recruiting together means we learn what we each value. A new joiner brings a whole new dimension and perspective so we think it’s important everyone gets the chance to say hello.
And, we haven’t even mentioned the actual work yet, the ’starting a bank’ bit. So, where exactly do you err… start? The answer has proven to be simply ‘everywhere’. There’s been pitches, investor meetings, logo development, brand creation, naming discussions, renaming discussions, financial product development, trademark submissions, setting up payrolls, applying for licenses, growing a co-creation community, card design, website designs, website launches, user interviews, questionnaires, domain searches, app drawings, prototypes, low fids, mid fids, a three day retreat, more app drawings, ordering pizza.
…And things aren’t always done in quite the order they should be (pizza first obviously). But, the craziness is down to the desire to get to our ideas into the hands of users, to learn, create and recreate as soon as physically possible.
The charm of these early days is that things can be imperfect. Our processes may be a little wild and untamed but we’re at the beautiful stage where things are so open and fantastically conceptual. These are the golden hours. When the idea’s just revealing itself and spreading its light. We can think freely and imagine unhindered. Be fearless and embrace the glare of a fresh office and a blank page.
We have even more coming up in the next few months including a brand launch, two more website developments, an entire app design, build and a beta launch. Yet, perhaps our biggest challenge is going to be whether we can keep the buzzing energy and creative excitement when things inevitably become more formalised. Check back in 500 more hours.