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Startup Grind

Startup Spotlight Q&A: Sustainably

Loral is CEO and co-founder of award-winning fintech Sustainably, which turns cashless transactions into positive impact everyday. Prior to setting up Sustainably she was head of digital at Aberdeen Asset Management where she helped scale it from 6–30 countries in10 years. Loral was named one of BIMAs top 100 people in digital in the UK and Sustainably has backers including Sir Richard Branson who named Sustainably his startup of the year in 2019, and Brent Hoberman’s Founders Factory.

— In a single sentence, what does Sustainably do?

Sustainably turns cashless transactions into positive impact automatically every day.

– How did Sustainably come to be? What was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

It all began with an idea back in 2015 and a lot of post-it notes on our kitchen wall. Our challenge? Could we design a tech product that would be completely sustainable and allow everyone to have a positive impact every day?

Inspired by fintech, augmented reality, gamification, the internet of things, and big technology businesses that had become part of everyone’s daily lives, we merged Loral’s experience in FTSE100 digital strategy with Eishel’s background in ethical retail, and together we came up with the idea of Sustainably.

The inspiration for Sustainably was a mix of Tom’s Shoes (when you buy something you do something good), Acorns Investing (which rounded up your spare change to your investment portfolio), and Pokemon Go (gamifying with augmented reality) but we wanted to create tech that did good.

— What sets Sustainably apart in the market?

Tech for giving has not evolved with consumer behavior. But SaaS and subscription models like Spotify, passive rounding up savings and investing like Monzo, Revolut, and Moneybox, and payments in the background like Uber are the norm. There is a multi-billion dollar market of people and businesses who would love to give if it was easier. They don’t want letters, direct debits, and hassled to give more. They want to give on their own terms, using their mobile and see the difference they’re making, and they want to shop at retailers who have products with social or environmental benefits. With a simple plug and play platform for brands, hassle-free fundraising for charities, and frictionless giving for consumers, we make doing good simple for everyone.

— What milestone are you most proud of so far?

Getting our first employees, raising our first investment, launching our product, winning awards, getting our first customers, generating revenue… the list goes on… and it’s a roller-coaster ride. The most notable things were getting the co-founder of Skyscanner as our first investor, winning Best of Show at Finovate in New York, and being named by Richard Branson as his startup of the year in 2019.

— Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?

We pitched at everything and got introduced to as many VCs as we could through our network. Now we have angel and early-stage funds invested.

– What KPIs are you tracking that you think will lead to revenue generation/growth?

Net Promoter Score and Daily Active Users

— How do you build and develop talent?

Diversity and inclusion are important to us. Consequently, 75% of our core team and 67% of our wider team, including contractors, are female: 50% of whom are working mothers, and 13% from other minority groups including LGBTQ.

Our investors and advisors have a track record in the technology, tech for good, and fintech sectors and help upskill the team.

We have never actively recruited and have been sought out by Women in Tech and retrainers who want to make a difference. We actively take CodeClan graduates, with, for example, a developer who has 20 years’ experience flying helicopters.

Many of the team are independently involved in the tech community and have leadership positions in groups such as Scottish Government’s National Advisory Council for Women and Girls, Gamstop, Datalab, Girl Geeks, Girls who Code and SWiT. Participation in these groups is supported and encouraged at Sustainably. Our culture is inherently flexible and open with supporting policies.

— What are the biggest challenges for the team?

It’s been a long road, designing a proof of concept first, then building our incredible team to help us get a product to market and launching with our first customers. I think the biggest challenges for us has been moving fast, learning on the go, and hustling every day to get to our next milestones. It’s all about being resilient and knowing where to go for help so building a great network so you can learn fast is key.

— What’s been the biggest success for the team? How did you celebrate?

It’s been a long road, designing a proof of concept first, then building our incredible team to help us get a product to market and launching with our first customers. I think the biggest challenges for us has been moving fast, learning on the go, and hustling every day to get to our next milestones. It’s all about being resilient and knowing where to go for help so building a great network so you can learn fast is key.

— What’s something you’re constantly thinking about?

How am I going to run a whole marathon in 6 months…. currently running 10k a week!! Yikes.

— What advice would you give to other founders?

Fear is a muscle…keep exercising it. (eg just get on and do it)

— Have you been or are you part of a corporate startup program or accelerator? If so, which ones and what have been the benefits?

Barclays Techstars
Founders Factory
Unlocking Ambition

Learning from the best, growing my network to access investors and customers

— Who is your cloud provider

AWS

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