MKIG Joined By Monzo’s Co-Founder, Gary Dolman
Last week we brought MKIG’s network back together (virtually) to discuss all things fintech.
The 25th February 2021, marked MKIG’s first-ever virtual meeting. We were delighted to be joined by startup CFO guru Gary Dolman, who steered not one, but two highly disruptive challenger banks — Starling and Monzo.
Gary honoured the network with a retelling of his experiences at these companies and revealed that he was initially swayed away from his corporate banking career into the startup scene through attending angel network events.
Gary spent one year working with Starling, before he and several others, including Tom Blomfield, parted ways and started Monzo. During his four years at Monzo, they grew from 9 people with a PowerPoint presentation to over 1,000 staff members, two million customers and a valuation of over £1 billion (at the time of his departure). During the talk, Gary candidly remarked on the best, hardest and most surprising things about working at Monzo.
The best thing about working at Monzo was the complete lack of fear in the company. They allowed people to try new things and permitted them to fail without repercussion. This contrasted with the corporate world, where people would be exceptionally fearful of failure and negative consequences.
The hardest thing was being able to keep up with the overwhelming demand from consumers for their product. Tom Blomfield told him;
“for a startup, every week feels like the most important week in their life”
and Gary, who came from a slower-paced corporate background, had to embrace this shift in mindset and adjust to working in a fast-paced environment.
The most surprising moment for Gary, was when Monzo launched their pre-paid card and accumulated a waiting list of 25,000 people. To keep people engaged with the product on the waiting list, they ‘gamified’ the system and introduced the ‘golden ticket’ which would enable lucky individuals to skip the queue. These tickets became incredibly sought after, so much so, they discovered people were actioning them off on eBay. A concept that took Gary completely by surprise. In a similar vein, Gary admits that he underestimated how fed up people were with their current banking providers, and Monzo’s true lightbulb moment was giving people a better understanding of their finances through the look and feel of the product.
“The product is very good, largely because it was built with the customer at the heart of it.”
From the audience, there were numerous questions. One concerning the future of the market, and whether there is room for more challenger banks? Gary responded with a resounding yes. That there are still gaps, especially in the middle market where corporate clients are badly served by their existing banks. This a prime area for disruption and where new business models can flourish.
So what is Gary’s focus since leaving Monzo? Well, unlike Co-Founder Paul Rippon, who infamously resigned from Monzo to focus on his alpaca farm, Gary continues to help more startups achieve their goals, through NED positions and as a Venture Partner at Antler. And his views on Bitcoin? That he will remain to sit on the fence in regards to Bitcoin being adopted as an everyday currency, and is in no rush to invest his own funds in it.
Following, Gary’s talk, we heard investment pitches from two up-and-coming fintech startups, IE Hub and Money Alive.
IE Hub which stands for Income and Expenditure Hub, are on a mission to revolutionise the £4bn UK debt collection market, before breaking into the $100bn global market by providing customers with a single portal to interact with all their creditors. IE Hub is the only Milton Keynes based startup to have been selected to participate in the coveted Tech Nation accelerator programme. Following the event, CEO Dylan Jones remarked;
Being new to pitching to investor panels, the support provided by MKIG was invaluable both before and during the event and will for sure set us up on our journey for seeking new investors. Gary Dolman’s opening session was so insightful, supported by such engagement from the investor panel.
Money Alive are an award-winning RegTech business that enables financial professionals to reduce their regulatory risk and create efficiencies by using a combination of technology and video. Money Alive already have an impressive client list including Mazars and LV Insurance.
Thanks, MKIG for arranging this event. Great to have insights from the Co-founder of Monzo and then the opportunity to present to the wider investor group. Funding can be challenging for early-stage companies so to have access to groups, such as yours, is invaluable. Andy Kirby, CEO of Money Alive.
Thank you once again to all of our attendees, to Gary for delivering an insightful talk and to our sponsors, Freeths and Find Others.
If you are interested in pitching, attending or sponsoring future events, please see our website for more details.
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