Revoco Talks…Fintech for first time families with StorkCard’s Bruce Pannaman
We’ve teamed up with Bruce Pannaman, co-founder of StorkCard for this installment of Revoco Talks.
StorkCard’s mission is to redefine the relationship parents have with money and empower mums and dads to take control of the costly adventure of raising a family.
StorkCard was created to do the financial thinking for busy mums and dads so that they can focus on the joys of having kids, not the costs. Since launching in December, the app has been featured in the Evening Standard, Wired magazine, Fintech Futures, Closer magazine and has been app of the week in The Sun.
Here Bruce talks about his career journey, including failures, achievements, reacting to the global pandemic and more. Have a read below…
Can you tell us about your career background?
At this point, I yearned to become part of the startup world, to either start up something of my own or play a more involved role in the direction of another company that has a strong social mission, where I can easily see the impact of the work I am doing. This led to an exciting move into the language learning Ed-tech space, where I learnt to build AI algorithms to help some of the UK’s top Ed-tech apps become much more effective and more personalised so that their users can learn languages even quicker.
In my evening and weekends, I also started my first company with some friends, where we adapted and built a robotic handwritten-letters-as-a-service for large companies and charities such as Accenture and British Heart Foundation to improve their sales funnels.
Can you tell us more about StorkCard and how the idea for it came about?
As much buzz as there is around Fin-Tech, I think for people outside of this space, the whole thing is extremely boring. I mean, when was the last time you saw a youtube unboxing video of a mortgage? Financial products are really only useful or desirable to people when they enable them to do something in their lives that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, such as mortgages to buy a house, a pension to retire from work or a student loan to attend university. StorkCard’s origins stem from a simple question: if the above products exist for those goals, why isn’t there a similar product to help people have babies and raise children?
On average in the UK it costs over £150k to raise a child from birth to 18 years old, with the most difficult financial periods occurring when household income drops during parental leave, as well as when pre-school childcare is needed. Recent studies by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have linked some of the causes of the gender pay gap to these same financial difficulties, concluding that the gender pay gap is less so men vs women, but mums vs everyone else!
At StorkCard we think that this is unfair; having a baby is an should be a happy occasion, a life event that brings joy to families and forms some of the fondest memories in our lives. We are building StorkCard with its platform and products to first and foremost ensure that parents are focusing on these joys, instead of worrying about the costs.
What’s the biggest achievement so far for StorkCard?
We received a wonderful reception to our app when we launched it in December. Not only did this mark the end of StorkCard’s hard-fought journey towards being issued one of the FCA’s coveted licences, but it also gave us our opportunity to promote our thoughts on the paradigm of life-stage banking. This means focusing an entire Fintech product on what it can help you achieve in life and treating financial product itself as more of a tool to achieve it.
To date, we have been featured in the Evening Standard, Wired magazine, Fintech Futures, Closer magazine and have been app of the week in The Sun. We have also been celebrated as a key innovation by London Assembly in a report to the mayor about improving the financial health of Londoners. We are incredibly proud of these endorsements of our social mission and our goal of improving the family financial health of the parents using our app.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far as a start-up founder and how did you overcome these?
Being a startup founder is akin to being a marathon runner, there are difficult walls to push through as well as elated highs to enjoy. It isn’t the failures that matter but more the lessons learnt and the attitude you bring to the retrospective meeting.
Doing more with fewer resources than the minimum you think is required is a constant struggle for me as a founder. Maintaining high-quality products, whilst building things as fast and cheaply as possible is a constant exercise in compromise. I have found personally, that constantly investing in your own skills, even if you find that particular task boring is key to be able to deliver a feature or project without lots of extra time or the right staff.
For instance, since starting StorkCard, I have learnt a lot about animation and video editing techniques, so that we can deliver the quantity and volume of our organic content and advertising when myself and my business partner don’t have the resources to outsource it. In hindsight, this has this given me a better understanding of what is involved in the creative process and allowed me to better manage new staff that we have brought on since.
What would you say the biggest barrier to success is for start-ups now?
This might sound corny but I feel the biggest barriers for startups today is – startups themselves. Between WordPress, Shopify, AWS and the vast array of SAAS services available today, it is laughably easy to begin a new startup compared to 10-20 years ago. This is fantastic for consumers and especially early adopters, who can test many new experimental products and services that are brought to market quickly before needing to amass a big market. But for novice founders, this requires a lightning pace work to test business hypotheses due to this increased competition.
This new speed of innovation is again fantastic for venture funds and investors, as generally, businesses that come to them are more developed by the time they seek investment, thus de-risking the deal for the same money. Pre-cloud computing, simply getting your webserver setup and MVP website live would cost £1000’s upfront, which required investment and investors commonly invested at before that stage. Nowadays, most founders have to launch their MVP, build an early user base and show promise of future revenue to get the first money in the door.
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Are there any particular failures you’ve experienced in your career that have changed the way you work today?
Some of the most prominent mistakes I have made professionally have been within the data science roles I have held in my career. These expensive mistakes were felt by the team and company as a whole, however, due to an excellent work culture and growth mindset of the management team, these mistakes were met with understanding and support to help me learn from them and ensure that they never happen again.
In these cases, I learnt how to more effectively probe stakeholders for more detail on the use case of the project and not be afraid to double-check my understanding of what was being investigated with them to ensure that the results that I was delivering were relevant to the project in hand and the audience of the final presentation. Attention to detail has always been a flaw of mine as I love the exciting new stages of a project much more than cleaning up the decks towards the end. These mistakes taught me to get help from my team at these stages to ensure that any silly mistakes in the data or analysis were scrutinized and checked before presented to stakeholders.
What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneur looking to get their venture off the ground?
Keep going!! As I mentioned before there are going to ups and downs within your entrepreneurial journey, but make sure you give yourself time to celebrate your team’s successes and learn from your mistakes as it’s the journey towards your business mission that will change your life and become your passion, not just rushing to (hopefully) a business exit.
I would also say to ask for and take on board feedback at every turn. The Mum Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is a great book to read on this to ensure that you get helpful feedback instead of less relevant feedback from people simply being polite, telling you what you want to hear or intentionally trying to put you off. Look for patterns of what many people are saying instead of focusing on what an individual person says, which could end up being just an opinion or a distraction. Write it all down in your notes and look back on it when planning your next sprint or feature.
How have you had to react and adapt your business and ways of working in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
The StorkCard team are all great friends, as well as colleagues, and we love spending time together in the office and out. However, like many other companies, these types of interactions had to be suspended during the lockdown and even now we are not all travelling into the office full time.
This has resulted in the increased usage of many different collaboration and productivity tools to ensure we can work together as effectively as possible. At StorkCard, we love Evernote, Slack, Notion, Trello and G suite and regularly try many fun new tools on betalist.com and product hunt to keep ourselves sharp even though we are most often still remote working.
— StorkCard (@StorkCard) July 14, 2020
What’s next for StorkCard?
We have an exciting new roadmap ahead of us at StorkCard to push forward our mission of helping parents all around the UK focus on the joys of having children instead of the costs.
There are 3 highly competitive products that we will add to our roster within the next year to ensure no parenting team is left behind without the tools they need to bring together and rally their family’s wider support network, grow their family financial health to unlock future opportunities and to raise their family in the most free and happy way possible.
Find out more about StorkCard here.
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