Revoco Talks…Not fearing failure with Adrian Shedden of Lumio
We were recently joined by Adrian Shedden, Co-founder of Lumio, the world’s first personal finance optimisation app!
Founded in 2018, Lumio is the next generation of personal finance. Putting all accounts in one place, Lumio effortlessly shows users where their savings and earnings ought to be growing. Allowing users of Lumio to get ‘smarter’ with their personal finance.
Adrian and his team believe maximising your finances shouldn’t just be for the professionals and those with time on their hands. Lumio is about taking the legwork out of fulfilling your financial potential.
Here Adrian talks about his journey working in the start-up space including challenges and failures he has had to overcome. If you’re a founder or an apsiring entrepreneur, you’ll want to read this…
Adrian, thanks for joining us. Can you tell us about your career background?
So, I’m a reluctant lawyer and passionate technophile.
My legal career was a rollercoaster. From the heady “work hard, play harder” (very city, chest-beating alpha!) days in 2005 to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
I was fortunate to qualify in 2009, as a financial regulatory lawyer (ironically the more academic area of law, despite hating my law degree!), when many friends were losing their jobs.
The longer downturn and boredom fuelled the intrapreneur in me. I focused on consumer-facing lending, payments/e-money (designing a structure that the likes of Revolut and Monzo later followed), as well as the beginnings of crypto.
I had a 6-week mental health break due to depression, induced by gruelling 15 hour days at a global law firm (“yes, you’re on prescribed sick leave, but please do this 20-hour piece of work by tomorrow morning.”). So, in 2015, I returned to the West Country and established Burges Salmon’s Fintech team as a leader recognised by the Legal 500.
It was a ploy to get closer to the startup community, in the hope I could get back to creative, tech roots.
In October 2017, I co-founded my first startup focused on sharing sensitive data characteristics without sharing the sensitive data (think verifying you’re over 18 in the pub, without sharing your date of birth on identity/sensitive data sharing) – we failed 15 months later due to lack of co-founder alignment. Looking back, I wish I’d heard “fail fast” sooner!
Again, I was fortunate that my current fellow co-founders picked me up and the rest is Lumio history! My start-up career has been even more of a rollercoaster than the legal career, but hopefully Lumio won’t be failing fast (except perhaps incrementally as we build and scale parts of the business!).
Can you tell us more about Lumio and how the idea for it came about?
Lumio has been an evolution.
Brothers Tom and Charlie Richardson had been advising wealthy individuals on their investments. They were constantly asked by their (gainfully employed, but not ‘wealthy’) Millennial friends for advice on what to do with their money. There was no service that really catered for them.
After a lot of desk research, it became clear there was an abundance of budgeting tools, innovative digital banks and investment products. But there was no independent first port of call to help find the right products and services for people. With a rapidly growing market, financial decision-making was becoming more difficult and complex.
The research showed existing providers were completely neglecting young people who wanted to optimise and grow their money, rather than just budget.
There was no initial plan to build a product. Just a curiosity to break up the working week that ultimately led down a rabbit hole, a landscape/competitor analysis, building the prototype, finding out people were willing to pay for our value proposition: Connecting the broadest range of accounts in seconds, analysing your ‘lazy money’ and growing your money optimally with the right products at the right time from our independent marketplace, always in your absolute best interests.
Now here we are, as a strong team that constantly challenges each other to learn, grow and build Lumio to accelerate financial independence, integrity and personal progress through intelligent technology.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far as a start-up founder and how did you overcome these?
In my startup before Lumio, the biggest challenge was lack of co-founder alignment and skills – it was difficult having four co-founders, two of whom were focused on their other businesses and left me and the CTO to do everything (but still expected 25% of the business).
We never really overcame this, which is why we failed. But I now am much clearer and faster on identifying clear areas of responsibility and accountability – it’s something that we address by challenging each other with open and honest reflection and support to keep learning and growing, and identify gaps that we need others to help fill.
Since co-founding Lumio, the biggest challenge has probably been fundraising (not helped by COVID). The main mantra has always been “keep Lumio alive”. This has meant keeping our lean team employed and outworking (rather than outspending) the situation. We leaned out expenditure, reduced product updates and focused on content-driven organic growth – all with a view to getting the bridge financing that allowed us to survive and then focus on those elements that would drive traction and closing the larger seed round. This has also required another mantra that has only worked due to our focus on looking after our Lumio people: “Keep believing.”
We’re still not out of the difficult period, but have much better foundations due to COVID-19 forcing us to focus on the basics.
What would you say the biggest barrier to success is for start-ups now?
No matter your background, there will always be areas as a first-time founder where you’re completely blind.
Lumio has been nominated for @BCloudUK‘s 100 FinTech Disrupters 🚀
— Lumio (@Lumio_app) September 3, 2020
What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneur, looking to get their venture off the ground?
You have to accept that building your venture is a process of failing and learning – and the faster you do that, the better. Chances are that ultimately you will fail (stats innit?!) – so the more you can see every failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, the easier and more enjoyable the journey will be. And also the more likely you are to succeed by whatever metric you’re measuring success (I think, but then again I’m still learning!).
Have you had to react and adapt your business and ways of working in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
Completely! Our fundraising was due to complete, but unfortunately collapsed due to investor illiquidity.
We had to hit the brakes hard on all our plans and quickly work out contingencies just to “keep Lumio alive”.
But we also saw it as a huge opportunity to help people faced with immense financial uncertainty, strengthen the Lumio value proposition to customers and investment proposition to investors Focus on the people that make Lumio and find new ways (and places – hello Romania, Portugal and Cornwall!) of working.
What’s been your biggest achievement so far with Lumio?
I think our biggest achievements, that I’m most proud of, have come from us treating each other as humans, pulling together as a small team and punching above our weight.
Especially when COVID hit – after 6 months of graft, we were due to close our round in March. Three significant investors pulled out on Friday 13th due to liquidity issues on – it was a gut-wrenching, dark day with one bad call after the other, leaving Lumio on the brink of extinction. We were floored but decided our number 1 priority was to look after each other.
I think it’s this human, people-first approach that then allowed us to rebuild Lumio. Cutting costs, clawing in any funding we could get, redefining Lumio, our purpose, mission, vision and value proposition. We stuttered and got frustrated at times. But ultimately caring for each other has led to stronger foundations than we ever would have had without the pains and fears from the COVID challenge. I’ve got a lot of love for this team and it’s human-ness.
What do you like about being based in London? Do other tech hubs in the UK or Europe appeal to you?
We’re technically based in London and Bristol, both excellent tech hubs with fantastic networks of experience to learn from and collaborate with. But, as “working from anywhere with a good internet connection” has become more feasible, so does the opportunity to base Lumio out of other places in the world. Personally, anywhere with a beach (I’m writing this from Cornwall having surfed every day this week) or mountains is game for me!
What’s next for Lumio?
We’re going to launch our long-awaited, Android app smash our seed round (active angel investors say hi!) and hire a CTO, Product Growth Manager and Operations Intern.