In Conversation With... Curve’s Shachar Bialick
Seeking to address the ever-fragmented world of money, Curve remains intrinsically straightforward in its outlook: Simplify your finances with all your cards in one. Carry less. See more. Spend smart. Save more.
“Carry less. See more. Spend smart. Save more.”
Curve consolidates all your cards into one Mastercard, letting you shuffle between them with a mobile app. More than just a wallet-minimising device, Curve also offers benefits such as cashback, zero-fee spending abroad, real-time spending notifications and ‘financial time travel’, which allows users to adjust the payment method for a purchase up to 14 days after the fact.
The model is based on three plans: Curve Blue, which is free; Curve Black, £9.99/month, and Curve Metal, £14.99/month (and which offers a sexy, millennial-friendly brushed metal card instead of plastic, among other perks).
Since its launch in 2015, the firm has successfully transgressed the boundaries of fintech, leveraging data to free both time and money for its users. By 2017, Curve had raised $12m in venture capital. By May 2019, they have more than 400,000 subscribers and currently witness user base growth of 25-30% month on month.
Shachar Bialick - Founder & CEO of Curve
The founder and CEO, Shachar Bialick, embodies the enduring innovation at Curve. Having founded and backed several startups in the early days of his career before completing an MBA with INSEAD, Bialick founded Curve with an intuitive vision of modernity at its core.
We were keen to hear Bialick’s thoughts on how to keep financially smart, the state of fintech today and all things Curve.
You've spent over a decade of your working life founding and backing startups, what was your inspiration for Curve?
I’ve founded all my previous startups looking for solutions to everyday problems. It was no different with Curve. Curve taps into a global consumer insight and provides a unique solution. People spend all their waking hours earning money. Managing that money makes them stressed and tense. Either they spend it recklessly, or fearfully squirrel it away. Their financial life is fragmented and they don’t feel in control of it.
I founded Curve because I believe people should feel in control of their finances – but the solution is not another bank or service. The solution is to put all your finances in one place so you can make smart choices on how to spend, send, see and save.
How does Curve help the user to make better choices financially?
We’re on a mission to simplify the world of money in a way that’s never been done before and ensure everyone can choose the financial services they want, when they want, and have the power to change those choices.
Do you think the current economic/political environment has contributed to Curve's success?
Yes, I’m sure it’s played a part. With Brexit looming, people are understandably risk-averse when it comes to their finances. Curve is not a bank and we don’t require customers to move their money to their Curve card or change any of their banking behaviours. They can keep their money safe in their bank but also benefit from the many product features of the challenger banks and more.
“Curve is not a bank and we don’t require customers to move their money to their Curve card or change any of their banking behaviours.”
Have you considered how Curve could help the 1.5 million people in the UK without banking and improve financial inclusion?
Financial inclusion in the UK alone has some horrific stats. Two in five people have only £100 in savings and two million people don’t have a bank account. We’ve already started with educational campaigns – we ran a How to Budget campaign last year – and we regularly blog about how to manage money better. Financial inclusion is an important driver for our product roadmap.
What excites you most about the fintech world right now?
We’re currently experiencing a very exciting time in the market right now. Disruption is upon us. Big banks are modernising to crush the competition. Tech giants are entering the payment arena with a mission to own customers’ wallets. Emerging tech startups are launching products to replace or complement the incumbents.
All of them are trying to make things easier, faster, cheaper or more digital. All of them are talking about empowering their customers, revolutionising money or changing the world.
It’s not all cheap talk though. Real and rapid progress has occurred, but in a massive sector with masses of customers. That has also created a mass of problems. Every new development, technology, product or service may have added benefits, but they have also multiplied complexity and divided attention. This fragmentation shows no signs of slowing. In fact, it’s accelerating.
“For a savvy customer, making the most of this new financial landscape means micro-managing a disconnected portfolio of banks, cards, providers, accounts and apps. And in a world where their lives and businesses are run from a smartphone, this makes no sense at all.”
For a savvy customer, making the most of this new financial landscape means micro-managing a disconnected portfolio of banks, cards, providers, accounts and apps. And in a world where their lives and businesses are run from a smartphone, this makes no sense at all. They’re used to products and services that are mobile, seamless and frictionless. From contacts, communications and workflow, to entertainment, travel and retail therapy. All of them are easily discoverable, immediately accessible, deeply integrated and stored in one place.
We believe our finances should work in exactly the same way. And right now, they don’t. Right now, they’re a mess. This is why we are building Curve. To simplify your finances and put them right at the end of your fingertips.
What are the biggest challenges for the business?
We’re scaling fast: it’s not easy to maintain a high-performing team while growing a company. It’s therefore critical to cement the principles of our culture within each team member, beginning with the hiring process and ending with the way we 'fire'/churn. We do this by ensuring that everything at Curve starts with our mission – to simplify the way you spend, send, see and save.
How do you research and develop to cater to your users’ ever-growing needs and expertise?
‘Obsess About the Customer’ is one of our values at Curve. We work hard to understand who customers are and how we can delight them. We do regular qualitative and quantitative research and integrate this with data. This approach has led to greater levels of customer satisfaction and better strategic decisions.
How are you partnering with retailers, or perhaps the travel sector, to enhance the customer's shopping experience?
We offer 1% cashback from over 50 retailers which goes into an e-wallet within the Curve app. Our customers don’t have to wait until the end of the month to collect their rewards, they can spend it anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
We have a strong travel proposition and along with our 0% FX, we also offer Worldwide Travel Insurance, Rental Car Collision Damage Waiver and we’re about to introduce Worldwide Airport LoungeKey Access.
Curve has an engaged online community that offers ideas and suggestions for product development. Have you been able to take any of these on?
We have an ongoing dialogue with our community who are evangelical about Curve. We use them to beta-test products, and we take their comments and ideas on board. This relationship with our community is vital during and after product development as we’re such a customer-focused company.
What was important aesthetically for Curve? In terms of design for the app, UX and the physical card?
Simplicity and minimalism. Everything we do is to simplify people’s financial lives. Simplicity is the core of our DNA. It’s in our design, language and our UX.
“Simplicity is the core of our DNA. It’s in our design, language and our UX.”
What does the future hold for Curve?
We have an insanely exciting roadmap ahead which will really add to our product offering. Currently, we’re fundraising for round B and have expansion plans for six European markets this year: Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. All things going to plan, we’ll be in the US by the end of the year.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
You must believe in what you are doing. Your mission must be the North Star for the business. Cement your mission in the DNA of the company and only employ people who are the right cultural fit. You can employ as many A-Team players as you like but if they don’t buy into and drive your vision, you won’t succeed.
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