Undoubtedly, access to capital is a pillar that propels startup growth, but capital alone is not enough. To thrive, emerging businesses need a mixture of relevant resources, mentorship and money to scale effectively. As our venture studio at Anthemis evolves, we learn a great deal about how we can help founders beyond capital allocation. For us, it is a combination of harnessing our capabilities and leveraging the expertise of our ecosystem.
We partnered with MMH in 2017 to launch our financial wellness venture studio in London to enable disruption and innovation in the most underserved customer segments and use our expertise and knowledge to help entrepreneurs to succeed in their ventures. Over the last few years, we have conducted research on problems we believe need to be solved and have spoken to countless subject matter experts in spaces as varied as gambling, income smoothing, homeownership, the gig economy and end of life planning.
At Anthemis, our thesis around financial wellness has been our guiding light when backing founders and building businesses out of this incubator. Our fundamental belief is that, even if someone is financially included and has access to basic financial services, this does not mean they are necessarily financially well. Clearly, financial inclusion and financial wellness are reciprocally connected, often – incorrectly – treated as interchangeable. We need to start talking about our financial health in the way that we talk about our physical and mental health because, in the end, financial stress and instability is the root cause of many broader foundational problems.
We first met Brad Liebmann, the Founder and CEO of alt.bank, over two years ago, when we were in discussions with him about running another business we were building at the time. Back then, he was transitioning out of Simply Business, which he had founded in 2005 and led to become Europe’s largest online insurance broker. Eventually, the business was acquired by Travelers insurance company (of USA) for $500 million.
In January 2018, Brad approached us with his own idea: to build a radically different type of bank designed specifically for those who, historically, have been excluded and underserved. P2P in nature and extremely novel in its distribution strategy, this seemed like a noble endeavour but something we were concerned was unscalable, un-monetizable – ultimately another project with limited long-term impact.
However, after 18 months of hard work and collaboration, including market analysis, business model iterations, team-building and storytelling refinement, we now have a rockstar team of over 20 people split between São Paulo and London. We believe we have got the proposition and product to a point where it can have real impact on the markets it seeks to address and the people it seeks to help. The product is live and scaling rapidly.
Alongside Brad’s own personal commitment, Anthemis helped capitalize the business at the pre-seed stage and has continued to nurture the business through its growth journey. alt.bank is now in a position to scale across Brazil and its other target markets, its mission to help the 1+ billion people excluded currently from the global financial system.
alt.bank aims to do this by removing the barriers to building a relationship with a financial institution – namely: lack of trust, cost of opening and maintaining an account, scarceness of ATMs, lack of incentives and the impact of not having the necessary documentation. The team aims to dispel the myth that the customer at the base of the pyramid is not worth serving, and to bring ‘best in class’ product and customer service innovation via a novel business model to a population that sorely needs it.
alt.bank is very much an ecosystem play. It is the world’s first peer-based banking platform, with four different components that drive growth and network effects. By building a financial network that gets better and stronger with each new member, it creates an environment of collaboration between local businesses and residents, opening the door to further product innovation.
We are very proud of what Brad, Fabio, Paul and the rest of the team have achieved so far, and can’t wait to see what they do next!