It’s been a few months since we last spoke, and like every other year thus far, the Dozens train has continued to steam ahead. I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss our achievements, while acknowledging the long-term funding risk that we have grown so accustomed to over the last four years.
When I started Project Imagine in Jan 2018, if someone were to predict that… we would raise £23m+ and last four years; launch a Spender to Saver to Investor proposition in a crowded marketplace and still gain 55k+ KYCs and 10k+ active customers with an average balance multiples that of older challenger banking competitors; built a cloud-native core banking system from scratch, using a bleeding edge Kafka-based messaging approach; built a payments system that beat ApplePay for speed; partnered with the biggest and best brands around the world and have them credentialise our acumen for complex delivery; run the transaction book at industry leading fraud rates even as an early-stage fintech (typically more prone to financial crime); pay out more than £120k+ interest to deserving savers who trusted us with £3.5m+ of their money invested in our bonds; and get to all this while creating a uniquely transparent, inclusive and proactive culture where only the best and most-committed-to-the-mission, survive - helping us run the whole company with less than 30 employees even today… needless to say, I would have bitten their hand off.
And yet at this stage, the promise of Dozens - indeed, increasingly in the world around us, the thought that Dozens stands for: financial equitability for all… not equal finances of course but equal opportunities for access to the best financial products, which in no small measure includes some much needed financial education made accessible to the common person - feels not really fulfilled. We have made saving rewarding for some, but we haven’t really made saving more fun and rewarding for All.
So, rather than rest on what’s been done so far, we continue to ask ourselves (and more importantly, you, as well as our investors), what’s missing - what would make us even better poised to turn on the real marketing taps (fyi, our growth trajectory so far is on less than £0.6m of marketing spend throughout our existence and we haven’t spent a penny since last Feb - we have always chosen to give back to savers in the hope they speak about us, rather than Facebook).
We need -
- A less frictioned product for savers that is hopefully more viral (the bonds were great but the reverse auction made it irrational for winners to make the product viral);
- A design uplift in the app, with additional features
- To focus on revenue and balances, as opposed to mere KYC numbers - keep that average balance high through that growth; and
- More PR and Marketing for a renewed buzz
As we prepare for more imminent scaling, I also think it’s healthy for you to get to know the management team better, and keep them honest with more direct access and questioning.
So, I invite @Julia, our VP of Brand + Product Design who has been with us from the beginning, to take you through our almost finalised new app design framework (you have previously seen glimpses of this in the making), plus introduction to the launch-ready Dozens Black proposition including some brand new screens. @Tatia_K, our VP of Treasury, Finance and Operations (yes she has loads of spare time!), will then take you through some of the bonds insights and why the 1% product makes more sense both for you and us. Together with some front-end infrastructure upgrades, this will be the best and most intuitive financial services app in the world, period. Or at least, that’s our ambition.
I then invite @SamDB , recently made Co-founder and COO but here almost from the beginning, to take you through our proposition for the Business Banking launch, again including app designs. @Sandesh, again with us from the very beginning, and currently VP, Product Operations and Tech Risk, will take you through a list of shortlisted partners for any features that have a dependency, plus open up to more transparency on product roadmap (although I did steal a lot of his thunder!).
Between these changes, I will feel confident to advise the Board to ramp up marketing. Till then, we will continue to experiment with different mediums, to gauge best ROI candidates.
With respect to the community, you will be seeing some changes as well. I have to announce, with great regret, that Rob McIntosh is no longer with Dozens. This is an unplanned exit, but we remain very grateful to Rob for everything that he has done for us - in particular, this community - over the last years. In following established protocol, we have disabled Rob’s company accounts including his community one - but don’t be surprised if you find him back as an active non-employee member soon!
With equal amount of pleasure, I am happy to announce we have found another Rob to replace our beloved outgoing one - allow me to introduce @RobD …
In keeping with our brand, I want a community that’s more inclusive, has wider reach and more vibrance. I trust I am keeping you in safe hands with Rob, who brings to the role a unique perspective through his background and will play more of a curation role to ensure you have more direct access to the Management team introduced above.
Finally, this is all possible because of the people at Project Imagine - or Pi as we lovingly call it. You can get a sense of the culture from the fact that while we all LOVE Dozens so much, all employees identify more with the more cerebral Pi proposition. I invite @hannah Hannah Smith, our Chief of Staff to take you through some of the more innovative responses we have put in place to combat remote working and the hybrid period we find ourselves in.
As you can see, at the end of almost four years, the Dozens journey is still only just starting - and with its many dreams, its rooted in the fiscal reality of the company and increasingly, markets around the world. As until such time we secure long-term institutional funding, we remain primarily dependent on one majority shareholder to keep us going, we also remain exposed to the risks of his portfolio’s wealth and liquidity in response to world events. Numerous conversations are ongoing for months but none that has secured us a long runway yet with our considerable burn rate. At the same time, this is a risk the team has lived through continuously for the last four years and today is no different - so while we wish that we never have to wind down, we are equally grateful to be in this position in the first place.
Let me reassure you, though, that if at any point it gets to this negative scenario - at all times the team at Dozens holds enough capital for two whole months of operation, and is ready to launch a very organised wind down allowing customers to withdraw their balances seamlessly during that period. In other words, this team is committed to continuously secure your trust by mitigating risks against an orderly wind down and not against an insolvency (with customers potentially enduring locked accounts etc) at any stage.
As the team has matured over these four years, our internal confidence in what we stand for has only increased. At our heart, we wanted to bring a change to the way a genuine new modern consumer financial services company can be run. Transparency with our stakeholders - the Board, the FCA, the employees and of course, the customers - was paramount. While the culture and diversity at Pi is testament to finding talented employees that resonate with this world view - we must thank you for your terrific response every time we have been transparent with you as well.
One of my best memories from this period has been the shockingly low withdrawals from our bonds when the world locked down in 2020. With market sentiment so low, you would have expected our bonds to have been the first things that people sold - but hardly anyone did. When we had issues with Wirecard, and your account access was blocked - I will personally never forget the response this community gave to that transparency. So, we have told you exactly like it is, again.
We remain a contradiction in the world of fin and tech - it remains the best of times, and the worst of times. If we get funded, hopefully you are as excited with the above picture as the team here is. If we don’t, we will do everything we can to be the company you wish had survived.
Keep the faith.
PS: The team and I are here to take your questions, and they will also be starting their own topical threads soon. [New] @RobD will expertly guide your questions, so don’t bother too much about which thread - just ask us whatever you would like to know more about.