How We Measure
Moments ago Quartz posted a story regarding an early, confidential draft of Simple’s monthly board update. So, how’d they get their hands on the information? I messed up; email error. Last Friday, I was working with my team to update a new template for the report and intended to share an example set of slides with the newest member of our finance team. My plan was to have her rework the presentation by replacing the old numbers, tables, and draft content with our current information in advance of our board call today. Unfortunately, this email hit the inbox of a journalist with the same name who interviewed me a few years ago. Shortly after, I received an email from a reporter at Quartz stating that he planned to write a story based on the draft presentation that was forwarded his way.
I understand just as well as anyone that the role of the media is to report, but as you can imagine, this wasn’t the way we envisioned sharing an update with you, our customers and fans, on Simple’s growth and plans for the future.
So, I’m choosing to view my own error as an opportunity and expand on one of our core values: transparency. In particular, transparency on how we measure our business.
Like most businesses, we’re looking for active customers. Banks have traditionally defined ‘active’ as any customer who’s made at least one financial transaction within a month. This definition doesn’t work for us. We’ve found that our customers benefit from Simple most when they use it as their primary bank account, marrying their spending and saving with our real-time transaction data and Goals. Because of this, we set a higher bar to measure activity.
Simple’s active definition takes into account both swipe frequency and deposits. Our goal is to build a banking experience that our customers love. Our active customers are already swiping their Simple Visa® Cards multiple times a day, while the average bank customer swipes a few times per week.
To date, most of our customers have joined Simple via word of mouth, hearing from friends and family and the great things that our customers say online. I’m incredibly proud that we’ve built a service our customers are passionate about and am humbled that their support led to 330% growth last year.
This year, we’re excited to begin expanding our marketing efforts, experimenting with paid channels to broaden our customer reach. While the banking industry spends about $150 to acquire a new customer, we spend a very small fraction of that because we’ve built a product that our customers actually want.
The reason we’re excited by growth, and the reason that Simple exists, is to turn our customers’ financial dreams into realities. One way we do this is by developing products like Goals and Safe-to-Spend® that make it easy for our customers to save and plan ahead. We track their ability to save with the total balance metric. This is the total number of dollars on deposit with Simple. And although our total balance is not a significant driver of revenue for Simple today, we include it as another key measure of customer success.
When we consider the future, perhaps more important than our core financial metrics are our measures of product engagement. Simple was designed as more than a drop-in replacement for your existing bank. We want our customers to use Simple’s unique features in a way that makes it effortless for them to spend smarter and save more money. For example, in the presentation the reporter obtained, we illustrate that the percent of our total balance held in Goals has remained steady, as has mobile application usage. Our active customers are engaging with their financial data daily to understand and improve their spending behavior in a way that can’t be replicated by glancing at a paper statement once per month.
The presentation also included a chart of our approval rate. This measure represents the percent of customers who apply to Simple and are approved. Our bank partner, The Bancorp Bank, reviews these applications according to its policies. We are always looking for ways to improve this process in partnership with the bank.
We’re on track with active customer growth, which continues to drive increasing revenue. We’re reinvesting this capital in further expansion, both internally and externally. We’re working hard to rapidly scale our team, our pace of innovation, and our backend services so we can put Simple Visa® Cards into the hands of even more happy customers.
Our team has grown by more than 50% this year and we plan to hire at least 50 more Simple staffers by 2015. We’ve far outgrown our original space and I’m excited to announce that we recently closed on a new, much larger home that will better support our creative, collaborative culture, right in the heart of Portland’s Pearl District.
I feel confident that we’ve built a brand that challenges accepted norms. We’ve created both a product and company culture that are responsive, friendly, and human in an industry that is known for its bureaucratic, emotionless, and rigid approach. And most importantly, we’ve succeeded in turning what is often an adversarial relationship into a positive force in our customers’ financial lives. With the support of BBVA and our growing team, we are now in a better position than ever to rewrite the book on banking.
Josh is the CEO & Co-Founder of Simple.