June 18, 2015
by Shamir Karkal

A Cup of Tea

A cup of ta looking out towards a view of san francisco

I vividly remember taking this picture, It was Saturday, June 9, 2012 and I was having a moment of zen between bouts of craziness.

We had just transitioned all early test accounts to “Phase 2” of Simple’s new platform. It was the basic feature set that we’d been working on for nearly three years and as I sat there and drank my tea, I realized that we’d accomplished something momentous: it was now certain that we would launch Simple to the whole world within a few weeks.

It was also less than 24 hours after my first child, Asha, was born. I knew then that in spite of the excitement at Simple, my priorities would one day inevitably shift from work to family.

For me, that day has arrived. I’m stepping away from my day-to-day at Simple to spend the summer with my family and plan how I want to spend my time. I’ll continue to serve on Simple’s board and will remain an advisor and forever advocate for what we’ve built.

As we continue to best our previous growth each month, and with customer success stories flooding in, much of our mission to transform the world of banking for the better has been achieved. I owe my sincerest thanks to the incredible team at Simple, our supporters, and above all, our customers, for being such a huge part of my life for the last six years.

But what I want to get back to here is the journey. Simple’s origins date back to a rather amusing July 2009 Yahoo! Messenger chat between Josh and myself. We’d been talking about our frustrations with finance and banking for a few months when this happened:

(09:22:16 AM) Joshua Reich: how does one start a bank? Conversation with shamir@X on Sat 18 Jul 2009 12:59:55 AM EDT with josh@Y (msn)

(01:01:10 AM) Shamir: interesting… (01:01:17 AM) Joshua Reich: not quite a ‘late stage startup’ (01:01:28 AM) Joshua Reich: but im going to have some meetings and see what people think (01:01:34 AM) Shamir: no.. but the funding is quite certain.. (01:01:56 AM) Shamir: its actually ridiculously easy to start a brand new bank in the US (called a “de Novo” bank) (01:02:09 AM) Shamir: pretty much all you need is a license from the Fed and a few computers

I had moved from the US to Europe in 2008 and what I didn’t realise was that while it was relatively easy to start a bank in the US in 2007, it was almost impossible after the financial crisis in 2009. We quickly learned that we needed to partner with an existing bank rather than obtain a new charter. But the vision of a simple, easy-to-use, customer-friendly bank was compelling. It may have been naivete, or just determination, but by the end of 2009 we had quit our jobs, incorporated, and were working full-time on making that vision a reality.

Alex Payne came on-board as a co-founder early in 2010, and by the time we raised our Series A that summer we had worked out a rough separation of responsibilities: Alex would handle engineering, product, and technology; Josh had fundraising and communications; and I would lead banking, processors, and regulators. Of course, we all worked on every pitch-deck, interviewed our first hires, and met with bankers and regulators. But getting our bank and processing partnerships in place so that we had a launch platform was my primary responsibility.

Funding wasn’t as instantaneous as I’d imagined, but the energy needed to lock venture capital was nothing compared to the obstacles of finding a partner bank and processor. We were slowed by everything from the passage of Dodd-Frank to regulatory actions against potential bank partners to Google’s acquisition of our processor, TxVIA. Each just made us fight harder.

After several false starts, we signed a deal with The Bancorp Bank in 2011 and worked together on a structured plan to rapidly issue cards for testing. Meanwhile, we were building our full account based “Phase 2” platform. It took a little more than “a license from the Fed and a few computers”, but in June of 2012 I realised that we’d actually done it: we were going to launch Simple to the public.

Image of baby

Then, the moment my daughter was born, that incredible feeling of happiness was eclipsed many times over. As I took my first break in 24+ hours, I realized that the past few years had taken their toll and I had a new source of joy in my life. Of course, this was just the beginning of our work to bring Simple to customers. So, two weeks later, I was back at it - raising another round of financing and building the Simple team.

The three years since then have flown by. In this short time, our little team has grown more than eight times over and today we’re bringing on customers more rapidly than ever before. We’ve built game-changing features like Safe-to-Spend and Goals, and delighted our customers with a unique approach to customer service that’s transforming the industry. Today, I’m surrounded by more than 200 amazing people who are dedicated to fixing banking. And as Simple has grown, so has my family. A year ago Asha became a big sister to little Alesh, my son.

I’m looking forward to spending the summer with my family, taking Asha and Alesh to India later this year, and being at home with my wife. I’ll also use this time to reassess what I want to do long-term and I will continue investing in and advising startups. I’m sure I’ll take on a new climb at some point, but for now, I’m going to slow down and enjoy the view.

Josh, thank you for your friendship, your partnership, and your visionary leadership of our mission to make the world of banking better. And of course, thank you to our investors and partners who have been instrumental in making Simple the amazing company it is today.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to our team. From the beginning, Josh and I set out to hire amazing people, then get out of their way, and I think we’ve done a good job of that. Your passion, creativity, enthusiasm, hard work and humor have made Simple, and me, better.

I will miss you all, but won’t be far, rooting you on from the sidelines.