May 14, 2018
by Josh Reich

Simple 10 Years Later: My Journey as Co-founder and CEO

Back in 2008, I quit my safe job in New York. The next year, I founded a banking startup and soon moved it to Portland. A decade later, I'm taking another big leap: leaving Simple.

A decade ago I quit my safe job and decided to venture out to build my own business. The time has now come for me to move on from Simple and focus on new adventures. There’s never a great time to make these changes, but Simple is in a wonderful spot as a business and we’re on the right track as a product company. I’m announcing this today, and plan to transition over the next two months. Also starting today, our board chairman, Dickson Chu, will be taking the role of Executive Chairman and interim CEO, and I’ll remain connected to Simple as a board member and strategic advisor.

In 2008 I made the frightening decision to find my own path. After a year consulting for startups I decided to build my own. With a short email “Subject: Let’s start a retail bank” to my to-be cofounder, Shamir, and our to-be first investor, Jerry, Simple was born. The United States was in the midst of the financial crisis, a less than ideal time to launch a banking start-up. We had early potential partners shut down by regulators. We had cease and desist orders issued against us. Critical vendors were acquired and shut down. Raising capital for a highly regulated business was not easy.

At any point it would have been completely reasonable to give up, but wonderful people kept on supporting us through each challenge. At first, employees, then investors, and then customers. Hundreds, to thousands, to hundreds of thousands of customers. Their stories gave us the strength to push forward.

In the early days, when Simple was just an idea, I fantasized about what the day would be like when I would swipe my card for the first time. It was a fantasy that seemed out of reach, until it wasn’t. And as soon as we hit one milestone, there were ten other challenges for us to face. I love problem solving, and having a variety of new problems to solve kept me engaged and focused.

Our most recent problem to solve was becoming a product driven company again. From 2014 through 2017, we were primarily focused on infrastructure projects. Important projects that we had to do as a business, but did little to directly help our customers. Over the past year we’ve been changing that. You’ll have noticed that over the past few months we’ve been shipping some great features to our customers.

While there is still work to do, financially, we’ve never been stronger. In the first quarter, we outperformed on revenue, gross margin and net income. Our vision as a company is to prove that we can do well while doing good. Our strong results come hand in hand with our return to delivering an awesome product and support the founding principles of the business: we’ll never profit from customer confusion, we’ll design for how people think rather than how banks work, we’ll compete via customer experience rather than fees or rates, and that all that we do is in support of our mission to help people feel confident with money.

This is all a long way of saying that Simple is in a wonderful spot as a business and is on the right track as a product. If there is any time to leave, leaving on a high note feels right. It’s not that there are no more interesting problems for Simple to solve, but that I’d rather focus on my life and my family.

Over the past decade, Simple has been my surrogate family. And more frequently than I’d like to admit, work has come ahead of my personal life. We’re only in this world for a short period of time and I’m in a position where I’d like to spend some time doing the things I’ve delayed. I’d like to start a family and be present as a father. Last year, my wife and I bought a small rural property and I’ve been spending any spare time working on projects. Working with my hands has been cathartic and I’d like to see more proudly-earned calluses in my future.

josh

The great news is that our current non-executive board chairman, Dickson Chu, has agreed to take on the role of CEO on an interim basis. Starting today, his primary focus will be Simple. I’ll remain around the office for the next two months, helping Dickson get a lay of the land, and then I will continue to play an active role as a board member and strategic advisor.

Dickson, for those who don’t know him, brings with him a huge wealth of experience having spent more than 30-years running businesses and building innovative products and services. He has held leadership roles at prominent companies – BBVA, Wells Fargo, Yahoo!, PayPal, and Citi – where he created and/or grew sizeable new businesses.

As the head of portfolio management for BBVA’s New Digital Business unit, he’s worked closely with Simple as a board member for over a year, and as Chairman since the start of this year. He is ideally placed to help Simple leverage the assets the broader BBVA US structure has which can help us grow while also understanding and respecting the independence and individuality which has always set Simple apart and made us the massive success that today, and thanks to you all, we are.

As for me, it’s not unusual for founders to eventually move on. They say that running a company takes a different set of skills from building one. It turns out there is some truth to the adage. I’ve learned a ton over the past ten years and have been moved by the support of the team around me and the customers that we’ve served. But I know that Simple’s next CEO will be able to help carry my vision forward in a different but equally impactful way.

While I’m leaving my day to day role at Simple, I remain deeply committed to what we have started. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for being a part of this journey. Looking back, it’s clear that, together, we’ve built something amazing.

Keep on.

Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple or our partner bank, BBVA Compass, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.