Shruti Rai is the Chief Growth Officer and a Co-Founder at Novus, the new sustainable banking app making it easy to generate positive impact from everyday purchases. With extensive experience in mission-driven fintech, Shruti is a purveyor of enabling financial apps for doing good, improving lives, and using her position to steward many more women into finance and tech.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
With an MBA from Rice University, a career in tech seemed the obvious career pat for me and I eventually joined Remitly, a purpose-led fintech platform, where thanks to some great male mentors, I learned how to successfully survive, stand out and thrive in a male dominated environment.
During this time I learned that despite the finance sector being perceived as ‘boring’, it was also a platform from which to do a lot of good. If implemented in the right way, financial apps can be used to increase the well-being of not just the people using them but the wider society and the planet as a whole.
When the opportunity arose for me to get involved with a new digital banking app offering an exclusive range of financial services focused on enabling, rewarding, and inspiring users to make more conscious purchasing decisions, it was the obvious choice.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The inspiration for Novus came from a place of frustration – a frustration about how banking just isn’t evolving in the same way the society and the overall human consciousness is. We have come a long way in that we are seeing challenger banks like Monzo or Revolut offering a much more digitised experience of a traditional bank with a focus, primarily, on better user experience. However, there has been no real change in the fundamental business model itself, and that’s where we saw Novus coming in.
We are not just another challenger bank that promises a better experience or ease of use compared to traditional banks, but we are on a mission to change the way banking has worked so far for the modern, more conscious consumer. We want to create a business where our members can use the power of their money to create real social impact, one small step at a time. And we want to make it as easy as possible for the user of our app to achieve this.
How did you achieve awareness?
We are still in the process of driving awareness but as a marketer that’s basically what my team and I spend most of our days thinking about. So far, we have seen most success with social media platforms like Instagram and Tiktok but we are working with influencers and out of home channels like the London underground to spread the buzz.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow
We have just closed our crowdfunding round and over the course of 9 months we have reached a total of over $3 million, successfully beating our initial target of $1.2 million by over 250%.As a result of this round, we have raised $5 million total capital to date and are now actively onboarding users across the UK – we are live!
Fundraising is a time-consuming process but there is a really active early investor community in the UK that we tapped into to get introductions to the right investors for our type and stage of business.
What are the key successes?
Being able to fundraise successfully so we can build a talented team who have delivered great business results has definitely been the key achievement this past year.
We have gained a significant amount of support from a number of notable angel investors who work for VCs like EQT Ventures, QED, Softbank and are part of the scout program at Accel and another Tier 1 VC. BrightCap Ventures is the latest firm to invest in us and support our team in building our operational hub in Sofia.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
As a tech startup, we operate in a very competitive talent market here in the UK. Hiring the right people within the deadlines was tough but we are learning. Now we plan for headcount a few months in advance to give ourselves enough time to interview candidates. Also with being a remote first organisation – it’s a bit hard to build connections with people you work at a personal level. We are organising our very first companywide get together in early April so we can spend some time in person with the team and get to know everyone better.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I am personally a strong proponent of coaching and mentoring because I learnt a lot that way. The confidence of quitting a stable job and taking a pay cut with a child and mortgage to pay wouldn’t have been possible without a strong mentor network. My advice to any woman would be to take the first small step in the direction of their bigger dream or project. Connecting with other women who have done it successfully is a great way to build a network and find motivation. A lot of investors out there are looking to invest in women entrepreneurs – all you need to do is to show them that your idea is going to work.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Entrepreneurship can be a long and arduous journey so the top advice I can give is to buckle up and be mentally prepared to have highs and lows. Find your support system and a way to switch off because it’s a marathon. Some other tips below:
– Work on a business opportunity with a big enough revenue opportunity and be hypothesis-driven in your approach to make important product/service decisions.
– Build your product/service wearing your customer’s hat. Be obsessively customer centric in your decision-making process.
– Use technology to drive as much of your supply chain as possible
– Hire people who are as passionate about your customers as you
– Talk and learn from people who have already taken a similar journey or launched a similar service/product so you can avoid the pitfalls.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Over the last couple of years I have found that I have been inspired by the people around me. I can’t put a list together here but it’s anyone who rose up from a family tragedy during the pandemic or had to do challenging things on their own without anyone to help because of covid restrictions. The resilience of a lot of people around me has been extremely inspiring to witness.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
This one is from RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) – “I ask no favour for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
‘No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens’ – Michelle Obama
“A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given. A woman is human.”― Vera Nazarian
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