30 June 2021|Brand Story, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
For the latest in our Meet the Successful Founder series we caught up with Damon Hirschl, the Co-Founder of Ooki, to learn about his entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about the company?
In late 2018 we incorporated Ooki, which was born out of equal frustration. We’ve all at some point or another, looked for a product and ended up entering our data into multiple platforms, only to get to the end of the journey with no product. Ooki is a one stop shop that allows users to manage their finances in a quick and effortless way through a single unique and free app. The centralised financial management tool we’ve created hosts a hub of seamlessly integrated banking and credit apps, together with unbiased product offering based on automation.By combining credit profiling and open banking, Ooki puts all its users’ accounts in one place, providing them with personalised money insights, real-time credit monitoring and neutral targeted product offers. Ooki aims to revolutionise the consumer experience and modernise money management for all by incorporating tools and insights within a single platform.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The company was founded in 2018 by myself and a friend from my university days, Vinod Bhardwaj. I had experienced real problems with credit reference agencies and was unable to access products. I’m a dual UK/US citizen which has made it difficult to keep on top of my credit file after spending time living outside the UK. When I came back from the US and tried to get a mobile phone contract, for example, I was declined. In trying to address these issues, I was led on a wild goose chases, losing time and energy and often left unable to access products I needed. After doing some research, I discovered there were actually three different credit reference agencies, each holding different data about you. I felt it was time financial services, as it relates to the consumer experience, needed to change and the idea for Ooki was conceived.
We have now developed unique, technology-driven architecture for credit monitoring which is coupled with credit account data analysis that benefits consumers.
One of our short term goals is to create an affordability passport that quickly and easily links to other FinTech providers, to deliver a powerful behind the scenes service when purchasing goods. Beyond that we’re aiming to use the data to deliver targeted cash backs and vouchers to our customers, knowing exactly where they spend money. Ultimately we’re moving towards a complete financial management tool that offers financial improvements, money saving and super-fast applications all in one place.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
The founders placed a reasonable amount of money to get started. These funds saw us through the initial stages of prototyping to enable us to reach out to new people with some success. Since then we’ve been able to secure further investment from angels such as Greg Gormley, Ray Empson and Kevin Beerling, who joined the board as an NED toward the end of last year.
What are the key successes?
Ooki has now completed 4 major integrations. Integrations are difficult at the best of times, and so to successfully complete 4 is an achievement. We have credit monitoring, open banking, eligibility matching and marketplace services, and really we are just getting started with our ultimate vision, so there’s a long way to go. Of course, it’s great that at least we’re now live with phase 1 of the project, and users are already getting value from our entirely free service.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
There have been so many challenges, it is difficult to pin point one. If I had to choose, it would be to not act impulsively, or bring emotion into the decision making process. To let the data direct the decisions you make. It’s difficult to lose when data is deciding the best course of action, it’s easy to fail when you blindly pursue something based on thought or opinion. Having worked very long hours over the last few years, I would also say that there is no substitute for having the right team around, a team that’s empowered to drive ideas and solve challenges. Getting started with the wrong team can take really take you down a road that’s difficult to recover from.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Our plans for now, are to grow the marketplace services and personalised insight functionality. We see this as the best way to engage our customers, showing only things that are relevant to them and keeping them informed on how to save money, or improve their financial habits.
We also intend to pioneer a digital identity of sorts, so that users can share information with providers for the purpose of obtaining suitable products at faster speeds.
In the future, we aim to build out cash-backs, vouchers and payments. So there’s a lot of work still do. We are really just in infancy right now.
Can you share your top 5 tips for entrepreneurial success?
The single most important questions entrepreneurs should be asking themselves is whether they have ascertained a product market fit. What research have they engaged to validate their proposition? Asking Mum, Dad or a few friends is not market validation. Most of those people will agree with you because they love you. Real market validation is about engaging proper research, create surveys, build mock up prototypes before actually developing anything. All the tools are there today to make this easier than ever before, so there’s no excuse.
Work Hard. Shrug off rejection, as its going to happen a lot
Raise enough money to reach your MVP, manage your cash flow and try to always maintain a 6 month runway.
I seem to always have resource challenges, and this takes up a lot of time. Resource issues can mean a lot of things, but as far as my experiences go, they were centred around poor hiring at the beginning, leading to scrapping our initial work and starting again. Hiring generally is hard. If you find good staff, you need to keep them.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek. He communicates with honesty and always has me listening. He doesn’t try to get me to spend money, this is an important point. He has a calmness about him, along with a way of articulating in public speaking that’s difficult improve upon.
Of course Elon Musk. When he was pushed out of PayPal, it would have been easy, from an emotional response perspective, for him to fall out with the investors, burn bridges and who knows how the rest of his life would have turned out. But he didn’t. This requires an unbelievable amount of composure.
After some deliberation, he simply explained that he understood the investors position, but that the points were not valid from his perspective. He started another company and even got those investors to back him later on. That’s impressive.
The second reason is the sheer vision he has for advancing the human race. What he’s done with SpaceX is simply amazing, I think we can all agree. And, he put his life on the line for it.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
To check us out go to @OokiApp on Instagram or Facebook, and www.ooki.io/home