Today, we’re joined by Shamir Karkal, co-founder of Simple, the first digital bank in the US, and now co-founder of Sila.
Founded in 2009, Simple was the original digital bank, conceived and built to give people more control over their money. After a few successful years, Simple was acquired by BBVA for $117m, under whose ownership it operated until early-2021, when it was shut down.
Simple was loved by its users and mourned following it’s closing, in what was a sad moment for fintech.
Today’s breed of digital banks, including Chime, Varo, Current and others, inherited a lot from Simple, who pioneered the space. However, few of Simple’s most popular features have been replicated by other players.
In recent years, we’ve seen huge user growth achieved by fintechs offering banking to previously underserved customers, especially those living paycheck to paycheck. Nonetheless, Simple leaves a powerful legacy, and many lessons learned, for the entire fintech industry.
In this conversation, we go deep on what worked and what didn’t for Simple, why it never hit escape velocity, why its users loved it so much and how Shamir and his co-founder Josh engineered life changing payouts for their employees through the BBVA acquisition.
We also discuss Shamir’s current company, Sila, which is building programmable money for the next generation of fintech companies.
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Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Shamir Karkal.
Today, we’re joined by Viktor Nebehaj, Co-Founder of Freetrade, a free stock trading platform in the UK.
Founded in 2016 and launched to the public in 2018, Freetrade has grown to over 500,000 users in just over two years in the UK alone. For the full backstory, check out our episode with Founder Adam Dodds from February 2019, available at bankingthefuture.com.
In this conversation, Viktor takes us behind the scenes at Freetrade over the past few weeks, during the Reddit-fueled runups in Gamestop, AMC and others, as the company struggled with partner-imposed trading halts and FX throttles. We also discuss payment for order flow, margin lending, rapid user growth and Viktor’s views on the good, bad and ugly of free stock trading.
If it seems like I care deeply about this subject, it’s because I do. Investing is one of the most important things people can do to support their long-term financial well-being, but the industry is characterized by unnecessary complexity, conflicts of interest and information asymmetry that can make it hard for people to get the best outcomes. Companies like Freetrade, Robinhood and others have a tremendous opportunity to break up entrenched industry dynamics and bring access, education and tools to the masses now that they're mainstream in their respective home countries.