David and Goliath Retold
I wasn’t sure what to title this blog. For many reasons, winning the Best Financial Solution at the MTN App of the Year awards last Thursday, over Shoprite and 22seven (owned by Old Mutual) felt like a David vs Goliath moment - where the small was able to beat the big.
But before I go into more detail about what this means to me and to the business. Let me take a moment to pause and give Shoprite and Old Mutual their due. Shoprite was founded in 1979 and is now the largest retailer in Africa with almost 3,000 stores across the continent and employs more than 145,000 people with almost R200 billion in annual revenue, according to Wikipedia. The controversial entrepreneur Christo Wiese built Shoprite from the purchases of eight supermarkets in Cape Town for R1 million into the incredible company that it is today.
Meanwhile, Old Mutual is another continental behemoth with pan-African investment, savings, insurance, and banking operations. Old Mutual was founded in 1845 and employs over 31,000 people and has an annual revenue of over R110 billion.
No small fry, that’s for sure.
And here we are, Franc Group founded in 2017, registered as South Africa’s first roboadvisor and have grown almost 60x since our launch in late 2019. We have 12 young, passionate rockstars who work for us and want to help more South Africans invest and build a prosperous future for themselves and their families. Our annual revenue is dwarfed by both Old Mutual and Shoprite by several orders of magnitude. Yet what is clear is that it doesn’t take money to build a great app and a valued service; over 65% of our customers said they would be very disappointed if our service ceased to exist (one way of measuring product market fit).
In many ways, it comes down to process. Every year we run a design sprint to ideate and see whether we’re serving our customers in the best possible way. Pioneered by Google and common practice amongst the best consumer tech companies in the world, design sprints are a week-long process where key individuals come together and take a customer-centric approach to problem-solving. The process goes so far as to create a prototype that is sufficiently workable to test with users at the end of the week. This process is the quickest and surest way to converge on key consumer-centric innovations.
The second key process is Understand-Identify-Execute. A framework pioneered by Facebook’s growth team as a means of iteratively improving the user experience. It combines data science, UX testing and A/B testing to focus on major friction points in the user journey, build hypotheses of what might drive an improvement then systematically test those hypotheses through A/B testing. This has been fundamental to increasing the ease of use - making it increasingly simple for users to open an account and start investing.
But the process without people is nothing. You need people that are passionate about solving problems that matter and you need people that are willing to take on ownership of the solution. That is perhaps what I’m most proud of. This award is dedicated to the team at Franc who have shown that small really can beat big!