SaaS Founder Interview with Maia Monell & Erin Papworth, Co-Founders of Nav.it
Tony Zayas 0:06
Everybody, welcome to another episode of the tech founders show. Happy Tech Tuesday, everyone. Tony Zayas here, joined by Andy Halko. Andy, how are you?
Andy Halko 0:18
I’m good Tech Tuesday. I like that. It’s, you know, Taco Tuesday and we start eating tacos while we do interviews.
Tony Zayas 0:25
Taco Tech Tuesday. Sounds like. So very cool. You’re breaking up on me a little bit here. So I think you probably asked about who we have on today. So yeah, so exciting. So I think a really cool topic. We’re gonna hear from Maia Monell. She is the co founder and chief growth officer at NAV.IT. And we may be hearing from her co founder Erin Papworth, who’s the CEO and co founder at NAV.IT. Depending on I believe Aaron’s doing some travel today, but I want to tell you a bit about their company, and we’ll bring my on and start talking but really cool stuff that they’re up to. I’ll just read this. This is what I pulled from one of their LinkedIn pages, says NAV.IT is on a mission to change the narrative around money and reduce fear. They combine adaptive digital banking products with financial health outcomes. Using best practices from health industry think fit for steps are new for nutrition. They provide daily activity and community incentives that empowers healthier money moves, builds confidence and creates a community of navigators living financially free. So pretty cool topic. Let me bring my Hey, Maia, how you doing?
Maia Monell 1:46
Hi, Tony. Hi, NBM. Well, how are you both doing?
Tony Zayas 1:50
Awesome. We’re doing really well. Also.
Maia Monell 1:54
Good to be here.
Tony Zayas 1:55
Yeah. Thank you for joining. It’s fantastic. And we will see if kind of be like the suspense of the of the hour right to see if Erin will make it. You said she’s traveling.
Maia Monell 2:07
She is currently in the UK. For anybody that has a co founder, you know that it’s never a dull moment. So yes, she is very sorry, but I think her travel plans got a little hacked today. And she’s the queen of travel. So she, she loves to get out and go places and COVID really a hamburger style. So she’s back out in the world. Well,
Tony Zayas 2:33
that’s cool. Good for her. So I would just love to hear a little bit. Tell me the story. Like where did, what’s the origin story of where did you guys come up with the concept?
Maia Monell 2:44
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a it’s a great question. And I have to thank you both for giving the NAV.IT kind of intro for me. I feel like I have to say that pitch just all the time. It’s really great. And she’s here she’s made it. I think she’s on her phone. But surprise everyone. Aaron, we’re live. And we were we were just diving in Aaron. So perfect timing, because as our true founder, Aaron developed the concept of NAV.IT. Do you want to dive in with with how you how you started NAV.IT? And then we can jump in and how we got together?
Erin Papworth 3:23
Yes, and Tony and Andy. It’s so good to see you. I apologize for the delay technical difficulties in the United Kingdom over here. So please forgive me.
Tony Zayas 3:31
No problem. We totally understand. So welcome.
Andy Halko 3:35
Thank you just blame Brexit.
Maia Monell 3:38
Exactly. They all seem to do that here anyway, so I’m part of the crowd. Yeah. So now that really started, you know, I spent a long time abroad, I think, you know, I, we talked about this a lot. But I spent about 12 years working in Sub-Saharan Africa on access to health care and finances for marginalized populations. And what I really realized over there is the core issue or really thing that you’re trying to address is financial stress and financial anxiety. Right? They the lack of it’s a very different financial system, but at the core people managing their finances and managing their ability to access wealth generating opportunities is really the challenge I worked on. And then when I came over to the United States back in 2000, I think I’ve moved back and fifth 2015 I was talking to friends of you know, upper middle class wealth, and, you know, mothers and husbands and people just trying to navigate the financial system here. And I realized, Oh, my God, the same emotions that I was working with over there in a very different financial context. But exactly the same for people here. The financial system is opaque. It’s not clear it’s not designed to have your best interest in mind. Right? It makes money on your missteps and the stress and anxiety that really is created by that really inhibits people from fully embracing and managing their finances in the healthiest way possible. So we, you know, I, so I decided, look, I did behavior change and behavioral science over there trying to address these problems, why can’t we translate those same approaches to this context, but with a finance with with technology, which is really kind of the incredible benefit, not only is that our financial system is more robust, and there’s access to credit and things that really help generate wealth over here, but also we have technology that can can help us scale those kind of solutions.
And yeah, and I will jump in. So Erin, and I never get to be together. So again, Tony, Andy, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to do this together. And I think, you know, one of the really key kind of inflection points that Erin mentioned, there is around behavior change and behavioral habits, right. And I was actually working in fitness technology at the time in the Bay Area, and we were doing the exact same thing. We’re figuring out how we can leverage AI to prescribe athletes with better training solutions and right when they needed it to help mitigate and prevent injury down the road. So we’re essentially saying the same thing, right? If we see a significant population, during COVID, 90% of the workforce in the US was financially stressed, and it was inhibiting their productivity, increasing absenteeism, we all know the statistics around people leaving the workforce and not coming back. You know, we kind of addressed it in the same health issue, right, like a financial stress is a health inhibitor, how can we change and prevent that kind of help the client out of the gate by providing people kind of daily financial tools that they can use to engage with their money, learn a little bit about it and operationalize it in the best way for that.
Tony Zayas 6:41
So fascinating concept, because I think there’s such a that whole idea of how closely tied financial, you know, finances are to emotion in to address that. So, where at what point like how did you guys meet up? And Erin, did you launch the company first or Maia you think you said, you know, true founder. So did you get started or how did that work?
Maia Monell 7:18
No, we still got Yes, I was really risk to be able to found the company. Oh, can you still can you hear me?
Tony Zayas 7:25
Yeah, we can hear you.
Maia Monell 7:27
Can you hear me? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Before I met my Oh, shall I dive in while she figures out her video? I think we’re losing your video Erin. And you might want to try to turn it off and see if that’s helpful. But essentially, Erin founded the company. I want 20. Do you want to answer that? Yeah, yeah. So Erin founded the company, late in 2018, launched the beta, early 2019. And I stepped into the fold around mid 2019, we actually met where I am now in the Valley, Idaho, she was visiting family here. And we had both used an executive coach at different stages of our career who actually ended up connecting us. So I was doing a lot with professional athletes and coaches around their own financial stress and anxiety, just like kind of on the side as we were building out this fit fitness tech tool. And Erin was looking for a co founder with growth experience, as well as you know, I’m not to put words in her mouth now. As well as some of the prescriptive and predictive analytics stuff that you know, I think, part of the the toolset that we were building over a bridge athletic my former company was really impactful to what we were trying to launch an avid at the time. So we met yeah, like I said, mid 2019. When I say one coffee turned into, you know, six hours later, I’m sure you guys understand that more than anybody. And yeah, we decided to to launch our MVP out of beta. Shortly thereafter, we teamed up with NBKC Bank out of Kansas City, they’re an FDIC insured bank to launch our first auto savings accounts. allowing users to directly deposit daily monthly are a time kind of set to them, how much money to allocate and set aside for a future goal. So we’re really we’re big believers in goal based funding or saving rather, goal based saving to help ensure that you hit you know, your financial milestones that you need to address to get you to, you know, a future financial health.
Andy Halko 9:42
I’m kind of curious, you know, one who is the, the ideal target, and if you don’t mind, could you describe like a day in the life of them using your product, just to kind of give people how it works?
Maia Monell 9:57
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think because we’re fin tech, most people assume that we’re addressing a millennial or Z. As millennial, as somebody wants recently, we’re talking to a fellow founder that called them fillennial, which I thought was funny. Um, you know, I think that that’s certainly a big chunk of our demo, but not maybe for the reasons that you assume. I think it’s in large part because these are folks first entering their big financial, you know, their first financial opportunity, or obstacle, and they’re looking for tools to help them kind of navigate that and kind of a holistic way. So because we’re building this around kind of behavior change tools, we operate a lot like a fitness app, I think he said that in our in our intro, right, like a new, like a Fitbit like a future app, right, we’re trying to kind of elicit that same health centric experience, so that the user can come in every day and not just look at their balance statement, right, they’re actually interacting with their transactions, they’re using our transactions lightning feature to say, analyze how a certain transaction makes them feel and how they can try to improve that emotional state over time, therefore making them more confident and more resilient to financial obstacles that they might face. And, and we’re also selling directly to employers, because there’s a growing amount of employers, especially in our country, that are really focused on holistic wellbeing for their workforce. And there’s they’ve started to realize that financial well being is a key part of that puzzle. And they’re looking for financial well, being experts and organizations and apps and tool sets to help support their workforce and address that really detrimental financial stress that I spoke to earlier.
Andy Halko 11:40
Very cool. I going off of that a little bit. I’m kind of a behavioral psychology nerd on the side, listen to a couple podcasts. I think I know everything. I am curious, what kind of, you know, nudges do you use? And, you know, how do you really, you know, translate that the tech? So how do you take this idea of behavioral psychology, then translate that into technology from an operational standpoint?
Erin Papworth 12:12
That’s an error in question. Yeah. Yeah. For me, now, I have moved locations. I hope this works. Yeah. So I am also I love behavioral science. And so I’m really curious of like, what you enjoy so much about it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. But what we do is we kind of take the approach of daily small, incremental changes that you almost don’t notice, five minutes a day, you know, a couple couple minutes a week, incrementally help you change a behavior and build on it’s like on themselves to create a habit, because a habit is really something that you don’t consciously think of right, you get up in the morning and you kind of you don’t even think and you make coffee, right you get home and you put your you take your shoes off by the door. It’s not it’s that’s a, that’s a truly a habit. So what we’re trying to do is get people from the point of their conscious, they’re self aware, which is the first step of any major behavior change, right, you become aware that there is something you want to change, you become aware of your financial situation, you become aware, you want to start saving, you become aware you want to manage your debt, we want to get from that point help people from that point, to the point where the little habits of savings or the little habit of paying off the debt becomes almost automatic, right. And part of the beauty of technology is that you can automate a lot of things for people without having them to have to really think about it in a, you know, in a really daily conscious way. So for example, in the fitness world, right, you have that that little Fitbit that’s telling you, if you got your 10,000 steps, all of a sudden, by the end of the day, after you know, month or two wearing that use checking, you’re already at 8000 steps, and you feel really good about it, right? Because now it’s part of your consciousness that you’re thinking that you’re kind of thinking about the movement, and etc. So, from a finance perspective, it’s the same thing you start to automate, you know, maybe it’s $1 a day into a savings account, or you just start checking your transactions. One of our favorite features is that people really don’t know intimately what they spend on a daily basis. So we have a feature where you can literally go in and use like a bumble or Tinder swipe, like swipe left, swipe left, swipe right, on your daily transactions on the 23rd that like select last 24 hours of your transactions. And you can read it, you know, happy, sad, neutral. But what that does is it gets people really intimately engaged with what they spend on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. And that helps them incrementally shift what what percentage of their transactions are serving them what percentage feel like they’re, like, you know, really are taking away from their financial health. And we can kind of correlate that with the insights and the nudges to your point that we can set up. So there’s so much fun stuff. I could geek out for a long time, but I’d love to hear more about what you like about behavioral science.
Andy Halko 14:56
Well, I was just gonna say I can see a lot of people swiping where they’re unhappy about, you know, food and shelter and really happy about like booze and entertainment. So I don’t know if that shows naturally.
Erin Papworth 15:11
Yeah, no to or the opposite people feel guilty about the entertainment. And like, you know, not, you know neutral about utilities, we see neutral and a lot of neutrality. But the thing about technology to that you can do is then you can show people trends, which is really profound. So it’s, you know, maybe one month, you’re good, you you’ve had a good month, your income feels steady, or you’re doing okay, but then the next month is a rough month, and kind of everything feels painful. So you can start to see trends over time of, or to your point, you go out hard on a Friday night, you feel guilty on Sunday, when you’re looking back at those expenses, right? So it’s a fascinating kind of connection between your psychology and actually have some money.
Maia Monell 15:56
Yeah, that’s, and I was just gonna add, I think the insight, you know, that the Insight is what really gets you for behavior change to behavior norm, right, where you can start to actually reflect on how you’re addressing certain scenarios in your spending, savings and wealth generation, and how you can start to kind of move the needle incrementally towards something that you really want to achieve. And I think that that’s also where that goal based savings, you know, even if it’s automated, you’re still we’re still trying to create kind of a habit of checking in to see how much cash you have kind of set aside how you can leverage that against something else, you know, how you can start to actually have a more enjoyable and engaging relationship with your money every single day, which is a whole, you know, I think a big part of those, like kind of incremental are those small micro habits, all micro habits are kind of redundant, but micro habits around your money, because I think that, you know, so many people think that the only kind of habit they can have is a negative one, right? Where it’s like, you start to create that paralysis around just checking your bank statement. But there’s so much more to engage with.
Andy Halko 17:04
I always find an interesting with like behavioral psychology, you asked what I cannot find interesting, you know, what they see of like, nudges that in letters to get people to pay taxes, it’s not threatening you with going to jail or fees, it’s eight out of 10 of your neighbors have paid their taxes, you know, so it’s that peer pressure, or it’s going into a store and there’s flowers first, to kind of set your emotions about the threat. And I think about finance and the opportunity to like set somebody’s mindset before they make a purchasing decision, you know, or to say this is how much your your you know, people like you have saved, and you’re just
Tony Zayas 17:45
caught up a little bit again.
Maia Monell 17:59
Can you guess what he was gonna say on that?
Tony Zayas 18:02
I don’t know exactly where it’s going anywhere. Well, let’s, I was gonna, I was gonna ask and go back to just learn a bit about, you know, outcome for NAV.IT is to get your users creating habits. What are some of the things you’re doing to get part of the habit is using NAV.IT?
Maia Monell 18:27
Erin, you’re on mute?
Erin Papworth 18:30
Yes. And of course, the horde of of children just came home. So here we are. So the question was, sorry, what was the question was the behavioral, you cut out just at the beginning of that question?
Tony Zayas 18:43
Yeah. I’m curious to hear just a bit about how, what are you guys doing to get the users obviously an outcome of using NAV.IT is that to have them take, you know, create new behaviors? But what are some of the things you’re doing to create part of their behavior is to use NAV.IT, engage with it and come back to it and continue to use?
Erin Papworth 19:07
Great question. Yes. So there are two things I think, that are unique to us in a financial health perspective and kind of FinTech is that we actually give people kind of a template of what is considered basic financial health by, you know, kind of the gold standard by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or other kind of financial health experts, the Urban Institute, financial health network, so so we give people a roadmap that kind of helps them gauge I think so to your point earlier, like benchmarking and understanding what is what is considered healthy and then how you can get there. But also we are really driven by community. And I think that’s something that hasn’t been well developed yet. In the financial space. It’s really hard because money’s sensitive, and we’re all in we all have different paths and different experiences. But at the end of the day, As adults, we’re all by virtue of the fact we’re adults, we’re navigating money, and we’re navigating the financial system. So we’ve been really focused on how do we create an environment where we can kind of deconstruct the financial narrative and and create community where people can learn from each other. There’s not competition or judgment. It’s really just like, how are you spending money? How are you thinking about money? How am I doing that? Has my life affect finances? You know, my finances? And how can I learn from you and that that’s been something that is highly engaging for people, people really like seeing, for example, and it’s in an anonymous way, you’re not you don’t have to, you know, bare your soul or say your name. But you know, how are other people? What goals are people setting up? Right? Oh, they set up a $200 goal for their kids camp, or they, they set up a $3,000 goal to go to Greece next year. Right. So how, what are people saving for? How are they spending their money? We call that kind of money diaries where you can kind of those swipes, you can post those swipes. So see, oh, someone spent, you know, they spent $100 on a T Mobile Bill, how did they get that? So you know, my my T Mobile bill is like 150, how did they get it that shape, and you can start a dialogue around that. So that’s been really engaging, people have really enjoyed that. And I think changing the narrative around money, just to demystify it and not make it something that comes with judgment is is a key feature for us.
Tony Zayas 21:21
So what did the MVP look like when we first took this to market? I’m curious to hear.
Maia Monell 21:28
Oh, yeah, man. Well, we were targeting early it was, yeah, it was beta. When we first brought something to market. It was it was definitely a beta, we didn’t have the NBKC Bank partnership, yet. It was a traditional kind of personal financial management tool. So you could aggregate accounts, you could deconstruct your budgets, you know, you could create custom categories for your budgets, you could kind of engage in certain ways, like we would post our blog articles on the app, we’ve kept that so there were kind of bits and pieces of the financial literacy components. So the app that we’re actually there and be one. And, you know, we were targeting the group that Erin and I felt like we could really kind of understand best out of the gate, which were millennial women. And we, you know, we kind of drove the messaging around that audience, because we figured that was a group that we understood, really needed a tool to help mitigate financial stress. And we felt like we knew how to build for them out of the gate, and then the rest would come. And so when we, you know, expanded and moved into kind of the v2, v3, with the bank partnership, and all of these other kind of community components and really build the app that it is today, we were able to expand that narrative to make it really gender neutral and all inclusive. But we wanted to start by serving a population that had been left out.
Erin Papworth 23:01
You know, ironically, Tony, you asked about community or I mentioned community and my response to you, and we track we started with we had this initial, because this is about learning, right? And building, we started with an initial community feed that we kind of imagined, like people could post about what they spent money on. And it people love the concept, but they hated posting pictures. Right? So it was really a good learning lesson for us. Like people wanted to talk about money, they wanted to talk about how they spend it, they give itineraries and what they you know, where they went and what they spend their money on. But they did not want to post the they don’t want the pressure of having like an Instagram type post where it needs to be beautiful and perfect. Like they this is a messy conversation. Right. So it was a really that that initial beta community was a really good lesson for us and like what people actually want to talk about in a social network or on money.
Tony Zayas 23:51
Yeah, that’s pretty interesting. So you mentioned the bank partnership. How under fruition?
Maia Monell 24:03
Oh, Tony, we then lost you. But I think I think you’re asking just how we got NBCK onboard?
Tony Zayas 24:08
Maia Monell 24:10
Well, that’s an errand when Erin.
Erin Papworth 24:12
Yes, we applied actually. NBKC is a great kind of leading FinTech bank. So a lot of banks, you know, Fin and maybe I’m explaining too much about the FinTech industry. Six years, it’s really a new thing for banks to really embrace relationships with fintechs. And NBKC has been a leading one out of Kansas City, to that really embrace the idea that banks and fintechs have a very kind of symbiotic relationship. And so they have they had an accelerator program where they would do it was about 75 days where you go to Kansas City and you’ll be fully immersed in banking, you know, because a lot of most FinTech founders that I know are not bankers, and there’s so many complications with regulation. And you know, just all all the ways and systems around banking. So they have this great Excel they had, I don’t think they do anymore. But they had this great accelerator where they would accept five fintechs. Put in a little bit of small investment, and then you’d come get this deep dive into the banking world. So we did that in 2019. Like fall 2019.
Andy Halko 25:24
Going off that a little, I’m curious how you guys have used accelerators and mentors and those other types of things?
Maia Monell 25:32
Yeah, that’s a great question. I we have a lot of debates around that. Yes. We? Yeah, I think you know, we’ve kind of there. There are certainly times in places for accelerator programs, I think, certainly, when we were young guest we needed, you know, we bootstrap NAV.IT, up until recently. So we needed a lot of the kind of free-ish support a lot of accelerators, you actually do have to pay for which founders are often surprised by. And I think that they’re certainly strong, so long as you find the right accelerator for your category. And for what you want out of it, right. If you’re looking for a network, like ensure talk to past founders that have gone through the accelerator, like really ensure that they have a network that they’re not just promising, but they can deliver on to, I think that that’s really key for the accelerator conversation and kind of same with mentors, we’ve been really lucky that we’ve had a lot of mentors in the space that have wanted to champion our work and kind of seed our opportunity with behavior based underwriting and a lot of other implications that NAV.IT can really dive into once, you know, we see scale. But I think also a lot of mentors can be all talk and no execution to, you know, we’ve been really lucky that we haven’t really, by and large, haven’t had that experience. But we certainly know a lot of founders that have been kind of, you know, disheartened by the lack of engagement, that certain mentors or advisers, and we have a really strong advisory board, we have to lean on that in our space, neither Erin or I come from thanking traditional banking. So it was really key for us, especially as we geared up for a seed round raise, that we had people on the advisory board that had, you know, really demonstrated success in our field before whether or not to be FinTech or traditional financial services. But you know, a lot of people also just want to like be on a board and share their name and kind of connect with you because you’re doing something cool, but maybe for reasons that be their own ego and not the success of the business. So I mean, we get this question a lot by other fellow founders, because they see that we have a pretty robust advisory board. But it certainly took a lot of time to cultivate, and to ensure that we are getting the right people to the table.
Andy Halko 27:50
Since we do talk to a lot of founders. Can you talk about what that cultivation looked like? And how you did it for other people that are, you’re trying to figure that out? Where did you go? And look? How were the ways that you evaluated anything?
Erin Papworth 28:07
Yeah, you know, I think my habits, oh, sorry, no, no, really interesting. skill set, we, you know, we complement each other really well, and what she’s really good at, and what what I’m really good at and how we kind of can delegate. And I think we really kind of strategically looked at mentors and advisors to see what were the missing links that we felt we really needed. What’s interesting about that is you It also changes over time, which is a it’s a complicated thing to manage, right? What you need at the very beginning of a startup, actually kind of shifts over time, when you start to get like post seed, like going towards series A like that, you know, the those needs and skill sets shift. But it doesn’t mean that the people at the beginning aren’t really useful. It’s just, you know, most the the best advisors that we know, and that we have cultivated, know where their skill, where their strengths are and what they can bring to the table. And that it’s just been really an amazing experience to cultivate that relationship with those advisors, and be really honest with them and have them be really honest with us about what their skill sets are, what they bring to the table and what we need. Half the time, you don’t exactly know what you need, and having good you know, people who have done it before can kind of tell you what the next two steps are and what and how they can benefit you, you know that it’s usually I think one thing that I would say that I learned my lesson really painfully at the beginning was I expect everyone else knew better than I did at the beginning. Right? When in reality, everyone has, you know your business better than anyone else, right? Like, I mean, still, you should listen, you should definitely have humility. And there are a lot of people that can bring you experience but at the end of the day, you’re the one it’s your business and you’re the one making the decisions and you can listen to all these opinions, but you have to do what’s right for you and that That was a good lesson to learn over time.
Andy Halko 30:04
I actually think we’ve heard that from a couple founders is that you have to, you know, they overestimate the knowledge and everything else of mentors. And so that, you know, there’s some humility that goes into it.
Maia Monell 30:20
Yeah, I think it’s really easy to, it’s really easy to, you know, get wrapped up in their own narrative like that mentors narrative and their success story, and like, replicating their model and doing everything that they did. But also like, frankly, if you’re working with a mentor, half the time, they built in sold or accident successfully a business several years before your interaction, or at least a few, right, like the market is complete, has completely evolved, within even that six month period of when you’ve met them to when they you know, accident. So I think that that’s also something to really keep in mind. Like, especially as we see that all the time, right, we’re in a still a pretty nascent industry, even though it’s exploded, and there are competitors everywhere, X, Y, and Z, it’s still very new, like regulators still don’t really know what to do with us. And because of that, I mean, you know, a lot of folks really latch on to the early success stories, but it’s, it was a different road. I mean, look at the inflated seed rounds that we see now, right, in our space. Like, that wasn’t always the case. And, you know, I think it’s really easy to get overwhelmed by past success stories to try it. I mean, Erin and I are both very competitive, and maybe a little bit more competitive in there and to try and, you know, make your own business 10 times successful, when really you should be focused on stabilizing it and growing it conservatively. And you know, really focusing on your own KPIs and your own objectives for the business. Sorry, I have a dog chewing a bone right below me. She’s a puppy. So I always have to apologize to everybody.
Tony Zayas 31:55
Yeah, I’m feel good puppy here, too. So I know all about that. You mentioned competitors just a moment ago. And I would love to hear a bit about, you know, in this space, that’s so new, some regulators don’t even know what to do with you guys. Interesting, right? And constant evolution of this space. How do you guys stay on top of things not to even mention what I’m really interested in? How do you future proof the business? So what are you doing to stay ahead of the curve? And really, you know, really solidifying your space in the market?
Erin Papworth 32:33
Great question. Yeah. And my Oh, free to add after that. Yeah. I think there are a couple things from our side, keep on keeping on top of the regulation, and what’s happening kind of in Washington is really important. And that changes with administration’s right. So we just had a recent change over in administrations and Fintech is here to stay, and fintech has, has really proven itself in a lot of ways during this COVID crisis, because of the way, you know, basically, FinTech was able to respond with the stimulus checks and the distribution of you know, these support, like unemployment and, and the stimulus checks to the population. But it’s still, FinTech has really been like the first we call it the first phase of fintechs. Right? It’s really only been one phase of really successful, like the the times of the world and then the kind of, you know, high valuation and fintech phase one. And the impact to size society is still not evident, like the big promise of FinTech was more inclusion, better access, lower rates, etc. And it still isn’t entirely proven that FinTech has been able to do that. And so regulators are watching that it’s just important that we we are we really feel like we’re the second phase, that’s really starting to look at okay, what is the social impact of my model? And what am I doing, that shifts the narrative and that creates a business model, that’s, that’s also in the best interest of the consumer. And, and thinking about how we deal with, you know, banking structures and fees and the management and the way that works. And so that’s, that’s a current and really new conversation that we stay up on by trying to participate in that those conversations by watching what the CFPB is doing, and what kind of the thinkers of this world are thinking about. And frankly, like, you know, you’re saying, how do we kind of bulletproof this model? It’s a new model. So I think, for us really making sure we’re as innovative as possible and leading the conversation. We talk a lot about anti design biased in AI. You know, AI is a whole new frontier right now in the financial industry, and we really are at the fore of thinking through how do we really be How are we careful with our data and think about making it like De declassifying it and understanding what is designed by us with AI, and with the delivery of financial services through AI mechanisms. And so all that’s just we just, it’s a, it’s a tall order, but it’s a really exciting time to be part of those narratives and those conversations because they’re completely new.
Maia Monell 35:17
Yeah, and if I may just add to that, and I can, obviously completely agree. But I think also in terms of bulletproofing, the business you know, we really think of ourselves as this new category, like Erin said, this new phase of FinTech, but also kind of a side category of the new phase, right, where we are trying to model the business as closely as we can to successful digital health products, because those are the ones that have really allowed the consumer to evolve their understanding of their own health obstacle, right? Like to really evolve their fitness routine, their nutritional routine, like what are the things that have actually made a healthier consumer? Well, the industry that we can look to when we ask that question is, of course digital health, right? So if we can start to create a conversation within financial services to say, Well, if you want, if you really care about your end user, right, if you really care about the health of your consumer, and you know, financial stress and anxiety is an impediment to the consumers overall health, then how are you addressing that health barrier and solving for it, you know, you’re doing it through things like what Erin and I have been talking about through changing financial behavior. And not just that kind of the macro level of, you know, getting more money into making money more accessible. Certainly, that’s an end goal, but also helping people kind of overcome smaller obstacles, because they haven’t been, they haven’t been involved in the system that has really cared to educate them to inform them to build their confidence up to just build up there kind of traditional financial fitness, those are those measurements of creating numbers and defined like we’ve talked about, you know, making sure that you spend less than you earn, right, paying off high interest debt, like we don’t really live in a system, especially in our own country. It’s kind of ironic that Erin`s in the UK right out, right, especially in our own country, where we like live on credit. Nowhere else in the world, does anybody really live on credit to the degree that Americans do. And so I think that’s one of you know, there’s certainly a time and a place for credit, I a huge fan of rewards cards, but you know, there’s a time and a place and there’s a type of consumer that can activate that. But if you are maybe less healthy based on some of our own measurements, and you need to shut off high interest debt first, and you have all these other obstacles to overcome first, then you need to handle those before you work on other wealth generating opportunities. And I think that the best way to address this kind of, you know, health crisis in our own country around financial services is to change consumer behavior.
Andy Halko 37:50
So, for our founders out there, and you you kind of we’ve been talking about competitors, what I’m interested in is decision making. So how much do you pay attention to what competitors are doing? How much do you listen to your audience? How much do you listen to mentors? And, and how do you make decisions about, you know, where you’re going as a company, especially from a product perspective?
Maia Monell 38:16
It’s a great question we have. Again, I’m the most competitive maybe on the entire team. So I feel like I should answer those first. Um, I, we have a healthy list of competitors on both the b2c side and the b2c side, as everybody probably knows if you’re familiar with FinTech at all. But I think, you know, there comes a point where you just kind of have to, like, let them lie, like realize that they’re doing certain things. They’re, they’re providing different digital banking solutions to a specific type of population that they want to address. And we really see ourselves as one of the only actors addressing kind of the holistic financial experience, right? So when we go into service, a new employer population who might have a demographic ranging from an 18 year old, making 20,000, a year to an a, you know, a 50 plus exact, making seven figures, maybe we can actually provide a solution, maybe not the seven figure exact, but we can provide a solution for the six figure one, right, we can provide a solution for everybody across the workforce, because we’re focused on that fundamental habit and kind of health change, right. Mitigating financial stress is something that as Erin said earlier, every adult experiences, right, it doesn’t matter how good you are with your money, you experience it in different levels. And then that’s not to say that we think that we’re going to address every single person in the United States states over 18. But I think that we we really feel strongly that if we’re providing a solution that does good by the consumer, then they’ll always be a space for an NAV.IT. You know, we’re not I think it’s so easy. It’s not easy. It’s such a new industry that there are so many issues to uncover and to solve for, and so long as we kind of stay true to ourselves, continue to service our end consumer in the best way that we know how for the best for the pain point that we know that they’re coming to us with, we feel like they’ll always be, you know, hopefully a space for an avid and across the landscape. Erin.
Erin Papworth 40:25
Yeah, I second everything, that Yeah. And Andy, I think you’re so right, I had to learn early not to get distracted by competitors. Like, I think that you can learn, you can learn from what they’re doing. And again, you know, people are doing innovative things in our industry. So you know, you learn like, oh, you can do that, or, you know, oh, they’re doing this kind of service. I wonder if I can talk to NBKC about doing something like that. So you’re definitely watching and learning, but not but not getting distracted and trying to compete dirt. I mean, you have to stay true to and to your point, really focusing on the end, like what who the client that you are serving that consumer that you are serving, if you stay true to that, and keep your eye on it, but don’t get distracted by it. I think that’s really how we, how we approach it. And you also said decision making and I don’t think I when you ask about kind of how my and I met one huge, I am just so grateful for an advantage that I feel like we have is that we have a team that this co founding team really allows us to, to add decisions with each other and be you know, have you have a thought partner that that challenges you when you go to propose a solution and to someone to just work through these issues with and I’m very incredibly grateful that I met my Oh, when I did, and I have someone that can be a thought partner when we make decisions.
Tony Zayas 41:46
It’s great. To shift gears a little bit. I always love hearing, especially from like, super innovative founders, like the two of you, you guys are in again, a competitive space. It’s a new category that’s out there. I’d love to hear about the approach and marketing. How do you know what are some of the lessons learned weapon, some of the challenges and struggles? And wherever you guys seen traction? what’s worked for you?
Maia Monell 42:17
Yeah, that’s a great question. I can certainly answer that one. Tony. I, you know, we have tried a lot of different avenues. Because our demo does skew younger, at least on the b2c side. Because again, we’re FinTech we have certainly tried a pretty aggressive strategy across kind of the digital landscape, both from an organic and paid we do since we, you know, we bootstrapped up until recently, we do have a nominal ad spend, as any startup founder can appreciate. And we, you know, we’re pretty aggressive on ad stores, we we’ve gotten really kind of competitive and effective with the kind of universal Google landscapes. I think one of our biggest wins and you know, the last year, year and a half or so is leveraging our organic content to serve that consumer and frankly, leverage leveraging it to convert them as well. So we often kind of say, we have, you know, to categories, right, we have folks that come in for, because they’ve found us organically through those literacy pieces, they kind of have read maybe a couple of blogs, they’ve seen us on a certain social channel, they’re starting to trust the brand. And then they convert right compared to the person that might have already tried to competitor or might have tried, or is my a little bit more familiar with FinTech and converted, because because they’re looking for an app specifically, like ours. You know, most of consumers, be it younger or older, don’t still really understand what Fintech is. And so it’s a really great opportunity for us to kind of leverage our we think are pretty authentic brand within the space to prove that, you know, we’re going to be somebody that cares about their overall health and can build that kind of customer loyalty that I think financial services by and large struggles to do. And, and, you know, I think one of the North Stars there and how we kind of focus in on our brand, and our brand promise and consumers to make sure that we’re always speaking in an inclusive way to everybody. So we never want somebody to feel like they’re left out of NAV.IT`s narrative or, you know, NAV.IT`s language, the imagery that we use, you know, everything A to Z is really, I think high quality and, and purposeful. And I think that that’s helped us attract more users organically than than other brands in the space.
Erin Papworth 44:52
Yeah, the only thing I would add a second well, then what I would add is I think that we we have had a very interesting and you know, I don’t you guys interview a lot of founders. So there’s a part of this that’s tenacity, resilience, grit, and there’s a little bit of timing and luck. And for us, other than a better time to shake up the narrative, and have people have this court, you know, horrible experience, kind of throw it in people’s faces that, oh, we we better start talking about financial health, like this is a real issue. And, you know, we have some of our population that had saw the 2008 crisis and kind of we’re coming into adulthood around that. So now a lot of them have lived through two of these major crises. And all of a sudden, it’s just like, we can’t avoid this. And so it has helped our narrative a lot saying, hey, is there a way to think about financial health and change this narrative and not just come at it from a banking perspective, but think about from a human perspective and a psychological perspective, so, so timing and luck, and grit and resilience have have worked in our favor.
Maia Monell 45:58
Yeah, pretty much all of that.
Tony Zayas 46:01
That’s great. I appreciate you sharing that.
I would like to hear a little bit about that. I think, Andy, are you? Alright, I was gonna Well, I’ll let you ask the next one. But just wanted to hear a little bit about the NAV.IT Team. And, and a little bit about what their culture looks like there?
Maia Monell 46:26
Oh, it’s a great question. We’ve never got an answer. I appreciate that question. Nobody ever asks about the rest of the team, and they deserve all the credit.
Erin Papworth 46:35
So we do we have an amazing team. And one thing that I think Maia and I just happen again, once again, got lucky is that we were already a remote team. You know, my is based in Idaho, I’m based in Washington. So we were incredibly lucky to have already have an infrastructure that when COVID, you know, shut down and remote, we were already working from home, mostly, some people were going into WeWorks and stuff, but you know, remote work was already kind of natural in our organizational culture. But it did, you know, my and I were very strategic in the first three to six, three to four months, I think, during during that kind of shutdown, to think about how do we cultivate community and an organizational culture in a time when we know people are highly, highly stressed, you know, and it’s funny, because they probably were stressed before it was just like, this intense moment. So we we’ve done a lot of things like we instituted, you know, we have a happy hour, you know, once a month, that’s, that’s really talked my I mentioned, she’s competitive, I’ll get to some competitive nature. So we have these great, you know, epic, company wide games that we play, and every departments responsible and, and then we did a wellness day, which is really important to us, too, because we’re, we’re health and wellness focused, you know, so we’re trying to kind of keep keep people’s pulse on and help them self reflect on when they’re burnt out. And when they kind of need a break and how we facilitate those dialogues. And then of course, we have company wide. I love this my opposite day my is gonna laugh, but we do this, we really create this environment where we can challenge ourselves to think differently. And I got it I’m inspired by Pixar, who did this at the beginning of their epic, you know, success where they we have company wide, like open, we call it opposite day where you take one of our features, and one of the things are initiatives, and we have everyone come with a counter argument of why this is not a good idea, what’s the counter? What’s the possibility or the, you know, possible negative outcomes, we’re not thinking about or secondary consequences? And it’s been an incredible environment and experience to have people really like come with feel safe, and and come with these counter arguments to think kind of differently than what we kind of are doing on a daily basis, you know, and opening up that dialogue and intellectual debate and yeah, so so we’re really we’re across the whole country, you know, we have DC, Boston, Florida, Idaho, Washington and my Messina state, Maia, I think,
Maia Monell 48:59
No, I think you’ve covered it. And we have some we have some awesome interns. We’ve been really lucky. Yeah, Colorado to we’ve been really lucky with intern classes that actually you have a lot of interns that come to us for the summer and then just like never leave, it’s great. Um, we’ve actually converted a full, full a few full time hires. So they’re also kind of spread across mainly the northeast, but I think to Erin, not to interject or jump on your point there. But I think one of the things that we really do feel passionate across like the half day wellness day, once a month, or you know, the happy hour once a month or that opposite day, like to to create some kind of consistency and like levels of kind of cross department support. So you know, we do all hands, right? We do all the normal things, but we also do fun things like we have silly Slack channels, right? Where people can just share what’s like top of mind or if they’ve read a good journal article. It doesn’t have to be anything to do with finances or FinTech, right? One of our Head of Community and education created a Slack channel that’s called word vomit, which literally, if any, does really on the brand stuff, but sometimes it bleeds on the product where, you know, we have a really good idea or like some Simone Biles said something really, you know, awesome today. And we want to kind of punt punt off of that and create kind of a micro campaign. Like, I think we really, you know, Erin and I are only two human beings, we have an amazing COO and President nazzer DasaChangi, who also comes from lead iShares, it comes from BlackRock, he’s got a demonstrated chops in the industry, too. But the three of us are really working to create an environment where people like if they have a good idea, and so long as it has some kind of, you know, business, it meet some business objective that we’re going after that they can run with that idea, like, no matter if they’re an entry level, or they’ve been with us for a while, you know, I think one of the kind of key cultural components is a profound, like value and trust of everybody on the team, whether or not they be a contractor or an intern or full time.
Tony Zayas 51:08
I would ask, just to continue the discussion here talking about team, because it sounds like yeah, it’s got an incredible team and you know, really cool culture. How do you guys find the right people? I mean, hiring is something that’s always a challenge. It’s really challenging right now. But how do you find the right people from both a skill fit? But then also, from a cultural perspective? What are some of the things you guys have won, that you’ve seen, you know, you’ve been able to draw the right people?
Erin Papworth 51:39
It’s a really good question. And I think it’s we’re constantly learning and evolving. And one thing that we have had incredible luck with is, we have had a couple of our staff that were kind of short term contractors or interns, and got to know them, and then we’re able to convert them into full time, salaried individuals. So that’s been incredibly helpful, because you already obviously know how to work with them, they understand the culture, they get to know you, and kind of, you know, not necessarily meaningfully meaning to, but in a kind of trial basis, and then you can end and that’s been kind of that’s been strategic to some degree, it’s also been the nature of a startup where, you know, you’re you’re doing short term contracts, then you do another round of funding, and then you’re able to hire full time. So you have this kind of, you know, list of people that are already kind of waiting to be hire you can you have identified as a possible full time hire. I think from a depth perspective, you know, we’ve been lucky to to have the development resource, I think recruiting development is really hard, because it’s in such demand, and you are competing with the Amazons and the Googles of the world that can pay, you know, for three, you know, a lot of zeros that we can’t, but so you’re also attracting people that are really motivated by your mission, right? So you can you give the equity with a lower salary, and people who are willing to do that, I think it’s been interesting. Also, I go back to COVID. But there’s been this shift, I feel like in the last six to nine months of people saying, wait a minute, I can do what I like, I can work from home, and I can do what I’m passionate about, right, and finding, maybe being in the hamster wheel isn’t as necessary, or if people have done it, you know, by the time they’re in their 30s, they’ve kind of gotten to a period in their life where they’re more willing to take risk and do things that they’re passionate about. And something like our business and our mission and our life. You know, our company mission is so front and center that you you attract people that are that, that your mission resonates with. And we, you know, we continue to be lucky is still always a challenge, but I think, yeah, I think I think cultivating and ensuring people kept our mission aligned is kind of the first step in identifying talent. I agree.
Tony Zayas 53:54
That’s great. So I like to hear just a little bit, we got a couple minutes here. What is what is the, you know, let’s say what does the next 12 months to three years look like for NAV.IT? So like, you know, what’s on the plate for this next year? And then what’s the next, you know, vision beyond that?
Maia Monell 54:15
The world is our oyster mile. Exactly. Sure. Yeah. The next 12 months, we’re really focused on two key things. That’s engagement, which we’ve all spoken a little bit about. So you know, ensuring that we’re creating an experience that users are not we call our consumer navigators that navigators enjoy and that they enjoy past kind of their traditional experience with, say, their bags app, right. So that they’re coming in a few times a week. They’re improving their behaviors incrementally, they’re creating that micro habit, right, they’re creating those small goals are like seeing themselves improve as a financial consumer is really top of mind for us. So Erin, of course is leading the charge on the product side and then in my side of the house, and My hat is really focused on traction. So both traction, of course, kind of continuing to excel on the b2c landscape. And I spoke a little bit about our digital marketing efforts, everybody knows that as you throw more ad dollars to the fire, you get more return. That just seems to be how the digital landscape works at scale. But like I said, we’re really focused on creating that kind of engaging content, too, that is helping to educate the consumer and meet them where their challenges are. And I think you know, something that we haven’t spoken a ton about, but what we’re really focused on in the next 12 months, and certainly in the next three years, even his traction in the employer space. So proving that financial well being is an increment, an integral part of your holistic health and well being strategy for employees. So that is really, you know, kind of one of our key pillars right now is if we can offer the same and, you know, frankly, the enhanced level of service to you as an employee, and you don’t have to pay for it, your employer can can pay for it and your health, you know, your insurance provider from an employer standpoint can pay for now that, then we’ve really done our jobs because we’ve been able to meet and reach as many people as we can, who might otherwise not have been able to pay for an audit or to you know, leverage it in a certain way. So we’re really focused on proving out that model and that employee benefit employer workbook kind of space. And in the next 12 to really 18 months, that also means that we’re leading, get are gearing up I should say for a series, a raise in early 2020, which is really exciting, and will certainly help fuel a lot of those efforts around traction and engagement and product opportunity thereafter. And you know, Erin and I always say that in three to five years, we really hope that our financial well being score and our kind of path to behavior change as it pertains to financial health and financial stress is starting to be used and leveraged by consumers as an additional underwriting tactics, right. So just like you have your FICO score, we believe that the next wave of underwriting needs to include behavior change, and behavior based underwriting has already been proven out in the health insurance category with a whole whole host of digital health tools. And you know, we really hope to be kind of on the forefront and pioneering that effort and financial services.
Tony Zayas 57:26
That’s really cool. That’s some exciting stuff. You guys have coming up a lot to do. Yeah, for sure. So we’ll wrap up in a second with last question I’d like to ask, but where can our viewers find out more learn about you guys. And actually, you know, see what it’s all about?
Maia Monell 57:44
Well, first and foremost, you can download our app, you can sign up from wherever you download an app from so Android, Google through our our apple store. And it’s just N A V dot IT, NAV.IT. And you should find it there. You can also follow us on all of the channels. I’m even carrying up a TikTok strategy. So please be patient and kind to me as I do guys. But most of our channels are let’s navit, L E T S N A V I T. And then of course from our website, that’s also the kind of host of all of our blog content. We host our own podcast. All the good stuff also lives there. And that’s navitmoney.com. So N A V I T M O N E Y.com.
Tony Zayas 58:31
Fantastic. Thank you.
Andy Halko 58:35
I don’t know if you can hear me. My final question, is always, if you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what advice would you give?
Maia Monell 58:49
Oh, God. I’ve been thinking about this on and I feel like I’ve changed my answer. Yeah. Erin, do you have one?
Erin Papworth 59:00
Well, depends on how much I’m old enough Andy that I think of how younger do I want to go? 16 20 25. But I, I think I I would definitely tell myself that you know, the not to sweat the little stuff. Like the Perfection isn’t isn’t real. And if you get distracted by the little things, you don’t actually see the bigger picture and how do you kind of one of my best lessons learned was I was very deep and into like, deeply emotionally attached to one of my first major jobs where I was running, you know, a multi million dollar project. I had 130 staff I was very emotionally attached to my success and the success of this thing. And there were just factors that were way outside my control that could that were not you know, I could only do what I could control. I could only do as much as I could you know, my sphere of influence, and I really had to learn that was my best lesson was to detach from myself worth being attached to the ultimate outcome and focus on what I could control the the things I needed to learn I needed to learn management I learned I you know, there’s so many skill sets that I could build, and yeah, and detach myself worth from the ultimate outcome. And that has served me well in a lot of in a lot of other environments, like a startup where there’s only so much you can control you can show up, do your best. And then sometimes there’s there’s a little bit that’s left to fate. I love that. Yeah,
Maia Monell 1:00:30
I definitely. I definitely resonate with that. I think mine and I kind of always come back to this, I can’t remember who once said it, somebody said it recently to on like, some social media channel. But I think it’s it’s relevant, especially to a founder, which is to learn what giving yourself grace looks like. And I think that that’s, you know, we’re, we’re all if you’re a tech founder, if you’re any kind of founder, you’re certainly pretty resilient, you’re certainly pretty competitive. You know, I might be on the higher end of that spectrum. But everybody, you know, you’ve got some grit and determination. And yeah, but I think that that also kind of fuels some of the negative components of what a founder mentality can look like, for instance, you know, thinking that you really thrive on stress. I love people that say, I thrive on stress, I’m so great at stress, but I’m like, Okay, well, nobody’s really great at stress to an extent, right, like, yeah, there’s a healthy degree of stress that can fuel you, if you’re one of those like last minute doers and be like, you know, knock it out of the park, that’s amazing. But at the same time, recognizing and I’m sure even Erin`s probably, like internally laughing because I’ve, I’m definitely a culprit of this. But figuring out, you know, when too much stress is starting to really impede your productivity and your own grid and your own capacity and your ability to lead a team, right. And to reflect on that and figure out, you know, what is giving yourself more grace look like, right, if it means to scale back that time or to you know, prioritize something different that day, or even go for a walk, I’m, again, a fitness freak, because of my last career and always have been, have always been an athlete, like, you know, if it means getting up, first thing in your morning in going for a hike or going for a run or going to the gym or doing something active that you can control that brings you joy, but also not getting yourself up at 4am to do it, right, like not every founder is working from four to four or you know, four to midnight. It’s just not nobody’s doing that. And if people are telling you that, that’s what you should do to be a founder, then they’re lying to you. Because nobody can survive on that level of stress. And, and I think it’s really important to realize that like, you know, you are just one human being and to be your most productive, best self, and you need to be good to yourself first.
Tony Zayas 1:02:51
Awesome. That’s very cool. Very much appreciated. So thank you both for joining us here today. I want to encourage everyone to go to NAV.IT and check out the app and see what it does really cool. I love the concept. I’m going to check it out myself here. We get off but thank you. We really appreciate you both my errands and your time here with us today. And with that, guys, take care everyone we appreciate you tuning in. We will see you again next week.
Maia Monell 1:03:22
Thanks for having us.
Andy Halko 1:03:26