The Genesis of a New Credit Card
Genesis stories end up folklore in a company’s history, but looking back they can reveal insight and intention in moments that felt like serendipity. Whether it’s Drew Houston forgetting his flash drive and writing the code that became the company, not feature, known as Dropbox, or Elon Musk wanting to put a terrarium on Mars to show that there is life there, and as a result creating a vertically integrated space explorations company.
Final’s story is no different, well a bit different, but really just the same isomorphic beginning, set in another domain. Final’s catalyst was a reaction caused by an international accident, a congruence of the right people and a dearth of advocacy and transparency to consumers in the credit space.
In January of 2014, two of my friends, now co-founders, and I were backpacking around Europe for New Years. Two weeks into our adventure we were exploring the esoteric soul of Berlin, in need of sustenance I went to pay for kabobs, only to be rejected my credit card declined.
My account had been compromised during the Target breach and had since been used in Atlanta to buy $1500 worth of carpet cleaning services. Unbeknownst to me, I was now included in the group of the 70 million people who were impacted in this security breach, a continually growing challenge.
There I was in Berlin, with a canceled credit card, sans kabobs, due to an event that had happened roughly two months prior. In my hungry state I started stewing on the concept that would ultimately lead me to the next chapter in the founding of Final.
Upon making my way back to the US, I texted my two soon-to-be co-founders. It turned out both Matt and Andrews card’s had also been compromised for the same reasons, and just as spontaneously turned off. With this shared pain, we set out to discover what was not working within the credit industry.
After countless Google Hangouts, flights between Colorado (where I was located) and the Bay Area (where my cofounders were located), scavenging our network for as many finance and payment related introductions we could, and then (a lot of) exploratory educational meetings, we circled back to what has become our focus – credit cards.
When proposing new ideas to big, established industries, “no” is a common word for startups to hear. But based on our learnings and backgrounds we felt we had an unfair advantage; a necessary factor when attacking a large industry. As a team, we’d covered a wide array of spaces, including utilities, payments, content, finance, medicine, and energy. The common theme between us though wasn’t our experience, but the desire to work on something impactful, and build a company that could positively affect individuals each and every day.
I had previously built out an engineering team at Simple Energy to store and analyze millions of household’s smart meter data. Andrew had run the marketing efforts to those millions of households and helped deliver on some of the most impactful energy savings programs the utility space has ever seen. Matt had worked on direct bank integrations and internal systems at his previous company, Slidepay. That diversity, I think, helps us see the forest through the trees.
We meticulously thought through all the things we would want in a credit card. I am now the proud owner of 28 different credit cards in order to understand the user experience and features of each. We started to see how this very complex system intentionally lacked transparency and unintentionally lacked customer advocacy.
A large problem lay uphill in front of us (and still does), but luckily we have this newfound bond and passion to change an industry we previously were unengaged in, and a new knowledge derived from thousands of hours spent with industry experts and researching legacy systems. We’ve set out to affect serious change in credit, driven by an absolute drive to understand what consumers truly want.
— Aaron Frank
Co-founder & CEO
(Added note: funny enough, while I was writing this letter my co-founder Andrew had his CC stolen and charged at Target while on a BD trip. We can’t seem to solve our own problem fast enough – though clearly we aren’t the only ones).