AMA with Coconut CEO, Sam O'Connor

Time for the latest in our series of AMAs - this time with our friends over at Coconut.


From the Coconut team :point_down:

About Coconut

Coconut are on a mission to make self-employment easier than being employed. To do that, they’ve crafted an intelligent financial companion. With expenses, invoicing and tax all in one, Coconut is the ultimate accounting and tax tool for self-employed people.

Meet Sam O’Connor, Coconut’s CEO

After qualifying as a chartered accountant at PwC Sam co-founded a fintech startup called ProConfirm where he led growth up until they were acquired by Confirmation. He then went on to co-found Coconut with business partner Adam Goodall which launched in January 2018.

In 2018 they completed a hugely successful crowdfunding round, raising just under £2m from 2,000 investors, smashing their £500k target by 400%. And they’re about to launch another round.

Pre-register for Coconut’s latest crowdfunding here: http://getcoconut.com/invest

Drop your questions for Sam in the comments below, and he’ll be here to answer them at 1 PM on Thursday 12 March :point_down:

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Thanks @sampoullain and @Viktor for inviting me. I’m looking forward to the questions.

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Hello Sam :wave:

Thanks for doing this. (I’m a :coconut: shareholder).

What does the roadmap look like for Coconut this year? What features can you share that are just around the corner?

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Thanks for the video @samoconnor

I’d be super excited if you did an AMA here :smiley: @Viktor :eyes:

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Great, and thanks. Just need to get @sampoullain on board and we can get it setup for next week if that fits the schedule.

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To maintain my shares, I had to invest approx £16. :joy: Done. Waiting for the next round to invest more. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Happy to do a guerilla AMA here :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:, but hopefully will get an official one setup!

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In that case :smiley:

  1. Where did you see Coconut in ten years?

  2. What are your thoughts on Coconuts mission and culture? (I particularly enjoyed watching this talk from Tom Blomfield recently - he describes it as “the way things are done around here”).

  3. What lessons have you learnt since you last crowdfunded?

Thanks in advance!

PS I’m a investor but sadly not a Coconut user (no business :frowning:) , woo :heartbeat: :balloon:

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Thanks for doing the AMA, Sam!

We’re both trained accountants, and entrepreneurs. I wonder what your take is on the stereotype that accountants are risk-averse bean counters?

Do you think an accountancy background has given you any superpowers as an entrepreneur?

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1.What is the USP of Coconut vs its competitors? (Eg Quickbooks)

2.How do you expect to maintain sustainable competitive advantage?

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What was the driving factor for your move away from the lucrative world of chartered accountancy? And what were your biggest challenges in the early days of ProConfirm?

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What will happen to Coconut if someone like Monzo or Revolut does their own business banking, plus open business banking, plus an integration with someone like Quickbook? This is definitely the trend now at Revolut. Monzo is late in its business banking, but it feels like they are catching up as fast as they can. Starling is in the pack as well.

How does Coconut position itself amongst the value chain of a business owner’s banking activities?

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What made you chose Crowdcube over Seedrs ?

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What made you copy Tom Blomfields hair cut and beard? :wink:

image

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Funny story for you. We used to be called Monizo, back when Monzo were called Mondo. At this stage we were an idea on a slide deck and we just happened to have the monizo.com domain for some reason, so it seemed like a natural fit for a fintech startup, albeit not a great name.

After Mondo changed their name to Monzo, there was a period where I would go to banking conferences with Monizo on my name badge. At least twice, people started being very friendly to me then introduced me to someone as Tom from Monzo…

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Very good question. We went with Crowdcube in the end because it’s more popular with fintech companies so seemed like a good fit. We were following in the footsteps of Monzo, Revolut, Go Henry, Chip, Curve etc.

In the future I would like to open it up to the Seedrs community too as whilst there’s overlap, there are also people who only use one or the other. I also know Jeff Lynn who’s a great guy and I love the way he’s really involved in the Seedrs community. We just need to figure out the best way and time to do that. If we every raise a convertible note, Seedrs will be the natural fit too because they have that functionality whereas Crowdcube doesn’t.

I’d be interested to hear your views on both platforms.

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Yes, I think this is a really important question. The SME market is pretty diverse. And generally speaking there are two jobs to do around finance, both of which are industries in themselves: banking and accounting. Whilst there’s some convergence in the two, ultimately a specialist product in accounting will always trump a “lite” product feature built by a bank. Fundamentally, accounting is quite far away from the banking business model of lending - you can’t imagine them building great tools to manage inside IR35 and outside IR35 income side by side, or deal with Construction Industry Scheme for instance. This is why it would be very difficult for anything Revolut, Monzo or the big banks to build that replaces accounting packages like Xero and Quickbooks, hence why they integrate.

We’re building the ultimate accounting and tax tool for self-employed people. We think self-employed people, which make up 90% of SMEs by volume, are different to businesses with more than 5 employees. We’re looking to work with traditional banks, having already started collecting their data through Open Banking, to power-up their dumb bank accounts with really powerful accounting. The vast majority of people still have their business bank accounts with the traditional banks. But actually many of our banking connections are from Smart Banks too, so we hope to work alongside them much like Xero and Quickbooks do, but for our segment.

Here’s a blog we wrote about this: https://getcoconut.com/2019/12/all-your-business-finances-in-one-place/

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Thanks. I can see why a one-man band would definitely choose you over a package of Revolut + Quickbook.

I think you are targeting SMEs that have say 10-15 people as well. If it’s just self-employed or less than 5 people SMEs, your product definitely makes a lot of sense.

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