“Fundraising is always a challenge - sometimes it’s easier to get 100 million dollars from your investors, than getting your first million!” Eugene says, talking about his challenges in raising capital during the early days, and how that has changed throughout the years.
“The first five investment funds were so much more difficult than the last five” he goes on. “We were still a tech-y team and for investors it’s hard to assess the technology because they prioritise business potential over the technology you use for it,” he says.
But how did he even get in a room pitching to investors? Born in Ukraine in the then USSR, Eugene recalls how at six years of age, while waiting for their Canadian visa to come through, he found himself in Italy where he had his first entrepreneurial exploit: “I convinced some local kids to let me help them wash car windshields on the street. In the mornings I would leave a note to my parents saying ‘I’m going to work’ and that’s how I made my first money,” he remembers. “Then I spent all my money playing arcade games!”
But Eugene’s success as a founder is only partially rooted in entrepreneurship. It’s his interest for technology and its intersection with human cognitive interaction and design that generated the idea for Mambu during his Masters studies: “We had a corporate sponsor working in the financial space and that’s how I got into the financial industry. We spent one year researching and then decided to explore the gap between technology and mobile banking. Mobile phones were just a couple of years old back then, and fintech was only a nascent movement.”
The ability to recognise the disconnect between the technology that the big banks would use and the small and medium companies starting to provide financial services would also bring about Mambu’s original mission: financial inclusion. “Frustrated by my own experiences with finance, we wanted to make banking better. We wanted to create a system that was not too expensive and not too complicated so that everyone from big banks to NGOs could afford and be able to use it. We always believed in simplicity over complexity,” says Eugene.
Empowering Mambu’s customers to design products that give good experiences to the end customers goes back to the human-computer interaction. “My dream for Mambu,” concludes Eugene, “is to design the best banking technology experience for the end user. In my wildest dreams I would like to reach one billion people who do their banking and use Mambu as a platform.”