Christo Davel. Source: 27dinner.com
HumanIPO reported last month the South African money management service had been acquired by the investment group, a deal which had been one of the sector’s worst-kept secrets for months.
Davel told HumanIPO the partnership with a “big daddy” such as Old Mutual would help 22seven scale much more quickly.
“Every startup needs an alliance with a big daddy,” he said. “The initial approach was about how we can form an alliance. Then the thing took on a pace of its own.
“It was a surprise,” he added. “We were thinking that ultimately we would sell to a big player. It turned out to be a godsend.”
Davel believes the acquistion will be mutually beneficial and allow 22seven to reach international customers quicker, with the UK the likely next stop.
“[Old] Mutual probably views this acquisition as a catalyst for their own digital dreams,” he said. “[Old] Mutual brings the ability to scale internationally that we did not have as a startup.”
He said in the short term the acquisition had changed very little at 22seven, and that he was committed to finishing the job he had started at the company.
“For now we are basically carrying on as we are,” he said. “We are in the early stages of where this thing can go. The immediate energy is in keeping on trucking.
“The thing is not finished, we still have a very real mission and now we have more flow to achieve it. It would be silly for us to go. For us its always been a long game.”
Central to Davel’s vision is creating a consumer brand that solves a problem for people in an innovative way.
“We need to solve a real problem,” he said. “And we need to solve it in a way that is real value to consumers. I’ve always built consumer brands. And the consumer is people like you and me.
“Then you need bright people. You have to assemble unique individuals who can execute. Visions are quite easy to have on paper. There needs to be a real need that you solve.”
Finding that talent remains Davel’s “ongoing challenge forever”.
“I still need to tell a good story, but you need to demonstrate that you have assembled a team of good skills. A degree to me is immaterial, its more what they can do and the skillset.”
The chief executive is confident people will steadily gain trust in aggregators in much the same way they did with ATMs and online banking.
“It’s a maturity thing,” he said. “It’s no different to when ATMs first came out.”
“The question of trust is a given, it takes time. Because we were the first mover in a territory in South Africa we had to take all those initial questions on the chin. The world is accepting that customers own the right to their data. We will just keep on earning their trust by giving them real value.”
Davel compares the current climate more favourably with when he started his previous project 20twenty, at what he calls “basically the worst time to launch” due to the dot-com bust and the 9/11 attacks.
“It was the start of what the internet can do in banking. We were the first guys to do it, a challenger brand,” he said. “Do customers have access to more of their information now? Hell yes. Twelve years ago we had to convince people to bank online. Now we have to convince people it’s safe to have an aggregator. The challenges are a lot less severe now.”