Spenn Technology, founded in 2015 with the mission to make the world a more financially connected place by giving everyone equal financial opportunities through innovative technology. Founded by Jens Glaso, a long-time expert and entrepreneur in the fintech industry. Leading the way for many fintechs out there, especially in places of the unbanked, providing financial means to its customers.
Everyone in this world seeks to make a difference somehow in life. Whether that is for altruistic reasons, for reasons of cash, or because they want to help others live in a better, more convenient world. At Spenn, their mission is to help those in the poorest areas of the planet, have the same means of life and opportunities available to them.
We caught up with the founder of Spenn Technology, sharing with us: Spenn’s creation, the challenges Spenn has and continued to face, the future of fintech, why it is so important for fintech startups to work in tandem with big banks and why ownership is something founders much search for in a candidate if they want their company to be a success.
Table of Contents
I am an entrepreneur, equipped with a financial background, and with quite a few businesses under my belt. I have been in the financial industry pretty much my whole life, starting off as a stockbroker, then moving over as the managing director for a financial advisory company, and then starting a peer-to-peer lending company, which became one of the biggest globally within its sector. A few years later, I started to search for a new challenge, and so was born Spenn in 2015.
Spenn is a tool for people living in poorer areas of the planet. Upon creating Spenn, we recognised that almost half the adult population is without a bank account. That’s nearly 2 billion people! Our thinking was that by creating a tool that actually solves this problem, and at the same time, also solves the core problem – one of the issues with banks. The fact is that, nowadays, the bank doesn’t want to have these 2 billion people as customers. Banks consider the unbanked as non-beneficial due to the cost of opening and maintaining a bank account, which they may not have the means to do.
So by creating our tool, we allowed many of those who once were unable to get a bank account now, to now be part of the system. We, therefore, can make unproductive capital productive, and so our tool is also valuable for the bank. As it stands, today, we are in six countries and we have more than a million people using our tool.
There have been many challenges, some of which being finding the right partners, getting across the line of launching products, getting the adoption of the product just right, understanding the market, and understanding what is needed there.
I think we had a very good starting point. I made clear, when we launched the product, that my idea was to utilise the technology of blockchain, in order to actually solve one of the biggest issues within financial inclusion. We knew the regulatory space would be very easy for us to jump into and do what we needed there. In 2008 there came about a system, a brilliant tool, which is called M-PESA, a mobile payment solution. It has done many great things for a lot of people. But it came at a time when it was required to charge transactions. I just couldn’t understand why, in 2015 and even nowadays in 2022, is it necessary to pay a transactions fee? What if I can bring this tool to the bank where the bank monetizes the situation based on the capital being productive, and at the same time, they can pay us to, therefore, offer a tool to the end-user completely cost-free.
People living in the poorest countries in the world today are subjected to paying some of the highest fees for financial transactions. It just doesn’t make any sense. If you use Revolut, or any of these banking apps, there is no cost on transactions. So then why should there be a cost on transactions for the people living in the poorest areas of the world?
Spenn is a product to unite. A product to unite everyone not only the unbanked. People were being left outside the financial system simply because they didn’t have enough money and the bank didn’t consider them important. As a service we come in and offer you a tool where you can: send and receive money completely cost-free, pay your bills, buy airtime, deposit your money into a savings account, and we have an E-commerce solution. In addition to this, we also have a loan product, helping the people, not only take the first step out of the cash society but taking the step towards a middle-class way of life, such as taking out a loan and using this credit facilitation. By paying on time, you build your credit score, and suddenly, you’re in a position to be able to take out a bigger loan.
Spenns beginnings were not much different from many startups out there, the reduced salary in exchange for shares, how they hold rights, how to start raising capital. The tool took around three years before we could launch it.
There have been many small steps in the right direction. Last year, we won the lighthouse program with MasterCard and made many other of achievements, showing me that we are on the right path. For me, it’s those small moments when I see our tool and how it works, which assures me that we are going in the right direction.
Our success all boils down to solving the hurdles and adapting to the different elements that we see.
When we launched, we saw that we had to adapt and add on all the other services as the original idea wasn’t sufficient. It really has been a learning-by-doing kind of thing. Our latest launch was our loan product. This is a unique product that provides everyone with the chance to take out credit. After the applicant’s approval, we sit on all the data, giving us your history, when you expect your salary, data on where the money goes. This access, therefore, provides us with the ability to potentially approve your application for a loan in three seconds. I came from the loan industry, and I had never seen this before. By using blockchain technology, the whole chain is digital. It’s a no-brainer for us.
When considering, it usually takes a bank approximately 40 minutes to onboard a client. We save the bank approximately 300,000 working hours, which in turn also comes at a cost. Therefore contributing to their development, creating that circle we need to make the system work. And so, therefore, adapting is crucial in this business because it doesn’t just depend on us. Especially when what we are doing doesn’t just benefit us, but also the bank.
If all the unbanked have $20 in their pockets, this becomes a lot of uncapitalized money. Spenn is the tool that facilitates all these previously unbanked users on behalf of the bank, which, therefore, helps the bank create a steady flow of capital.
We see banks going more and more back to being the provider of loans, plus focusing on providing all the extra services tech providers, like ourselves, already provide.
Today we are a team of 280. When we started off, it was just me and my partner back in 2015. I had the benefit of establishing a few companies before Spenn, therefore, helping me overcome the startup challenges. I was very clear in which direction we wanted to go and about what we needed to succeed but is really about filling that gap. For example, I’m not a tech guy, I’m a visionary guy, I know how the product should work, but I’m not the one putting it together.
Additionally, another gap would be legal professionals. We work with regulation and multiple banks etc., being a tech provider to banks, therefore legal was important to us. The necessary operational and support professionals were some of the first hires, soon after followed designers and even more people working on the development side of things. Barnes our legal specialist, came on board, but we had already built that trust as we worked together previously, stretching to now 12-15 years.
Ownership. Ownership is extremely important. And of course, empathy and passion for what we do. Upon hiring those who will work directly with me, I have to ensure that our visions align. We are helping people take the first step out of the cash society, you see how valuable it is to these people, and to be a part of it, it’s truly something special. We partnered up with the United Nations when rolling out a project in Kakuma and I was there myself. This is ownership. Being there, and helping these people take the first step towards being financially included. Upon hiring, this is the first thing we search for are people ready to work hard, ready to make a change, and take ownership for what we do at Spenn.
Obviously, I do understand you won’t necessarily always find it in each and every one of your employees, neither do I hire everyone myself anymore. But in the beginning, this was really important for me. Passion for what we are providing.
It’s hard to lock them in these days. But I think that we have a quite good appeal in what we’re doing. I am often asked, so what you’re doing, is it charity? No, absolutely not. We’re super commercial in what we’re doing. But we are commercial with a good product. Additionally, being a relatively young company, it opens up a lot of opportunities for them to grow, and they know this. Also, we have a share option program, a structure similar to many of these American companies.
It’s a combination of things. I’m very proud of the people that I have in my team, as I see that they are really engaged in what we’re doing. We are not necessarily a company that pays the highest, but when on board, you become part of a team that is making real change.
In the Philippines and Africa, I have a great number of personnel who work for us purely because they saw the difference we were making, seeing how they could help their own people. And how fantastic is that? What’s happening in Ukraine is really the same thing. The sheer quantity of people that are going there to help, mainly because they want to contribute to something and help those in need.
Now, if people want to work for a company to make money, there is nothing wrong with this. What we do works and so we make money and provide a service that changes lives. Charities are generally not sustainable in the long run, because you constantly need capital from outside the charity.
Do you know that we helped 200+ companies build web/mobile apps and scale dev teams?
Let's talk about your engineering needs.Write to us