22seven is one of those companies that gets called out as an ‘innovative African company’. Based in Cape Town, it tracks customers’ banks transactions and helps individuals monitor their spending. Most importantly, it works in conjunction with most major banking institutions across South Africa. We catch-up with Christo Davel, Founder and CEO to learn more.
Can you provide a brief overview of what 22seven does in your own words?
22seven is a platform that helps people achieve more mindful decision making with their money. It brings all your financial information into one single place and makes sense of it. You can see where your money is really going, turn a spotlight on your behaviour and start making better decisions.
How did the idea come about?
In the post-2008 world people have become increasingly weary of financial services providers and are more than ever thinking about how our money systems work. 22seven was born in this environment, but its founders have been thinking about the problem – that people are out of touch with their money – for almost two decades. 22seven is the culmination of what we’ve learned through other projects, including building South Africa’s first online bank [20Twenty]. We believe that obsessive customer support and an appreciation of human behaviour is key to making a real difference.
There are a lot of different finance apps, especially coming out of South Africa, what makes this unique?
A lot of apps are about the business that makes them, whereas we like to think that 22seven is about you.
On 2nd September you entirely abolished your subscription fee and inferred that in your next phase of growth you’ll be offering more analytics to customers. How does this work in practice?
We see making money as just one of the things we need to do in order to achieve our goal of empowering people in their decision making. Like Evernote and Dropbox, we believe that the best way to reach a lot of people with our product is via a freemium model where we provide you with as much as we can for free and only charge you for things that we absolutely have to.
As your big promise is that you don’t sell data, how do you make money?
We are planning additional bits and pieces for 22seven that will make money in a very special way for both us and our users. We can't talk about that yet though.
22seven is based on tech developed by US company, Yodlee and was bought by the UK division of Old Mutual, do you see yourself as a global business?
Yodlee provides services for some of what 22seven does, but all of our software is developed in Cape Town, South Africa. We designed and developed our native mobile and web apps ourselves. Yodlee is the most secure provider of services for storing bank details and transferring financial data, which is all we use them for. We think of ourselves as a South African business with global ambitions.
Where are the majority of your customers based?
All of our customers are currently South African. We have had people sign up from all over the world to see what we're about, but we currently only support bank, credit and investment accounts for South Africans.
Where do you see 22seven heading medium and long term?
We will never regard 22seven as being ‘finished’ as there will always be ways of doing things better and changing along with our customers and their environment. Right now 22seven is focused on helping people get to grips with their spending, but we also believe we have a role to play in saving and planning for the future. We can’t provide specifics, suffice to say that we’re constantly working to improve the service and give people greater control over their financial wellbeing.
What is your view of the Cape Town startup scene?
My view is that Cape Town is a perfect environment for creating things. It offers a fantastic lifestyle that is conducive to creativity and also houses some of the most talented minds on the planet. South Africa is also a fantastic market to test new ideas and we love the enthusiasm that locals have for new things. We’re especially interested in the emerging “fintech” scene in Cape Town with many great startups working in the money space.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our international audience?
We’re constantly looking for inspiration from all over the world and believe that the market is increasingly global. Money is the most challenging topic for current innovation and we believe that this generation will give birth to the most profound financial solutions in human history.
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