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Kieron and Carmen James of Wonderful.org

Written by John Kuder

Table Of Contents

In the realm of small family businesses, the unique blend of personal and professional life often paves the way for innovative ideas and resilient operations. This is exactly the story of Kieron and Carmen from Wonderful.org, a duo that has not only successfully navigated the challenges of running a family business but has also made significant contributions to the world of FinTech and charitable giving. Their journey, soaked in tenacity, innovation, and a deep understanding of each other’s strengths, is a testament to what family-operated ventures can achieve.

The Genesis of Wonderful.org

Kieron and Carmen James started with an online charity giving platform, an idea ignited by a personal experience with inflated platform fees on a major fundraising website. This was not just a venture but a mission to ensure that every penny donated went directly to the cause, not lining the pockets of middlemen. Their foray into the FinTech space was almost accidental yet serendipitous, driven by their quest to eliminate card processing fees entirely through the promising tech of open banking.

Navigating the Waters of FinTech

For those unfamiliar, open banking may sound like a puzzle. At its core, it’s an initiative that allows the sharing of financial data between banks and third-party providers in a secure, standardized manner, opening up a world of possibilities for innovation in financial services. Kieron and Carmen leveraged open banking to bypass traditional card processing fees, marking a revolution in how transactions can be processed — faster, cheaper, and more securely.

Their journey into open banking wasn’t straightforward. From obtaining authorization, navigating the complexities of integrating with banking APIs, to eventually introducing a commercial product, the duo has been through an arduous but rewarding quest. Their work not only supports their initial charitable giving platform but also stands to revolutionize commercial transactions by significantly lowering costs for small businesses.

The Dynamics of Family Business

One of the most captivating aspects of Wonderful.org’s story is the seamless integration of family dynamics into the business. Working with family can be a double-edged sword, yet for Kieron and Carmen, it has been a fountain of strength. Establishing clear professional boundaries without eroding the personal bond they share has been key to their success. Carmen’s journey from an SEO content writer to the head of operations speaks volumes about the growth opportunities a family-run enterprise can offer when roles are based on merit and passion, not just lineage.

Kieron’s advice to small family businesses just starting is poignant — be passionate about your ideas but dispassionate about numbers. It’s crucial to draw a fine balance between emotional investment in the business and objective decision-making based on hard data. Carmen adds, establishing a healthy division between family and business time is essential to avoid burnout and maintain relationship integrity.

Looking Ahead

As Wonderful.org stands at the cusp of rolling out its commercial open banking solution, the future looks promising. Focusing on integration with e-commerce platforms and expanding beyond the UK, they aim to spearhead the adoption of open banking on a global scale. It’s not just about growing their business but fostering an ecosystem where financial transactions are more efficient, secure, and accessible.

In sharing their story, Kieron and Carmen not only shed light on the intricate workings of open banking but also illustrate the power of combining passion, resilience, and familial bonds. It’s a narrative that’s inspiring for aspiring entrepreneurs and established family businesses alike, offering insights into innovation, growth, and the nuances of turning challenges into opportunities.

For those interested in the intersection of technology, charity, and family business dynamics, Kieron and Carmen’s journey with Wonderful.org serves as a beacon of innovation and dedication. Their story is not just about building a successful business but about crafting a legacy that bridges the digital with the personal, the commercial with the charitable.

(Note: The preceding blog post was written by AI from the transcript of the video above and is unedited. The transcript has been human edited for spelling and accuracy.)

Video Transcript:

John and Connie: Hi and welcome to another episode of Celebrating Small Family Businesses. I’m John Kuder. And I’m Connie Kuder. And we are doing exactly that. And today we are celebrating, well, I’m going to ask the exact organization. I think it’s wonderful.org and also wonderful, a separate company, but, uh,

Kieron: Yeah, exactly. You’re right, John,

John and Connie: Karen and Carmen James.

Kieron: we’re trying to confuse you from the get go by having two businesses with the same name. But yeah, we started life as an online charity giving platform and then we’ve also created a payments business. But more of that to come, I’m sure. But yes, both called wonderful.

John and Connie: Well, yes, that leads right into my, my first question. I know, you know, from looking at your website a little bit, you guys are into FinTech, which for our listeners would be financial technology, and it sounds like you’re kind of deep into it because you’re doing something called open banking that I had never heard of until I heard, met you guys.

Mm hmm. And, uh, and then you’re also into something called deep house music, which I sampled a little bit of, and I’m very curious about that,

Kieron: Yeah.

John and Connie: but yeah, for, so how did your, how did your business come to be?

Kieron: Um, do you want me to take that? Do you want to kick off Carmen with how we got started? It might be a good one for you

Carmen: Yeah, sure. I can kick off. So basically we started, is it eight years ago now? Seven, eight years ago? Um, my younger brother was doing a charity skydive. Someone at school had cancer, um, so he was trying to raise some money for that. And he went to do it through one of the major fundraising platforms we have here in the UK.

And when he set up his page he realised that a bunch of the money goes towards the platform fees. So card processing, um, and also just For running the platform, um, and it’s not really not for profit that the platform fees, you know, the company is making money off, off that. Um, and he kind of got really frustrated about it, uh, and was sharing that with the family.

And then I think we were like, Oh, you know, there’s an opportunity here. It doesn’t seem fair that there aren’t fee free fundraising platforms. Cause we did look around and there didn’t seem to be any that were a hundred percent fee free. And that kind of sparked the idea. We thought, why don’t we make our own?

I

Kieron: Bit of an extra background for context. I’d done a bit of running for charity as well over many years. And, um, we were coming up, so that must’ve been 2015 that we were starting to think about this and we were coming up to a big year in 2016 in terms of lots of family events happening. So it was my 50th birthday.

We had our 25th wedding anniversary. Um, I think Dan had his 18th and uh, and Gabby had a 21st, my middle daughter, so it was only Carmen actually. He didn’t have any significant birthday feeling very left out. Um, so we said 20 sixteen’s coming, let’s mark the year and I’ll do the New York marathon. And, and then we had this kind of harebrained idea that we would also build a charity fundraising platform to collect the donations on the back of, um, of Daniel’s frustration, I think.

Um, so yeah, it was, it was a bit nuts. We kind of went into the office and said to the developers who were all telecoms engineers, do you fancy building a fundraising platform? And they said, well, why not?

John and Connie: perfect? Well, why not? I love that. Tech’s tech, right? Or programming is programming,

Kieron: to an extent that’s exactly right. And I think for them as well, it was a really great chance to, to, to give back, you know, that, that genuine feeling of giving up a lunch break and, and, and your coffee time weekends. And just doing something that’s inherently good. Um, I think we were kind of quite inspired by the group of people that we were supporting.

Cause you’ve got charities, um, their supporters, and then the fundraisers going out, doing tremendous things, donors, all of those people doing wonderful things. And we thought, well, if we can get a platform that sits in the middle, that’s completely philanthropic. Um, and I think the model that we anticipated using for that was corporate sponsorship.

So we would find a corporate sponsor to, to partner with. To back it, uh, we undertook to do that with the telecoms business for the, you know, the first chunk of money that went through the platform. And then we, we set out to try and find a bigger, a bigger sponsor with deeper pockets

Carmen: Yeah, and I think we realised that, ultimately, the main cost of the platform was the card processing fees. So every time someone made a donation with their card, their credit or debit card, that would incur fees that we would have to pay to Stripe. So that basically became the ceiling on our reach of how big can this platform get because these card processing fees are just going to get bigger and bigger.

And we’re going to keep having to ask our corporate sponsors for more and more money.

Kieron: and that leads us into open banking.

John and Connie: Yes, which yeah, I I don’t even think I can summarize open banking. My takeaways from from what i’ve read and heard is is that it’s a more direct connection to the bank’s API or something so that you’re basically bypassing the processing and all of the fees and so you reduce it from, you know, well over 90%.

Kieron: That’s broadly it. Yeah. And essentially what happened here was, um, there was an initiative really to increase innovation in the, in the financial banking sector. Um, and the way that that was really kicked off in, in, in fairly simple terms is the banks were, the biggest banks were mandated to open up their APIs to, to newly created FinTechs like ourselves.

Um, so you need to be authorized. You’re, we’re regulated. It’s a, it’s a 12 month process to get yourself authorized. So it, you know, it’s no walk in the park to do that, but once you’re authorized, that then gives us permission with the consent of the person who wants to move the money. So say a customer to a retailer.

As long as they consent to Wonderful processing that payment on, on their behalf. That money is you quite rightly say, John, it just moves directly from their account instantly, instantly to the retailer’s account. So, you know, typically a card transaction, there are multiple intermediaries in that process.

Um, if you’re a merchant, then you’re probably waiting for settlement for a day, possibly longer for that money to hit your bank account. So there are massive advantages with open banking. And again, as you pointed out, not least that the huge savings of taking out all of those intermediaries. Um, so there’s, you know, there’s one company in the middle of that transaction, which is us. So we saw this not only as a means of solving that problem for the fundraising platform. It was then very quickly that penny drop moment when you go, actually, if this problem exists for charities, donors, and fundraisers clearly exists in the, in the commercial sector too. So. If we can leverage this, harness the technology of open banking and create something that’s simple, fast, secure, 95 percent cheaper, um, super transparent, then that’s going to be a good thing.

So again, we just kept the name wonderful for the commercial business because really a payment made using open banking is wonderful.

John and Connie: Yes. Yeah. Are you, would you consider yourselves early adopters in this area?

Kieron: We, we feel that from a business point of view, we’ve probably struck it just about right. Um, I can’t remember, I should find out who the quote’s attributable to, but it’s kind of stay two steps ahead of the competition and you risk being a martyr, stay one step ahead and you’re a leader. Um, And I, and I think that’s kind of where we feel that we are in terms of the process.

So there were a lot of people that were in just as open banking was emerging and clearly like any new technology. There are, there are niggles to work through. It can be quite tricky in that first instance. The standards need. Working on to make sure all the banks are adopting in the same way. So we feel like, you know, some of that difficult work had already been done by the time we applied for our authorization.

And similarly, you know, when it’s brand new technology, adoption takes a bit of time. So we feel like we’ve got this, we’re early, but we’re not so early that it’s going to be difficult to, to, to gain a market.

John and Connie: I was going to say that there’s a reason they call it bleeding edge.

Kieron: exactly. Yeah, exactly right.

Carmen: All I was going to say as well was, um, being in the UK, I think It’s coming to America, I think it’s probably a bit further behind, but at the moment in the UK, it is quite an emerging technology that’s being adopted quite quickly here.

Kieron: What we’ve had, we’ve seen a couple of things really that, that relate to our, our position in, in, in the market. One is the, the charity sector. We often say, wouldn’t be probably your first sector to target innovation, largely because charities are, you know, time poor a lot of the time. It’s not that they don’t want to do it.

It’s just that they don’t have the time to start investigating the latest trends in technology and adopting them. So it was, it was kind of nice in a sense that we, you know, we We were obliged to adopt this. It was either that or accept that that ceiling and our reach and impact was always going to be low because the card fees were always going to be there.

Um, so in that sense, removing the cards and going the open banking route meant we forced all of our donors to use open banking now. That might seem like quite a harsh thing, but it’s also a really positive thing. Cause if I’m about to donate to your 5k run and I don’t give, you know, there’s no option.

There’s no other way of me donating other than via this platform. Then I’m probably going to see that donation through from start to finish. Even if it’s the first time I’ve encountered the technology. Whereas if I was just going to go and make a purchase of something that I could buy on another website, then I might go, Oh, I’m not familiar with open banking.

I’ll just go and use my card somewhere else. So I think that gave us. kind of quite a captive audience to, to really test this technology out and get some real, real feedback from them. Um, and as the, the other thing Carmen’s mentioned as well, it’s, it’s nascent, but growing really rapidly. And the, , equivalent of the IRS, HMRC in the UK is a massive evangelist for open banking.

So now you can pay any tax bill at all using open banking. Including your fines if you, you get fined by them. So, so again, huge supporter and saved UK taxpayers millions and millions of pounds.

John and Connie: That’s outstanding. I’m looking forward to the spread of it. Yeah. My, if we were a technology podcast, I’d be asking all about the security and so forth and you know, but it sounds like if it’s regulated and it’s, and it’s, it’s, you’ve got to go through that kind of a process. The, the security of the transactions is really not a question.

Kieron: Super secure. And again you’re right,. It’s not a tech podcast, But, but basically in summary, it’s a tokenized payment that’s valid for, you know, a couple of minutes. So it is that token, it’s almost like Imagine if you were sending somebody a check and the, the, the envelope was intercepted, then, you know, there’s an outside chance you might be able to rewrite the recipient’s name on the check and somehow do that.

With an open banking transaction, you can’t, once that’s being issued, it can’t be revoked or changed. So it’s valid for a few seconds from the point it’s initiated or a few minutes from the point it’s initiated to the point it’s paid and it’s tokenized. So super secure.

John and Connie: Outstanding. Um, that’s exciting stuff. I hope it spreads around the world.

Kieron: Well, I think that’s very likely. You’re seeing lots and lots of adoption now. I think in Brazil, um, actually there are more alternative, alternative payments using open banking. There are now card payments, which is again, phenomenal really, because it didn’t exist. I think the start of the pandemic was when they started to introduce it in Brazil and it’s outstripped card payments already.

John and Connie: I would think the banks would be somewhat resistant because it’s taking away profits.

Kieron: Yep, I guess that’s true. Um, and there will be, they’re just going to have to rethink models. And I think that’s the only thing to do when the technology is, is there and it’s crying out to be used and there’s very little argument for not using it for a consumer’s point of view that just leads you to rethink, well, we’ve got to find alternative ways of generating funds and maybe isn’t three transactions.

Um, so yeah, be interesting to see how it maps out. But as I say that, I think that mandate is really important to get the innovation going.

John and Connie: Yeah. And at some point when it becomes well enough known, it becomes a social, a cultural mandate.

Kieron: Exactly, exactly.

John and Connie: you don’t want to be the last adopter at that point.

Kieron: Absolutely.

John and Connie: So you’ve used this successfully for how many years now? Because you said that you, you know, you thought, started thinking about it, what, in 2016?

Kieron: No. Now, So a little bit after that, we, we launched the fundraising platform in 2016. And, um, in February 2016, we used cards for a couple of years, completely unaware that there was any alternative. And to be honest, it was really just emerging 2016 OpenBank, probably 2017, really. Um, so we’d already gone down the route of, of using cards.

We’d negotiated very, very favorable rates with our card provider. Yeah. Um, just on the basis of what we were doing, but they were at a point where they said, we, we really can’t drop anymore. And we understand that, you know, they, they have mouths to feed. And as I say, a lot of intermediaries in those transactions.

Um, so it was really out of almost desperation of, we’ve got to find a solution to this problem. Is there anything out there? And I remember, you know, task, what happened was during lockdown, start of lockdown, we kind of paused the platform, um, because we couldn’t maintain it. We were running the telecom service. And we also, as part of the telecom service provided free conferencing, telephone conferencing. So when Boris Johnson announced lockdown in the UK, everybody who was conferencing or everybody who was used to working in a, you know, in a physical environment was suddenly conferencing and the capacity on our network just went completely through the roof. So we had to pause that, um, fundraising platform briefly to figure out what we did. Cause we just, we were a small business, you know, probably eight, nine people in total running both of those things. So we said, something’s got to give let’s, let’s pause briefly and figure out what we do next. And Carmen, I’ll let you pick up what happened next.

Cause we, you remember me making that donation and I’ll let you just describe what happened.

Carmen: Yeah, I think basically you came across, uh, it was another, uh, fundraising platform. You, one of your friends had shared something on social media that they were doing a head shave. And raising some money for a really worthy cause and basically you clicked on, did the donation, didn’t even realize that it was an open banking transaction.

You felt like it was super smooth, really easy, the money kind of just left your account and went to the charity. And then you said, wow, what just happened? Go and figure it out. And I did a bunch of research and found out all about open banking. I’d never heard of it. You’d never heard of it. And we just thought, wow, this is a really big opportunity and could solve.

the whole problem we’ve been having with card processing fees basically being this ceiling on our reach.

Kieron: I think what happened was from, from the, we closed, I think the 20th of March. Um, and we literally just say goodbye to all the charities. We thought, well, if we reemerge, it’s going to be a little while off yet. No one knows what’s going to be happening with a, with a global pandemic anyway. I think that by that stage in 2020, all hoping it was going to be a few weeks or possibly, you know, three or four months.

And, and it was obviously a lot longer and I think we reopened in October. So six months later, we’d kind of almost rebuilt the platform, removed all of the car processing from it and integrated a third party open banking provider. Um, and then set about, you know, shortly after that, getting our own authorization and just doing it ourselves.

John and Connie: Cool. Very nice. Well, Carmen, you mentioned that you, uh, you went and did some research. So that leads me to, you know, as you guys work together, together in your own family business, um, how, how are your roles, what roles do you play and, and how do you, how did you define them and keep them, clean?

Carmen: Yeah, so I’ve kind of worked with my dad for years and years, even prior to this business and other businesses, I started doing like SEO type content while I was at university, just writing bits here and there as a bit of a way to make extra cash on the side. Um, and then after university, I did zoology at university and then biodiversity and conservation as well, which is totally different to anything that I’m doing now.

And once I graduated, I quickly realized that those types of jobs expect you to volunteer for a very long time. for free to get anywhere and I was like, I can’t live in London with no salary. Um, so I basically started working, uh, with my dad in the telecommunications business. Um, I was doing, I started off doing a bit of customer support alongside my university degree and then progressed into doing more project management type stuff.

And that’s when we started Wonderful, alongside the telecoms company. And then I basically progressed from project management into, , products management. So working with our users to figure out what they wanted, how we can improve, , our products and things like, which I really enjoyed. And then recently, just as of this year, I’ve transitioned into head of operations.

Um, so I’m co-founder of Wonderful and head of operations and Kieran’s CEO and co-founder of Wonderful.

Kieron: And in terms of working with Carmen, uh, it’s a joy. Um, it really is genuinely and it’s an easy thing to say, but, um, I think we managed that relationship of, of, of colleagues and father daughter really, really well. Um, so it’s, it’s different in the office than, than it is at home. What’s interesting about that was because I think, I think all of the family have been involved in the business at one point or another.

Um, so my middle daughter also did some content writing and actually still does now and again, even though she’s got a very busy full time job, if I ever want somebody to do a bit of proofreading or go through some ideas or so on, she’s really first rate. And my son started coding with us, having never done any coding at all, and is now running his own businesses in, in, you know, in coding and development.

Um, so I think they’ve all been involved at one point or another, but it was

funny.

Carmen: Mum

did as well.

Kieron: Yeah, my wife has too. So, so yeah, it’s always been a bit of a family affair, but I think it was done actually the first time during one of the meetings that, that in a, on a call with all the colleagues said Kieran rather than dad. Uh, and actually it was kind of a really important thing. And it, whilst it sounded really weird, cause he didn’t mention to me that he was going to do it. So it was just like, Oh, that’s, that’s kind of odd. Um, it made complete sense from the moment he did that, that that was the relationship that it was Kieran and Dan, , and Carmen adopted that immediately.

And I think Gabby adopted that. And so I find it really strange cause I don’t have to do it, but. I’m never Kieran outside the office and I’m always Kieran in the office. Um, so it’s a clever leap, but I think it’s quite an important one.

John and Connie: Oh, it’s, I, I think it’s brilliant. Uh, someone else was telling us one of the, the ways they handled things was they, they actually had hats made. You know, we’re, we’ve got, we’re big on the baseball caps here in the US. I don’t know. So they had hats made with a, with a title, you know, like dad. Mm hmm. Or boss or whatever it was, and they would actually, you know, when, when the conversation needed to shift from one area to the other in the office, they would change hats as a reminder.

Kieron: I love it.

John and Connie: You guys kind of did a much more subtle,

Kieron: Yeah, I

John and Connie: that’s yeah, that’s so key to keeping, you know, setting those boundaries.

Kieron: I think it’s absolutely right. But it’s also that for me, it’s that professional respect as well that it commands amongst colleagues because guess it is always going to be difficult for, for, for Carmen and others, or at least on paper, it’s difficult because you come in and you’re going, yeah, well, it’s your dad.

So your head of operations, you know, but, and I think drawing that, that line under that very firmly and, and, and calling me Kieran, I think really works and underscores that it’s got nothing to do with, with relationships or familial relationships. This is professional environment.

Carmen: and I think it helps as well that that’s not how I started, you know I’ve literally like I started doing customer support and i’ve worked my way up over the course of five six years. So

Kieron: in a number of businesses that, and we were very fortunate when we sold the telecoms business, I think again, it was, uh, it was, it was kind of a tribute to the team and everyone else that we move the entire team from telecoms into fintech, barring one person who was locked into the acquisition of that business because he was, you know, through and through a telecoms engineer, but everyone else came with us, which again, I think is kind of, it’s a really nice message to send to the senior management team and the owners of the business.

Um, and Carmen’s the same, you know, she’s worked on, on multiple businesses now with me, which is great.

John and Connie: Very nice. Very nice. Yeah. So a lot of one of the family business advisors, you know, a lot of the, uh, the bigger family businesses that we don’t focus on their advisors advise that the, uh, younger generations actually work outside the business in a competitor’s, uh, field business if possible, or, or just a related field for a few years. A, to, for, for them and also for, for the people that they’re going to be working with later when they, if they come to the company, they, they find out first of all, you know, who they are and, and how they tick in a environment that’s not the family business, but then they’ve also kind of earned their stripes before they come into the business and they come with some experience and some ideas and, and, uh, but it’s, you know, it’s, it can be, it’s also entirely valid to do it the way you’ve done it, Carmen, where you, you know, you work up.

Kieron: Yeah, I think, I think that’s a really, really good idea. It seems like something that will be difficult to retrofit, but, uh, having gone down that route, we should send you out into one of our competitors. They’ll think, they’ll think you’re a spy. Um, but no, I completely see the merit in that. It makes a lot of sense.

John and Connie: it sounds like the other thing you’ve done, it sounds intentional. You brought all your people over. So, you know, you’ve, you’ve clearly communicated to the people that, that have worked with you for a long time, that you value them and that, you know, it’s not a matter of, you’re not limiting their growth by having family members.

Kieron: No, absolutely. No. And I, and I think again, there was a lot, there was a lot of expectation that people will be able to make that move prior to the move happening that then when you realize just how big a move it is, it’s fundamentally, it’s not like, you know, pivoting in a business or, or, or going into a slightly different area of the same business, you know, maybe from lending into payments in FinTech or from, from outbound to inbound in telecoms.

This was no, it’s a completely different industry with a completely different regulator, a completely, Um, rigor in that regulation, clearly financial services. I’m not saying that telecoms isn’t regulated effectively, but it’s a different level of regulation from experience was, was a, was a big piece for everyone, and I think, I don’t think we underestimated it or maybe we did.

But people handled it incredibly well. Um, significant move. I think you’re right. When you alluded earlier, you know, you’re an engineer, you’re a developer, it kind of doesn’t matter if you’re, if you’re selling widgets, it’s the same approach I’ve always had. It doesn’t matter what we’re SEOing for, whether it’s a payment, a company formation, a domain name registration, telecom service, as long as the approach is consistent throughout, then it’s The product probably matters less.

Um, but in terms of a lot of that other stuff I think we probably had underestimated just what a leap it was going to be to do that fca authorization for example

John and Connie: And it sounds like, uh, that, uh, well, I went through, I came in late into a corporate environment, but it was a brand new shared services center that was, I think just under a year old when I got there. And so they had all started in a, in an offsite, basically a series of closets, I think, and, and they, you know, they, they didn’t have a facility.

They were still being built. And so the team gelled going through that startup, rough startup process together. I’m thinking that probably happened with your team as well. It’s like everybody was a new hire, but you already had the relationships.

Kieron: Yeah, no, exactly, right

Carmen: I think that made it really strong actually because we did all have that trust in each other. We had those relationships already going into it. Um, and we all kind of knew each other on a personal level as well. So, whereas if we’d just built the company from scratch with completely a new team and also we’re broadly remote, I’d say we’re pretty much 100 percent remote.

We meet once a month in person. Um, that would have been very hard to do if they were all complete strangers that had never met before.

John and Connie: Oh, absolutely. Heh heh

Kieron: But you remind me actually Our other co-founder is a guy I’ve worked with for 20 odd years now who’s our CFO , and I remember joining his business. It was probably one of the first that I joined having sold a web design business in the late 1990s and his business was domain name registration and it was exploding.

You know, it was the time when everybody was buying a com net org and whatever country domain name they could get with my, my brand new venture. com. Um, and they were doing domain names. So it was just going through the roof. Um, and I arrived at his office and this was proper startup life. And I said, where’s my desk?

And literally pointed over to the corner to a flat pack. I said, it’s over there and speak to John about a screwdriver. He’ll help you put it together. But, but again, just alluding to that, that camaraderie of literally putting up the desk before he’s sitting on them was great. It was really, really good. I think everyone felt like it was, things were moving.

Like physically moving. It was brilliant.

John and Connie: That they, you were so busy that you didn’t have time to put the desk in for the new guy.

Kieron: No, absolutely. There were lit, you know, people were arriving so fast that it was just, you know, build your desk and once it’s up, go and grab your computer from someone and away you go.

John and Connie: Well, it also, there’s a, an aspect of that that comes to mind also of the, you’re not stepping into somebody else’s shoes when you do that, right? You’re not trying to, wondering what the last guy did that you’re, you’re, you’re being watched to make sure you don’t do or do, do right or whatever,

Kieron: No, absolutely.

John and Connie: that’s a brand new desk.

Wow. What do you love most about working with family? What, is there something that really stands out?

Kieron: I think, I think one of the positives is also a negative in that you can chew over stuff at the dinner table, literally some of the day’s work. Um, but that has its downsides too. I think, I think. Oftentimes, it’s great to be able to share things at that level that, you know, it’s a family member and you can go beyond a boardroom conversation. Um, but as I say, it also has its downsides of sometimes you do need to just switch off and chill out. Um, I don’t know whether you’ve got any views on that Carmen as well.

Carmen: Yeah, I think it’s hard to get the balance right sometimes, but for me I think one of the biggest positives is we can be 100 percent transparent with each other, like I see you as a colleague, but also at the end of the day, you’re my dad, so if I’m worried about something at work or you know, I have any concerns or I have any ideas, I’m never hesitant to run them by you, I don’t ever feel nervous.

Because I, you know,

Kieron: And I think, I think knowing so much more about somebody as well is a massive inspiration. You know, Carmen’s gone through, uh, a fairly major health crisis a little while ago, which she’s coped with incredibly well, um, and I’m really, you know, turned her life around in so many ways that it’s a source of huge inspiration for me that goes beyond that family life, but into the workplace as well, because it’s just that ability to Whatever’s thrown at you, I find quite inspirational.

John and Connie: Fabulous. That’s, yeah, that’s something you don’t often hear parents say, is that they find their child inspiring. Mm hmm. I love

Kieron: No, I mean, really, and genuinely we, you know, we, I’ve always been quite into health and diet, I’ve been vegan for 20 odd years now. And what Carmen did after the cancer in terms of taking a holistic approach to, to, to everything was just, it made my vegan diet look like a, like a walk in the park, to use that term again, because it was just so full on, um, And, and the same with exercise and so on.

It’s been, it’s, it’s incredible to watch and also how she’s just taken that in her stride really, and just got on with it. It’s really, it’s really impressive. And, and if you want a reference for work, what, what best, what better reference can you have than that?

John and Connie: Absolutely. Is there something about being in business with family that you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?

Kieron: Do you know, it feels like I’ve been doing a personally, this is my take, Carmen might have a different view, but my takes feel like I’ve been doing it for so long. It does feel pretty second nature now. Um, I think the only thing, as I say, it will be occasionally, it will be nice to know you can draw a line under it and just stop.

And I think there are occasions when we do, I mean, Carmen will probably tell you that there were times and I’ll just go, no, it’s the weekend. Let’s just not. Um, and that’s not always easy, but yeah, that’s probably the one it’s for me, it will be that just. Kind of being able to say, no, let’s, let’s just stop talking about work.

Carmen: Yeah, I think that’s the hardest thing because If you have an idea or something comes to you that you want to discuss with your colleague, you probably think it’s inappropriate to message them at the weekend, but if you’re literally seeing each other for lunch anyway, or you’re bumping into each other in the living room or kitchen, you might mention it.

So it’s just trying to keep those boundaries can be hard, I think.

John and Connie: That, that says it perfectly. And, and that’s the same thing on, you know, we’re in the workplace where the family, uh, relationships, you know, where the family drama, if there is any, can come out in the workplace inappropriately is because you’re so close to that edge of, you know, you just slide into that other role and that’s, that’s where the hat’s got to be,

Kieron: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s very true. And it’s something that we do studiously try and avoid any of that and just leave it at home or leave it at work, um, as much as you can, you know, we’re human at the end of the day and it will happen from time to time, but, um, you know, as long as, again, people say, you know, there are no failures, it’s just lessons learned and it’s the same thing if you learn from that and try not to do it again, and then, then that’s progress.

Carmen: I think it also helps that I’m 31 now. If we tried to do this while I

Kieron: Oh, yes.

Carmen: I think it would have been very different.

John and Connie: right. There’s got to be a maturity level, right?

Kieron: Oh, yes. No,

Carmen: we’d have been able to do it then.

Kieron: that’s,

John and Connie: Yeah.

Kieron: that’s exactly right. I mean, yeah, the thought of trying to do this when you were 15, no, probably wouldn’t work.

John and Connie: So what’s next, uh, for the company and for you guys, uh, you know, together?

Kieron: Well, we, we just said we’d been providing the open banking donation services now for us in our own right as an FCA authorized entity for 18 months or so. We’re just starting the commercial product rollout now. So this is the time when we start billing people for the service. So that’s going to be interesting.

Um, but the, the beauty of open banking is that 95 percent savings. So we see that as, as being, you know, there’ll be a strong appetite for it. We’re sure. And I think the idea is really to just start integrating with as many different e-commerce platforms, accountancy, software packages, um, electronic point of sale providers.

There are so many places we can just bolt a payment solution, an open banking payment solution to the end of that flow, uh, and save the merchant, uh, You know, a lot of money that that’s what we plan to do. You alluded earlier to the, you know, this probably not being ready in the, in the U. S. just yet, it’s going to happen.

You’re clearly the most technically ready I would imagine on the planet in terms of having the mobile coverage and everything else. So I think that mandate will happen in due course. There’s clearly a lot of interest in it not happening soon, but. I’m sure at some point the pressures will, will come to bear.

So we’re, we’re fortunate in that the UK market is reasonably mature. So we’ve got a lot of, we’ve got about five and a half million small businesses to go at in the UK, which is a fairly big market for us. Uh, and I think then we’ll start to look at the EU market and then further afield, you know, there are a number of countries where adoption is fairly strong.

So it’ll be an international rollout once we’ve kind of conquered the UK.

John and Connie: That sounds very cool. Is there any, like you, you mentioned with the, , telecoms and the, the conferencing at the beginning of the , COVID, , lockdown, you know, how the, the system, the The pressure on your systems, you know, to, to handle the increased capacity was, was high. Do you anticipate anything like that with the open banking or, or is it not an

Kieron: It’s, it’s one of the things. I was asked about a lot and obviously as a founder going into a completely different sector, you’re also a little bit nervous that you think you can do this, but is there some secret source that you just don’t know about? But one of the things that made me confident going into this is if you think about the amount of data that you’re processing when you set up a telephone call and then maintain that telephone call, it’s quite, it’s not trivial.

You know, it’s a significant amount of data that’s being processed with, with a transaction. It’s actually. quite considerably less. And certainly what you’re not doing is maintaining, maintaining a call in progress for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes. And as I said, we were very big in the conference calling space.

So they might be 90 minute calls with, you know, 70, 80 participants on them. So we were kind of used to that. Um, whilst we were nervous about the secret source, it didn’t materialize. We found that we could integrate the banks really quickly and everything worked. I shouldn’t say this. I’m tempting fate, but touch wood work really, really well.

And we continue to integrate more banks, but so far we’ve not seen any concerns at all about handling volume. It feels like it’s something we’re probably quite adept at doing. So

Carmen: I think the other Carmen. thing that’s a benefit is because we saw that with the telecoms company, and we’ve built this from the start, we’ve always thought, keep scaling in mind, make sure it’s scalable, make sure the technology behind it is something that can handle, you know, suddenly going viral and things like that, so.

We’ve been lucky that we’ve had that experience in the past with another business and known to implement that from the start.

Kieron: yeah, the COVID thing was, was incredible for the telecoms because they were, everyone really mucked in very quickly, everybody, all the suppliers, the whole lot. So we were seeing things like it mentioned 20 fold increase in capacity on the network in 10, 14 days. It was, it was insane, but processes where we will be buying capacity from upstream tier one providers that sometimes, well, it usually would take, you know, maybe 48, 72 hours.

They were turning around in 40 minutes. Um, you were just saying you need more capacity, there’s more capacity. And it, and it was, it was a real spirit of we’ve got to make this work.

Carmen: I think it was because it was Covid as well, everyone was kind of coming together, the whole country, well I guess the whole world felt like it kind of was coming together to try

John and Connie: Yeah. The whole world focused on one problem. It was

Carmen: Yeah.

Kieron: exactly.

John and Connie: historic.

Kieron: I mean, we were, we were seeing like sign up, we, we had signups to that. And say, typically if we were doing half a dozen a day, signing up to use the service, it was going, I think one of the busiest days it went from, from that half dozen to like 890, you know, new businesses signing up to use that conferencing service.

Um, and then of course, what happened? Uh, is everyone started using zoom. So they all went from telephone to video and we just saw that immediately decline as well. So everyone got very comfortable with video calling.

John and Connie: Yes. And, and zoom, uh, early on, or I saw a, uh, several months into COVID, there was an article letter, I guess, written by the, uh, president of the company. And he said, before COVID, we were trying to figure out how to scale from 11 million free accounts to 13 million free accounts in the, in the year 2020.

And within three months, we were at 127 million.

Kieron: Absolutely unbelievable. But we, we got.

John and Connie: And, and they did it pretty much without a hiccup.

Kieron: Yeah, I would agree. You know, absolutely hats off to them. Although we were frustrated at the time as well, because Probably the same way you are as well, but Zoom became the, uh, the verb. And, and when you’re trying to run a business as a competitor, the last thing you want is the BBC every day saying, and so and so was on a, well, it was Zooming, you know, it was just like, please, there are other, other conference services exist.

John and Connie: Yes. I hadn’t thought about that. Sorry. Oh my goodness. Well, so something that just popped into mind, I was going to, you know, our, our, our kind of wrap up question is how can people reach you, but is there any. Have you given any thought to, uh, doing, having some sort of a consulting arm in your business since you’ve already been through this whole process and you, you can see that it’s, there’s going to be an adoption curve happening here in the U S as part of how can people reach you?

Can they reach out to you about how to implement this when the time comes?

Kieron: Absolutely. Without a doubt. We mentioned we’re focused on the small business sector. That’s because that’s what we’ve done in all of the other businesses. It’s always been a case of trying to target that sector and make something very easy to find. Easy to register for and easy to use. So really focusing again on those time poor people.

So typically small businesses are very similar to charities in that respect. Um, so that’s our focus, but clearly, as you, as you say, a lot of the work that we’ve done, that technical piece of integrating all the banks, not only for payment services, but account information services, which is another.

Another, facet of open banking, , we’ve got a huge amount of experience. So we are certainly open to inquiries from, from, you know, people who are looking to us for consultancy services or enterprise businesses as well. Um, and I think there’ll be, I mean, there, there’s a huge opportunity certainly in the U S once that, once that happens and we’ll be looking at that in earnest.

John and Connie: All right. So what, what advice would you give a small family business? Just starting out.

Kieron: The, the one.

John and Connie: What would be the

Kieron: there are a couple from me that I often say to people who are just founding businesses. One is, is it’s not, they’re probably both fairly obvious, but the tenacity is a really important one. Um, just keep going. I think it’s always a good thing to, if you, if you’re brand new and starting a business, I think always think it’s a good thing to try and find something that you genuinely interested in.

Um, but then one of the things that I’ll say a lot of the time is you need to be very, very black and white when it comes to the numbers. So what I mean by that is often if you’ve got a passion for something, you can be a bit blinded by that passion and think it’s a fantastic business opportunity because it’s something that you love.

Um, but if the numbers aren’t stacking up, so you start selling that fantastic opportunity that you’ve come across because you’re passionate about it, but there isn’t really a market for it, then always be prepared to make that pivot or ultimately, if it’s not working, you know, move away, think of something else.

Um, and the way that I’ll summarize that often is be passionate and dispassionate in equal measure. So be really passionate about the idea, but be dispassionate about those numbers. Look at them in the cold, hard light of day and, and understand what they’re telling you and the, and the changes that you might need to make. So I think those are the, the. the thoughts that have stuck with me for a while.

John and Connie: And Carmen, from the sec from the next generation,

Carmen: yeah, I’d say for me, I’d say if you’re doing a family business, definitely try and establish a healthy division of family time and business time. Figure out your own ways to do it, but just try and keep that somewhat separate, at least for a certain period of time every week. But I’d say it’s a really great opportunity because I think there’s a level of investment and passion in the business that is, like, is driven because of your family.

You, you both care so much, you know, you’re working on something together, you’ve lived your whole lives together. And you have that bond that I think that that’s a really powerful tool for a business to have that driving force behind it.

Kieron: I agree. It’s infectious.

Carmen: Yeah, exactly.

John and Connie: is. It is. Wow. You guys are fabulous. You’re wonderful. How’s that?

Kieron: You can have that one for free.

Carmen: you.

John and Connie: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Kieron: We normally, we normally charge 5 and we’ve got it registered now every time anyone says wonderful. So if the payments model doesn’t

John and Connie: Checks in the mail. So your website for your charitable giving is wonderful. org. And that is for people that, charities that want to set up this very low cost transaction of receiving money, but it’s also for donors to, to donate money to the charities that you’ve got listed, right?

Kieron: So yeah, a couple of points of clarification. It’s free for charities. It always has been. It always will be. It’s non negotiable. It’s 100 percent free and we will never change that no matter what happens to the business. Um, charities need to be registered in the UK currently. Um, so it’s only UK charities and for the donors and fundraisers.

Yeah, absolutely. You’re right. They, they, a fundraiser would set up a page, for example, to, to run a marathon or do a triathlon or bake a cake or jump out of an airplane, um, and raise money from friends, colleagues, and family. Equally, the charities can just set up a direct donations page on there or use a button on their own website to take advantage of that free donation processing service.

So.

John and Connie: Really simple.

Carmen: And then our commercial website, um, for our sort of e commerce plugins and stuff like that is wonderful. co. uk

John and Connie: We’ll, we’ll also put this. Yeah. These are, this will be in the show notes and there’ll be a backlink. Like again, I, I don’t know where our listeners will be, if they’re, how many we’ll have in the UK. I hope they’ll, that’ll grow and that’ll be a, but, but also I see, you know, as this grows in the U S that, you know,

Kieron: We’ll be happy to pop back and tell you more about what we’re doing if you’ll have us.

John and Connie: We’d love that. We’d love that. Well, thank you so much for spending this time with us, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you both. I got one question. What about the music thing? Oh, yeah. Deep House music. What’s Deep House music?

Kieron: So

John and Connie: How do you define it?

Kieron: It’s a variation of house music, uh, tends to be fairly bass heavy. I got into it because I was a poor drummer. So, so I used to play the drums in an indie rock band back in the very, very early days. Um, and I was a lazy drummer. So I never practiced all of my rudiments and all of that clever stuff that you’ve got today.

I was just, I just couldn’t be bothered. It was all too much like hard work. So I often had these rhythms in my head. But I couldn’t play them because technically I wasn’t able to do it. So I discovered electronic music a few years ago and suddenly I could sit in front of a computer and it effectively, you know, grid out those things that were in my head and have the machine play it.

Um, and then really one of the challenges I think for music production is trying to make anything that’s got a heavy bass line, not sound muddy. And I like a challenge. So that, that was the thing that really drove me to doing that. Can I, can I make music that’s got kind of quite a heavy baseline, not sound muddy and let’s start doing some deep house music.

So yeah, bass heavy house music effectively.

John and Connie: I like that. All right. Well, thank you so much for clearing that up, because I know he was going to ask me in a half an hour from now going, Oh, I forgot. Yeah.

Kieron: It’s another thing that

Carmen: anyone wants to hear more, also

Kieron: was going to say, it’s another thing that keeps me sane at the end of a busy day. It’s just a good way of unwinding, sitting in, probably not sitting in front of a computer, but sitting in front of some musical instruments.

John and Connie: Absolutely.

Carmen: All I was gonna say is if anyone wants to hear more about the crazy things that my dad decides to do on the side, um, we have the Wonderful Podcast as well, which is wonderfulpodcast. com, and we talk about things like house music on there, yoga

John and Connie: that up.

Carmen: stuff.

John and Connie: I was remiss in not mentioning that. Yes, that you, you have exactly a wonderful podcast. Yes, you do. So we’ll link to that as well.

Carmen: Thank you

John and Connie: Thank you so

Carmen: great, really enjoyed it.

John and Connie: weather in Spain and a wonderful weather in London.

Kieron: great. It’s been our pleasure, really. Thank you so much for having us on the show. Really enjoyed it.

John and Connie: well, thank you for, and let’s keep in touch.

Kieron: We will. Absolutely. Definitely. We’ll keep you up to date with progress in open banking in the US.

John and Connie: Fabulous. Yes. Thank you. All right.

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