HIGHLINE 2015 Investment: Koho

by Bianca Bartz 1 year ago

While HIGHLINE doesn’t typically invest in companies without a product in market, Koho’s attractive FinTech product was means for exception. Since joining our portfolio of investments in March of this year, the Koho team has been diligently developing a solution to disrupt banking for Gen Y, a generation demanding a higher quality of service and more modern features than traditional banks have been able to provide. With offices in Vancouver and Toronto, Koho is strategically positioned to accrue millennial customers across the country.

So what exactly is Koho?

Koho’s intention is to keep the best of the existing banking system (like direct deposit, bill pay, and ATMs), but remove fees and add web and mobile apps to deliver a better customer experience. In addition, Koho’s Mint-like data visualization tools and goals features are designed to help millennials improve their financial literacy, increase savings, and ultimately “do more with their money.”

Those skeptical about security will be relieved to know that Koho doesn’t actually hold your money, but rather works with a trusted financial institution. Koho simply layers on the technology and design, then lets you actually enjoy managing your finances.

Why Gen Y?

Recent studies show that millennials across North America are looking for disruptive solutions to traditional banks. Just skimming headlines on the topic brings up a broad range of studies and reports that show Gen Y is looking for alternatives to outdated financial services, particularly in the way of mobile access.

Many millennials also struggle with financial literacy, having low or no savings, and in many cases, debt, so Koho has set out to not only help educate this generation, but also help reduce unnecessary fees.

“Canadians are paying some of the highest bank fees in the world to some of the most profitable institutions in the world,” Koho’s CEO Daniel Eberhard told us. “We thought that was unfair and wanted to see if we could change it. We looked at a lot of different banking environments in our research and found a number of ways we thought we could make the experience way better.”

The Operating Team

Koho’s founding team comprises four Canadian serial entrepreneurs. Alongside Daniel are Jonathan Bixby, Joshua Bixby, and Mike Benna, all of whom have extensive experience building, scaling, and selling technology startups. Recently, Koho expanded the team with the addition of Scott Bell as Lead Designer, and Charles Krempeaux — an early employee at Hootsuite, Trulioo, and BidClix (acq. Facebook) — as CTO.

The Scoop on the CEO

Prior to Koho, Daniel facilitated multiple go-to-market and capitalization strategies for energy and technology companies as a consultant, leveraging experience gained as Co-Founder & Vice President of Kineticor Renewables (acquired by Algonquin Power (TSX:AQN)), a 20Mw wind energy plant.

After exiting Kineticor, Daniel founded a niche agency in Vancouver that handled logistics and fulfillment for multiple e-commerce sites, which he bootstrapped to significant revenue in its first year, representing major brands like Sharper Image, Polaroid, and Bulova.

Daniel’s diverse entrepreneurial background, with its history of success and multiple areas of expertise, sets him up well as a startup CEO. He has the kind of track record and determination we like to see in a founder, and frequently splits his time between Vancouver and Toronto.

Koho’s Oversubscribed $1 Million Seed Round

In May, Koho closed a $1 million seed round from a range of Canadian investors that include HIGHLINE, Stanley Park Ventures, Ferst Capital, Hedgewood, and renowned angel investor Joe Canavan. This put Koho at nearly double their original fundraising goal of $550,000.

“About six weeks in we started to expect it,” Daniel said of exceeding their target. “We still hadn’t hit a few major cities, and were already nearing our goal.”

They will be using the funds to focus on “product first,” he explained. “It’s important that we’re known for our technology, otherwise we’re just a service company.”

While Koho plans to launch their alpha in Q3, the team has already generated international attention (in April, Koho was awarded the NASDAQ NY TechDay award for fintech innovation) and has been featured in dozens of national publications.

“HIGHLINE was instrumental in growing our network in a meaningful way and the first one through the door when we closed our last round,” Daniel said. “They also made it way easier to retain a national presence.”

While banking is an incredibly difficult industry to disrupt, Koho’s alignment of market opportunity, timing, and the strength of its team give us the confidence they can shake things up, make a significant impact among millennials, and step out as a Canadian fintech leader.

Media links

  • Koho Raises $1M to Fix Banking for Millennials (PYMNTS)
  • Koho Set to Disrupt Canada’s Big Five Banks (TechVibes)
  • Vancouver’s Koho Wins NASDAQ Fintech Innovation Award at NY TechDay (BetaKit)
  • #YVR FinTech: The Business of Your Money is Changing (BetaKit)
  • How Koho Plans to Put Millennial’s Money in the Bank (Profit Guide)

HIGHLINE posts about Koho

Dan HIGHLINE quote