The story of Heron Data starts in the French Alps, where Jamie, Dom and Johannes went on a ski trip in February 2020. Jamie and Johannes had lived together at university, renting out formalwear to budget-conscious students out of our student house. Dom and Johannes had met at a birthday party the year before. Displaying an incredible sense for timing, we moved into a co-working space in London on March 9th 2020, just to be tossed out the next week.
The Ski Trip
We spent the first few months of our journey working on a different product, a marketplace for consumer loans based on banking data. We got accepted into Y Combinator with this idea in summer 2020 but quickly realised that we wanted to work on a different idea. We had noticed how difficult working with bank transaction data was, and had built what turned into the v0 of Heron Data as an internal tool for our marketplace.
The Day of our YC interview - note lockdown haircuts
We shut down the loan marketplace in July 2020 and pivoted to Heron Data just in time for YC Demo day. The decision to pivot was made on a trip to Brighton, leading to a continuing fondness for trips there! We were fortunate to raise a $1.2m round from awesome investors like BoxGroup, Auren Hoffman and the co-founders of unicorn companies like Chainalysis and Remitly.
A trip to Brighton
We started growing quickly within a few months of demo day, and have never looked back since. We added César to the team in April and Ahmed in August, and are always looking for awesome people to join us. We enjoy coming to work every day, and are excited to be serving some of the world’s most innovative Fintechs!
Our first office
What do we do?
Our mission is to enable better financial services for all by accelerating fintech innovation. We are currently focussing on business banking. We believe that business banking is significantly worse than it could be. For example, credit products are not equally accessible to all SMBs, leading to inequities in access to capital that mirror general inequalities in society. We believe that unlocking the power of bank transactions can help to address this: Instead of allocating loans based on relationships to bank managers or the company founder’s credit scores, we’re working towards a world where businesses are more objectively judged based on their performance. We also believe that millions of hours of relatively tedious work in bookkeeping and reconciliation can be saved with better transaction data.
How we do it
We have clear expectations of how we interact with each other. We believe that these actions are what define us as a team and company, and we try to live according to them every day:
- Outcomes first: We believe that the autonomy to solve problems and be evaluated on the outcome only are crucial to a successful and happy company. We believe that micromanagement is the fault of the manager, who has not succeeded in finding the right role for a person and equipping them with the right tools and clarity on the goals.
- Speed: We keep meetings to a minimum and maximise uninterrupted work time. We encourage people to ship things quickly. Crucially, we accept that this entails shipping bugs from time to time. We resolve these quickly and communicate with our customers. We praise individuals for their speed and delivery, but take any blame for the ensuing issues as a group.
- In-person culture: At the current stage of our company, we believe that coming to an office together multiple days a week is best. We encourage working from home wherever people think it’s more appropriate given the tasks ahead for the day, and expect people to do so flexibly.
- Mutual support: We go for team meals every week and try to come together as a group with our partners every few weeks. We go on retreats every two months, and we have regular team conversations in which we prioritise our own vulnerabilities and emotions to ensure that everyone feels fully supported at work.
Herons make dumplings!
Why that’s fun!
We love our work for a few reasons :)
- We get to work with new technologies. We are at the intersection of two changes: The rapid improvement of NLP models, and the Finance & Banking version of “Software-eats-the-world”. This means that we get to solve new problems, like fine-tuning NLP models to bank data, or deploying these models at scale.
- We work with fast-growing customers. Our customers are generally disrupting some part of the banking world. They are often fast-growing, and are able to attract passionate, dedicated and fun employees. This means that we get to interact with people we can learn from every day.
- We bring our whole selves to work. We think that start-ups are deeply personal, and we believe that people do their best work if they feel accepted, safe and important in the workplace. We do this by doing team check-ins, prioritising level 3 conversations that are meant to avoid relationships debt building up.