Q&A with Eytan Bensoussan
Co-Founder and CEO at NorthOne
NorthOne makes banking simple for small businesses across America. By talking to real business owners, they’ve built a banking experience that takes the stress out of managing your day-to-day finances.
Just a few things before we get started:
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You’re the CEO and Co-founder of NorthOne. Tell us about your company.
NorthOne is a challenger bank built for small businesses across America.
My Co-Founder Justin Adler and I built NorthOne to support everyday, Main Street business owners. They are completely overlooked by traditional banking despite the foundational role they play in every community across the country. Our mission is to give them the banking experience they desperately need and deserve.
Before we even had a name for our company, we spoke to hundreds of businesses across the country to immerse ourselves in their day-to-day to find out what it was they actually needed from a banking partner.
These kinds of conversations are the foundation of everything we do at NorthOne.
Every element of our product, from 3-minute signup, the dead simple user experience, to built-in budgeting and planning tools, is a direct result of conversations we’ve had and continue to have with real business owners.
The whole business world is facing turmoil at the moment with inflation, supply chain issues, and economic turndown. How has this affected NorthOne’s SMB customers?
SMBs are deeply anxious right now. There’s this feeling of being in the calm before the storm. We hear it every day.
Frankly, our customers are exhausted. In the past few years, they have had to deal with going in and out of lockdowns, looking after kids that can’t go to school, and protecting themselves and their employees from sickness all while trying to keep their business afloat.
At the moment, one of the biggest challenges small businesses face is uncertainty. It’s tough to plan ahead when you don’t know what the world will look like in 6 to 12 months' time. We’re seeing signs of things slowing down as we move further into a recession, but even if demand keeps up, there is a fear that they won’t be able to meet that demand because of supply chain issues and hiring shortfalls.
That’s why my team and I are resolute in our mission to deliver solutions that take some of the time, cost, and stress away from managing a small business. Small businesses need reliable partners now more than ever.
Despite SMBs making up 90% of the businesses in America, most B2B Fintechs continue to focus on enterprise businesses in coastal tech bubbles. Why do you think that is?
We in tech have everything we need to create incredibly helpful tools for smaller, Main Street businesses who need them, but so many of our peers choose not to. It’s disappointing, but the underservicing of the SMB community is nothing new.
The issue is that in big banks, just like many startups, the problems lived and felt on Main Street are out of sight and, therefore, largely out of mind. And since most founders like to solve problems they already have or have already understood, the lived experience of small business owners is rarely top of mind.
In my case, I come from a family of small business owners and grew up watching them wrestle with the challenges of small business financial management. The problem set was all too familiar to me.
I think the instinct that most FinTechs and FIs have is that they can serve SMBs (and by consequence capture part of their massive TAM) by just slapping a new coat of paint on their enterprise products, and that’s why most who try that strategy fail.
They haven’t invested time into really understanding the world of Main Street small businesses. And then beyond that, they haven’t adjusted their economic model and expectations to reflect the reality of serving these businesses.
What do you think is the current perception of the Fintech category to small businesses?
SMBs don’t care about Fintech. To them, we’re just another option in a long list of banking providers. And all of the uncertainty in the industry that has some FinTechs pivoting away from SMB is nothing new. It’s just another financial service company choosing to focus elsewhere.
All small business owners want is a product that works … from a partner they can trust … so they can focus on their business. Regardless of the bank, SMBs need financial tools that were built for their unique needs and dedicated support to help them overcome the challenges they face.
FinTech has the capacity to do both of these things better than traditional banks. But as an industry, we need to do more to prove how committed we are to Main Street.
What do you want small business owners to know about NorthOne?
I want them to know that choices exist. So many have given up on the hope that banking can be less cumbersome, and dare I say even delightful. So they live with the burden of working with a bank that could barely care to earn their business. The poor service and technology they receive creates more manual work in their back office. This leads to errors, which creates risk and can ultimately lead to business failure.
But small business success doesn’t need to be a roll of the dice. NorthOne was built so that anyone who wants to start and run a small business in America can.
88% of our customers have told us that using NorthOne improved their financial health with on-call support and tailor-made tools that simplify their financial management. Similarly, our data science team has found that SMBs that use NorthOne fail at a 75% lower rate than the national average.
We know there is good business to be made by serving the SMB community. They just need someone in their corner who believes in them.
Eytan is the CEO and co-founder of NorthOne.