I don’t know about you, but May felt strange. The seeming ‘anxiousness’ ‘fear’, and ‘excitement’ of April’s new lockdown, made way for a weird ‘new normalness’ in May. We started settling into new rhythms and routines. New little pleasures and new pains.
I’m just thankful that the lockdown did result in the covid-19 curve being flattened with much lower daily infections and deaths. We hope that we’ve seen the worst of the pandemic and our thoughts continue to be with front line workers and those families that were and are directly affected.
On the Upside: We had another productive month. A hard month with tough decisions about what we can and can’t have in scope for our initial launch, and sheer grit to keep moving forward each day whilst figuring out new ways of working. But overall we are stronger for it. As they say: Steel is forged in fire.
- Great progress on user testing and finding who our likely early adopters will be, including now 200+ users signed-up for ‘by invitation only’ alpha launch in July.
- Big vote of confidence in our Retail proposition as Brian Dunne (Retail expert) invests in Upside and agrees to be an active advisor.
- App development progressing well and at pace.
- We’ve completed all tech architectural decisions, including platform choices.
- Clarity on operations when we go live: we’re ready to serve and support customers when we launch.
- We received our FCA approval as an Appointed Representative for AISP and E-Money activities, so we are licenced to trade from July.
- Pre-Seed investment round kicked-off with 20+ conversations in the first two weeks.
Here are the juicy details:
Enter Kathryn (Sales & Marketing)
We are making progress with discovering our target user. We ran some proposition testing which included a lengthy survey to test many of our assumptions around the ways people save and who needs this most. We started the journey with the classic ‘fintech’ customer in mind: young early technology adopting males based in London, whereas actually the Upside proposition tested strongest with females between the ages of 31-40, outside of London.
77.6% of survey takers left their email addresses to be invited to the alpha launch. This was great validation of the proposition’s appeal.
Of course that’s not the end of our testing, as we continuously try different positioning and product market fit through split tests across varying segments and locations. We are keeping in contact with survey-takers, building a community of supporters and early testers.
Enter Chris (Product)
Our Upside Alpha 0.1 build is progressing really well and we’re on schedule for getting this release out to our selected early adopters.
We’ve all had some pretty steep learning curves to contend with, as you might imagine, when working with very rigid guidelines that the financial sector demands, but hopefully, it’s reassuring for our customers, to know that security and safety is paramount - even in the very early editions of the app.
What encourages me is that we’ve been able to complete a huge amount of our product backlog already, which means that our Alpha release has some great features and some core components that we can build on in future releases.
The Upside team has been testing our very early build releases already and although there’s still a bit of fine-tuning and cosmetic work to be done, seeing the app functioning and particularly, our onboarding process, is immensely exciting and it’s already provoking new ideas and enhancements that we’ll introduce further down the line.
Personally, I also have a growing smugness created by a level of altruism that we’re actually going to be able to help people save money.
That was always the plan for Upside, but seeing it come to life and understanding that what we’re doing to simplify something that people genuinely struggle to achieve, is incredible.
There’s always a golden moment in product development where you look at what you’re doing, knowing what your goal was, then realising “wow...this actually works!”.
Enter Paul (CTO)
We are working super hard on building the technology that powers the Upside app and platform. There are three key ‘fronts’ to this work at the moment:
- The Upside App: Our customer facing application.
- The Upside API & Backend: The engine which powers Upside, spotting opportunities to save, collecting those savings and depositing cashback into customer’s accounts.
- The Upside Infrastructure: The underlying cloud platform which hosts our applications.
As you’d expect as a financial services firm, we’re very focused on quality and security. We need to move fast but not break things, so we’re investing heavily early on in:
- Automated provisioning of infrastructure: All our cloud environments have been built using infrastructure as code.
- Automated testing and quality management: All our code runs through a series of automated tests and code quality checks before it is allowed to be released even to our test environments.
- Code review: All code is reviewed via pull requests before being merged and released to test environments.
We’ve made great progress in May. This was no small undertaking as it has various implications including regulatory licensing and commercial considerations. But having invested the time and effort, we are now set up with solid foundations to test, learn and build forward from.
Enter Steve (COO)
We continue to make progress on the regulatory front, and as such, I am pleased to confirm that on 22 May, we received our regulatory PSD status from the FCA. All major regulatory requirements, including registration with the Information Commissioner’s Office and confirmation of GDPR compliance, is now complete, and we are operationally ready to start trading.
The business model for our Alpha release is complete with all platform partners contracts agreed and in place.
At present, we are in full development mode, preparing for the launch, and making sure that we are ready to provide excellent customer care.
As such, we are busy configuring the “helpdesk”. We all know that when it comes to money, customers want to speak to a human (even if just through a chat interface). So we will have a “LiveChat” functionality. This will also accelerate our learning by getting first hand feedback from customers.
- We launched our Pre-Seed round raising £750k and already have confirmation of existing investors willing to follow-on.
- Greg Davies joined us as an Advisor. This now completes the Advisory Board with the final key part of the puzzle: data science.
Stay safe and well during this time.
Always look at the upside.