May 04, 2015

Episode 2 is my lively conversation with the irreverent co-founders of Simple – CEO, Josh Reich, and Shamir Karkal, the company’s CFO.

Simple is a Portland, Oregon start-up offering a simplified, consumer-friendly account for saving and making payments.  Last year it was acquired by the global Spanish bank, BBVA, which has been making bold moves in tech innovation.

Our discussion captures the clear voice of the disruptors who are challenging traditional banking. Josh and Shamir describe the famous email that led to their venture, including why Josh’s friends thought he’d gone crazy (hint: it has to do with regulation). They explain their own very unbankerly backgrounds, and talk with passion about what they think is wrong with mainstream banking, including why it’s so hard for banks to change.

They made me laugh throughout -- there’s a moment where Josh is explaining the company’s funny style and says, “she had this wicked, wicked sense of humor.”

I think my favorite thing in our talk is how they tell their customers’ stories about Simple making their lives better.  The key is helping people save, including by highlighting a number labeled “Safe to Spend,” rather than the account balance.  Simple idea, isn't it? And powerful.

I feel like Simple might be on track to crack the code on the core problem that bedevils financial consumers: how to get regular people actively engaged. Most people are very interested in what they use their money for, but bored by the money itself -- a fact that leads them into mistakes. Simple is trying to change that.

After we turned off the microphone, Josh said one more thing that has stayed in my mind ever since.  I’ll share it in my postscript at the end of the podcast.


You can find full information on Simple here, and on BBVA here.


Josh Reich, CEO & Co-Founder  — Josh’s career has spanned marketing analytics and quantitative finance, including running a data mining consulting firm, a quantitative strategy group at a $10 billion fund, and core components at the mortgage lead market, Root Exchange. Four years ago, Josh founded Simple, formerly BankSimple, a company that is working to radically redesign banking by using modern technology to help people worry less about money. Josh has a BSc. in mathematics and statistics from the University of Melbourne, most of a medical degree, and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Follow him on Twitter at @i2pi

Shamir Karkal, CFO & Co-Founder  — Shamir is a software engineer turned finance and banking expert. Prior to Simple, Shamir was a consultant with McKinsey & Co. specializing in strategy consulting for financial institutions in Europe, the Middle East, and the US. Prior to McKinsey, Shamir was a software engineer. He has a bachelor’s in computer science, a master’s in information technology, and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Follow him on Twitter at @shamir_k

FAQ’s about Simple:  https://www.simple.com/faq

Here are the two firm’s announcements about BBVA acquiring Simple:

Here and Here


Please note that the views expressed by guests on Barefoot Innovation are their own and do not reflect the opinions of Jo Ann Barefoot or Jo Ann Barefoot Group LLC, nor do we endorse any product, service, or company discussed.

Get involved

Stay informed by joining our mailing list