Interview with David Washbrook — Look Who’s Charging
Today I interview David Washbrook, co-founder of Look Who’s Charging — Look Who’s Charging enables you, for the first time, to truly understand bank statement data. In under three years they have completed integrations with all four of the big four banks and their data is utilised by millions of people every single day.
Twitter: Look Who’s Charging
Emily: Tell us the origin story of Look Who’s Charging? How did you start?
David: It was two-fold. My fellow Co-Founder, Stuart Grover, was running a different business at the time. He became increasingly frustrated with trying to reconcile his accounts due to the large number of confusing descriptions (most small business accounting packages are driven by bank statement data). He was awake until the early hours of the morning trying to complete a task that he felt should surely be automated.
At the same time, I inadvertently committed a friendly fraud. I disputed a transaction with my bank as didn’t recognise the description on my statement. I genuinely thought it was a fraud. I got my money back for the transaction which, after spending with the merchant again at a later date, I realised was actually legitimate.
We did some further research and we quickly realised that unrecognised transactions were a big issue for consumers and also a very expensive problem for banks. Australian banks alone are spending somewhere in the region of $200m a year dealing with the problem.
E: Pretend you’re a baby startup again. You’re learning to crawl, still in your early stages of growth..Name the biggest challenge you faced that others can learn from?
D: For us our biggest challenge was people and funding. The two go hand in hand and you can end up trapped in a circle if you’re not careful — you can’t hire people without funding, you generally can’t raise meaningful funding without a product in market, and it’s hard to get a product in market without people! We bypassed funding and fortunately ended up getting our business off the ground. On the positive the founders got to retain control of the equity, but on the downside it was touch and go in terms of launching and having a small team definitely created some early challenges and plenty of 18hr+ days when it came to scaling.
E: When did you know the typical 9–5 type job wasn’t for you?
D: I spent 15+ years working for KPMG prior to joining Stuart and Nicole in Look Who’s Charging so I was somewhat accustomed to the corporate life. There was route to partnership and career potential ahead. At the time it was a risk to leave with a hefty mortgage, two young children and no certainty regarding income. However, it was a relatively easy decision for me. I have long been drawn to the idea of building and growing a company of scale. I figured I could spend the next 20 years continuing to dream or just roll the dice and see where it goes. It was the best decision I could have made. I have learned more in the past two years than I think I would have in another 20 years doing what I was doing. Fortunately, Look Who’s Charging has been very successful in a short period of time. Even if it wasn’t successful, the knowledge that I have gained would set me for up for any number of other opportunities.
E: Run us through your calendar for tomorrow?
I am very much a morning lark. My day will typically start around 3:45am.
4:00am — 4:30am. Deal with any urgent emails/slack messages from night before.
4:30am — 6:30am. Two hours cycling.
6:30am — 7:00am. Confirm priorities for day with team.
7:00am — 8:30am. Get kids fed, work through homework/reading and drop them off at school/day care.
8:30am — 9:30am. Travel to city. Clear remaining emails.
9:30am — 10:00am. Preparation for client workshop.
10:00am — 12:00pm. Client workshop with large international financial institution.
12:30pm — 1:30pm. Lunch with key client from big 4 bank.
2:00pm — 4:00pm. Further client meetings.
4:00pm — 5:00pm. Head to Microsoft and spend an hour with the team, answering queries and setting priorities.
5:00pm — 7:30pm. Travel home & time with kids.
7:30pm — 9:00pm. Clear emails/action outstanding tasks. I generally try to finish work by 9/930pm if possible!
E: How do you balance life vs time in meetings vs time spent moving the needle? Any strategies you could share?
D: I always try and rise early in the morning. Your mornings are generally always yours and time you can control, whereas more often than not the afternoons/evenings can get taken away from you by tasks that arise during the day. Mornings for me are all about exercise and family time. I personally need to exercise everyday and without it I’m generally rather grouchy! I always try and get some family time in the evening and then continue to work after the kids are in bed.
You need to try and operate at a pace that is consistent for the medium to longer term otherwise you run the risk of burnout. Each person will have a pace/rhythm that suits them. Understand that different people on your team may have different needs/operate at different paces.
E: If you could start again, what would you do differently?
D: You learn so much more from your mistakes than you do your successes. Indeed, the successes often aren’t possible without first making the mistakes. While hindsight is a great thing, I don’t think we would have done anything differently as we are where we are today due to the journey we have been on and the learning that we have gained.
E: When you wake up, the first thing you check on your phone is…?
D: Slack, email and scan AFR/BBC. Although, I leave my phone outside of the bedroom and I generally try and not look at it for at least 15 minutes after waking up. I actively try and avoid social media until later in day.
E: What are you streaming/reading/listening/playing right now?
D: I’m reading Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik — rather geekish but it’s fascinating and I can’t believe we didn’t cover in school.
Podcasts — mix of This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis, 11FS Fintech Insider and various triathlon podcasts
E: Most used/favourite app and why?
D: Most used apps will be gmail and slack. As much as I try it’s hard not to be glued to your phone these days! I also spend a lot of time in various banking apps from around the globe. I’ve got over 50 bank accounts/banking apps that I try and familiarise myself with.
E: If you joined the circus what would you circus act be?
N: A juggler as I always seem to have a number of balls in the air!