EVEN Card: Tamir Strauss
EVEN's founder on the challenges of being a new business in an established market and their mission to bring transparency to the travel card industry
Name: Tamir Strauss
Company name: EVEN Card Ltd
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 01/12/14
Tell us what your business does:
We’re a new overseas payment card business; boasting a unique, single fixed fee structure and near real-time access to the interbank wholesale rate with no mark-ups or any other volume based fees.
Our service allows customers to make transactions abroad and go cross-border online shopping using the exchange rate banks pay each other, whilst delivering great additional benefits including a behaviour based loyalty scheme and cash back discounts at some of the nation’s favourite stores. By swapping to EVEN Card, frequent travellers and shoppers could save hundreds of pound a year.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
To date, all the major travel card providers have been getting away with adding unjustified hidden mark-ups, fees and charges because nobody challenged them. They are also penalising customers with more fees if the card is used within the UK. We want to put an end to all this by offering a card with 100% transparency and rewarding customers when using the card at home by offering them a loyalty and a cash-back scheme.
We hope that this disruption will result in other providers having to start explaining themselves as to why additional hidden fees are attached to their cards, as clearly, these fees are exploiting consumers and are unnecessary. Hopefully this will also start an interesting debate in the finance industry resulting in better and fairer services for the end customer.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Being a frequent traveller myself, I was constantly frustrated by getting stung by added exchange rate mark-ups, hidden fees and charges when using my card abroad. Surely, I thought there must be a way around this!
I commissioned research which revealed that a whopping 77% of Brits believe the hidden charges are unfair and a constant source of frustration.The survey also revealed that 65% of Brits would be interested in a prepaid travel card as long as the single fixed annual fee was the only charge.
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What were you doing before starting up?
Before this start-up we were involved with a company that builds trading and marketing platforms for derivative trading companies. Through this involvement we witnessed first hand the legacy systems that operate the current financial system and we were horrified at the lack of sophistication and the additional cost involved in operating these structures.
Previously we had been involved in the online gaming industry having had a number of successful exits.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes we have always wanted and tried to run our own business.
How did you raise the money?
To date, the business has been self-funded, although we will be going through a fund raising round shortly to take the business to the next level.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Our business model is simple; essentially we’re a prepaid payment card provider for use while travelling or when spending money on non-UK websites. We offer the product for one single fixed annual fee and we reward our users each time they use their EVEN Card abroad or at home.
We generate income in two ways, one is the single fixed annual subscription fee which the card user pays us and the other is a revenue share we receive from the MasterCard network which they collect from merchants every time our cards are used with them.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Entering into an industry which is based on old technologies and antiquated systems; our main challenge has been to integrate with the current infrastructure and to introduce flexible and innovative solutions that are good for the consumer. We achieved our goals after registering a patent for our new method of exchange rate delivery and after spending two years working hard with each third party to integrate our new platform into their systems. After successfully doing so we were able to offer the customer what we set out to offer.
Our main challenge now is to educate people and explain what we bring to the market. People don’t understand that other travel card providers charge a volume based hidden spread to the exchange rates which they apply to people’s transactions.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Seeing people signing up for EVEN Card; at the end of the day, that’s what it all boils down to. Having said that, hopefully my biggest success is yet to come – that’s what keeps me motivated!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Stay focused, evolve one step at a time and do not give up! It’s great when you have a big idea, but don’t underestimate the time and resources you will need to move that from a concept to reality.
What can be said about starting up that hasn’t been said many times before? All I would say is that it’s much harder than you can imagine. You need to have incredible confidence in what you’re doing while others try to deflate your ambitions, that confidence and belief must be unshakable and relentless. There will always be competitors, but that’s not necessarily bad for your business and you’ve got to remember why you started the company in the first place and what it was about your concept that set it apart.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
There are lots of other exciting products, services and features that we plan to implement using our backbone technology. We also hope to use this technology to quickly scale and role out in new geographies; so hopefully within the next five years, EVEN will be a household name worldwide.