Just Started – AQRU: Philip Blows and Digby Try

There are few markets more complicated than crypto. AQRU is the crypto-trading app that’s been designed by two finance experts to simplify the process and make it accessible to all.

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Name of the founders: Philip Blows and Digby Try
Ages of the founders: 37 and 43
Location: London
Date launched: December 2021
Number of employees: 25

What does your business do?

We help consumers buy and earn interest in cryptocurrency easily, even if they’re new to it. By its nature, the crypto market can seem very complex. We set out with a mission to build the safest and simplest place to access good returns. Through our straightforward app, customers can deposit traditional currency, existing crypto holdings or even buy crypto on the app, and instantly start earning interest of up to 12%.

Where did the idea for your business come from? 

We looked at the DeFi (decentralised finance) and crypto market, and it was evident that consumers either didn’t know they could or thought it was too difficult to make returns on their investments. The process was overwhelming – choosing and creating a wallet and protocol, deciding on which currency to invest in and monitoring their investments. We saw an opportunity with our combined track record in DeFi to offer a simple platform for customers to access the best returns in crypto and DeFi.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We tested this proposition of earning interest from crypto initially with friends and family with a simple email offering, and early feedback was positive. Even with this small test group, we quickly saw demand increase and the MVP (minimal viable product) grew from there.

What were you doing before launching your business?

We worked together helping crypto exchanges get better access to banking, and improve their financial operations. Prior to that, we had a great deal of experience in traditional finance, both in trading asset management, and working with institutional and retail investments.

By its nature, the crypto market can seem very complex. We set out with a mission to build the safest and simplest place to access good returns

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

Digby: 15 years ago, when we first worked together, we were talking about setting up a business but it was only recently that the right time for a simpler DeFi product became viable. We knew exactly how to do this, having built products that do just that in traditional finance, so we seized the opportunity.

Phil: Massive kudos to young founders but I would not have been ready to run a business like AQRU in my 20s. It's taken me time to learn the skills necessary to run a business. We launched when we were at that point where we had the right idea, combined with the experience to help launch and manage a business to achieve its full potential.

How did you finance your business?

We financed it ourselves for a short while. Then we went to angel investors to secure first round funding from interested parties, and from there brought some great shareholders on board.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

We pay our customers market leading yields of up to 12% on US Dollar based crypto assets, and up to 7% on Bitcoin and Ethereum currencies. Interest is instantly accrued into customers’ accounts and there are very few transactional charges. We make money when our customers make money so it's a purely performance-based business. Above all – it’s simple and easy to use.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them? 

We wanted to own and not outsource the technology, so it was paramount that we found a superstar CTO but they tend to be in very high demand. We were lucky that we secured Louis Quaintance to bring the experience and expertise. Attracting Louis, along with other good talent, early in the business has smoothed the road considerably for our launch.

Massive kudos to young founders but I would not have been ready to run a business in my 20s.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

We were always going to be a somewhat remote first business, so we didn’t see this as a challenge. With team members now in Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Dubai, Sweden and Singapore, we have no limits on where and who we wish to hire. If they are the right talent, we will hire them.

Describe your first breakthrough.

When we saw the consistency of a yield, we were confident that this wasn't something that would be here today, gone tomorrow. We also saw how quickly the product market fit was working with the MVP when one of the first of our family friends scaled up, increasing their initial investment four-fold in the space of about three weeks.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners? 

Digby: De-risk it as best you can by lining up suppliers, partners and clients. Once you take the plunge, go out and make it happen with 100% commitment. It helps to make sure you secure a runway long enough that you can give it a proper shot.

Phil: The MVP you've got in your head is probably ten times the size of what you actually need. With us we didn’t at first need to build a front-end platform, it was as simple as updating a small friends and family network by email on how much interest was available on crypto investments.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

A relentless focus on keeping the customer at the centre of everything that we do, and to not be distracted by things that are not the core focus including offering a simple product for the market.

The MVP you've got in your head is probably ten times the size of what you actually need.

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

Continue to build the platform for growth, improve on the range of choice that customers have with us and to maintain market leading yields. Ultimately to help people to understand how to simply, safely and securely earn interest in this space as part of a diversified portfolio.

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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