10 questions with Norris Koppel, founder of Monese
Monese is a Pan European Neobank focused on internationals and migrant communities who often struggle to set up a bank account upon relocating to a new country. With Monese, opening an account takes as little as 120 seconds.
1. Describe your light bulb moment?
Light bulb moments happen when my mind is relaxed, in the shower or during down time. I was lying on a beach in Florida and I started thinking about whether it was possible to create a global banking service for anybody, anywhere. Almost immediately I spoke to a couple of friends and asked them what they thought, it was a ridiculous and crazy idea at the time but they saw the potential. That’s how Monese started.
2. The biggest challenge your business is facing to date?
The biggest challenge has always been people. Growing the team from 200 to 400 in 12 months while keeping people working together and keeping the culture alive is difficult.
3. If you could go back in time, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your past self?
I would advise myself to focus more on building scalable systems and team structures early on. A business that supports scaling a team from 80 people to 5,000 and beyond means you don’t have to radically change your systems every year which removes chaos and allows you to scale fast.
4. Tools/ tricks to perform efficiently?
3 words: sleep, exercise and delegate.
5. Talk through your strategy on building a team around you?
When I look at the leadership today, I have tried to make sure I hire people who are strong where I am weak and can operate in harmony. Ideally this leadership would enable me to take 6 months of sabbatical and I could come back to a business that has not died but actually flourished.
6. What has surprised you most about starting your own business?
I have started quite a few businesses and it never ceases to amaze me how much freedom running your own business can provide you. Yes it is all consuming and incredibly risky but ultimately it gives you full control of your own destiny. Knowing that you are in charge of your own life fully gives you a kind of power and liberty that takes you to a totally new level as a person. And it really doesn’t feel like work but rather an all absorbing hobby. So absorbing in fact that you really have to pull yourself away from it at times – that is how wonderful it feels to be building.
7. What keeps you up at night?
People. And I’m constantly thinking about how to get Monese to the next level, ensuring it grows as planned and doesn’t become stagnant.
8. Talk though one of your daily rituals?
On my commute to work I turn on my noise cancelling head phones, close my eyes for 10 minutes and meditate.
9. If you could instantaneously gain a new skill what would it be?
The ability to make people more open and less ignorant. I have found that people tend to close themselves off in boxes. If only they would take a look outside and see how wonderful the world is.
10. What do you read/ listen to keep informed/ inspired?
I try to limit my exposure to negative information. I don’t watch TV or read newspapers but rather curate the information I consume. I look for materials that spark new ideas or give me mental strength. Autobiographies and stories about how people have overcome major obstacles are my favourite. One example is a book called Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.