A Lot Can Happen Over Dinner

The idea of Zolve, a cross-border neobank, evolved when a few friends were set to pay their dinner bill in New York

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All great change in America begins at the dinner table, said Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the US.

Zolve

When a few friends in New York were about to pay their dinner bills, it led to the genesis of an idea. “I was in New York visiting my friends, and when it came to paying up the bill for dinner, they put forward their debit cards, not credit cards. When I probed further, I was surprised to know that all of these folks, with years of stellar credit history in India, had an uphill task in securing credit cards with decent spending limits in the US. Soon, I realised that even after one gets settled into the financial ecosystem of a new country, multiple teething issues prevent them from seamlessly accessing financial products from any other country, even their home country. We initially spoke to Indian immigrants and soon started talking to people from more countries. Based on the insights from these conversations, it became apparent  there is a large blank canvas where we could create value for our customers.It seemed like a glaring problem that despite all the globalisation over the last few decades, one's access to financial products is still bound to geographical boundaries. That was when the idea for Zolve took root, where we wanted to leverage a person’s existing financial information in their home country to enable them to get access to financial products wherever they go,” said Raghunandan G, founder and CEO of Zolve.

“The idea clicked instantly not just with immigrants and their families, but also with many banks and other financial institutions who would now be able to offer their products to an extremely credit-worthy and affluent segment of customers who were otherwise under-served. Currently, there is no direct competition because we are working on a very unique, tangible problem that has been unsolved for decades,” he added.

Founded in 2020, the company has recently raised $40 million in its Series A round led by DST Global. “We also had Tiger Global, Alkeon Capital, as well as existing investors Accel and Lightspeed participating in the round. The new round of funding will help expand the product suite and scale up our teams in India and in the U.S. The fundraise will also enable us to invest more in building a world-class technology product and accelerate our efforts towards customer acquisition.”

In February 2021, the startup raised $15 million in Seed round  from Accel, Lightspeed, Founder Collective, Blume Ventures and a host of other angel investors.

Starting a company in the middle of the pandemic came with its set of challenges. “We have grown from an eight  member team in March to around 130 people today. Most of the team members met for the first time virtually and continued to work that way for the next few months. Despite the relative unfamiliarity, it was truly amazing how well the team was able to build a sense of camaraderie. Additionally, the pandemic resulted in international travel being limited to a large extent. The only segment of users that was allowed to travel to the U.S. were students and they generally only travel in fall (July / August). As a result, we had to accelerate our efforts and were able to launch in record time in just under four months,” said the CEO.

Talking about the company’s intent to be functional across any corridor that has significant immigrant movement, he said, “In the status quo, global citizens need to set up their financial history in every country that they move to from scratch, irrespective of where they’re from or where they’re going. One thing that has significantly helped us grow is the high amount of virality amongst the immigrant community. The positive word of mouth has enabled us to scale up our customer base very quickly and is setting us up to be operational for more countries, beyond the U.S. very soon.”

Giving an insight into the growth plans, he said, “We look forward to enhancing the user experience for global citizens, allowing them to start their financial journey in a new country, quicker and more comfortably. Moreover, the plan is to expand our services to more regions such as Europe, the U.K., Canada, Australia, and the Middle East increasing the number of people who can seize the opportunity to start building their financial futures globally. On the product suite front, we plan to expand our offerings to remittances, insurance and build a full-stack financial platform. To power all of this, we are looking to enhance our teams.”