Josh Reich is the CEO and co-founder of Simple, which was created to radically improve the experience of consumer banking.
You shouldn’t let your fear of not knowing how things work, or of breaking something, keep you from trying. So instead of talking about banking, he’s going to talk about the value of creating by breaking things and learning from it. After early years of learning to code on an Apple IIc and an Amiga 500, he got stumped by mandel.bas, the fractal program, which he was told would be too hard for him to understand.
Then he built a device called Susan, which was a digital music machine, and spoon, a variation which let you plug in signals and then get oddly modified ones out. But he didn’t know how electronics actually work. Eventually, he built a digital audio filter completely out of analog components, a first example of affecting a discipline he didn’t understand by using a set of tools that he had already mastered.
He eventually learned optics by hacking together a lens system for his prosumer video camera, and then began working with abandoned security cameras to analyze video and built a digital/analog video mixer based on that knowledge.
His projects start with an academic understanding of the discipline, but the real world doesn’t always match up with the theory, and then the juicy bits pop up from working in the real world. Eventually he got a Lytro camera, and seeing “no user serviceable parts inside” was like a big “fuck you”. Because he might not always be able to fix everything, but he can definitely break it.
Coming to the United States, seeing paper checks and overdraft fees made him realize the antagonistic relationship banks have with their customers. Banks make money by keeping customers confused. This is the crux of retail banking in the U.S.
Banking technology has evolved in a completely parallel universe to the fun consumer web we know, and archaic systems that still run on daily batch outputs. Banks regularly throw out all kinds of useful rich data because their systems are optimized for customer confusion. But Simple approached the problem as if they were hackers, and that’s why they were able to get different results.
Don’t let your fear of breaking things keep you from trying new experiments, because that’s how you can learn about the real world and