Meet the startup empowering a new generation of conscious consumers
Here, Startups Magazine speaks to Hristian Nedyalkov, Co-founder and CEO at Novus, the next generation impact-driven sustainable banking app.
What inspired you to set up Novus?
My moment of inspiration came from a place of frustration about how banking just isn’t evolving in the same way that society and overall human consciousness is. We have come a long way in that we are seeing UK challenger banks offer a much more digitised experience of a traditional bank, with a focus, primarily, on a better user experience. However, there has been no real change in the fundamental business model itself, and that’s where I see Novus coming in.
We are not just another challenger bank that simply promises a better experience or ease of use compared to traditional banks, but we are on a mission to change the way banking has worked so far for the modern, more conscious consumer. We want to create a business where our members can use the power of their money to create real social impact, one small step at a time. And we want to make it as easy as possible for our users to achieve this.
What is your vision for Novus?
My bold vision for Novus is to evolve into the modern, ethical ‘Super App’ for the conscious person, where every interaction will result in a positive impact for our members, our planet and our society - and an active step towards a better world!
What was your most inspiring experience in your career pre-Novus?
My philosophy, as cliché as it might sound, is that your life is a storyline of experiences that add up to you finding your passion and committing to it. In my case, it was my experience of working across the breadth of the financial industry by the time I turned 23 - from one of the best UK hedge funds to Investment Banks in Europe and Asia and finally at the leading Swiss Private Equity fund Partners Group, where I began my career.
During my time there, I got the chance to be an investor in Fintech companies in the developing world that were driving financial inclusion for the unbanked population. The positive impact of this inclusion was immense - both to the economy and to individual lives. It really made me question how Fintechs in developed countries like the UK or US are operating, with no meaningful impact on the environment or the society we live in, other than making it easier to use banking as a digitised service.
As residents of developed countries, we hold a lot more power through our money that can be used to create positive change. Let’s face it – our planet is in need and if we all do something positive in our day-to-day lives this could lead to significant change. This is where we think Novus can help.
How have the last 12 months affected your plans and goals for the business?
The last 12 months have been a wild ride. My fellow co-founders and I took the plunge and quit our jobs and have achieved so much since. We registered our company in the UK in the middle of lockdown, put the business plan together, and have been in heavy execution mode in order to launch the app as soon as possible. It hasn’t been the easiest journey, but it was the mission and vision of Novus, and creating something impactful at scale, that kept us going. We feel nothing less than ‘warriors for good’ in one of the most vilified industries.
This experience has definitely informed our longer-term working arrangements as a company. We plan on opening 'hubs' instead of typical office locations, where people can come and go at their convenience. By doing so, we aim to create a positive, communal culture of cool and conscious people working towards a tangible, impact-driven mission, whilst building lifetime friendships along the way.
What else are you doing to build an open culture at Novus and how important is diversity to both you and Novus as a company?
When I founded Novus, I was looking for like-minded professionals with experience in different aspects of building a start-up, but also people who would be the right fit in terms of the culture I want to build.
I was deliberate and proactive in establishing a collaborative company that actively promotes open culture and diversity. Novus already has three women in senior level positions, and I love the creativity they all bring and the execution power they demonstrate continuously. It brings a freshness to our way of thinking and raises new viewpoints and ideas that will help us deliver the amazing product that we strive for.
Where do you hope the business will be in 12 months’ time?
As close as possible to delivering on this aspiration and the company mission. We truly want to become a partner to our members to lead a more impactful and sustainable lifestyle, and we hope that we can deliver on that over the next 12 months. We also want to create an app that our users really love and not just like. Thus, we have new features and product categories on the roadmap to enable us to become an all-encompassing solution to the conscious consumer.
What sort of impact do you think it will have?
Measurable and tangible social and environmental impact! Our business model allows us to share a real-time report on how much impact we are driving across various social and environmental parameters – both at an individual Novus member level and at a company level. We are different from other tree-planting banks out there – we have a much more holistic view of impact. We plan to create a community that can inspire more sustainable and ethical choices, and we hope to hear from our members once we are live, on how Novus is enabling that in their daily life.
Do you think it will change people’s perception of the typical digital bank?
We really hope it will! That’s the goal we are working towards and we’re giving everything we’ve got to deliver a product that people will love and talk about. We hope to drive the conversation around making banking more accountable for the money they hold for us and demand more tangible, positive impact.
On a personal level and away from the potential of Novus, what do you do to contribute to the wellbeing of the planet?
Currently, 100% of my savings, time and energy is focused on building Novus but it is the little things in my life that contribute to impact - from replacing worn out clothes with sustainable alternatives to saving water and energy at home.
Part of our company impact plan is to allow our team members to take a paid week off to work on social or environmental impact projects - either with one of our impact partners, or through their own initiative - which is something that I very much look forward to personally once I find the time.
We hear you were a bit of a maths prodigy. Can you enlighten us?
Haha, I always think of a prodigy as someone who is innately great at something without any need for hard work or effort, although I somehow doubt such a person exists. My dad discovered my advanced maths skills when I was around five to six years old. I had this incessant habit of multiplying numbers on every car number plate that I came across. By the time I was nine, I was selected into a specialised maths school in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I started my journey of competing in inter/national maths competitions. Soon after, 40-hour long weeks of maths-focused training and summertime sacrifices, I started winning.
In business, the most useful ‘maths derivative’ skill that I have learnt is probably my ability to find structured solutions to ambiguous problems.