2020: Year in Review

Dilip Ramachandran
6 min readDec 19, 2020

In the matter of a few weeks, our personal lives and the way we worked changed dramatically. It began with ordering food, groceries, services from your phone, to mask ordinances, Zoom classes, and so on. And when offices closed down, commutes, social events and in-person collaboration disappeared immediately.

In “normal” times, starting and growing companies is tough. In these unprecedented conditions, how do we unite and motivate our teams to do their best work?

Embracing 100% remote hiring

Every company (hint, Apple) that had a zero-tolerance policy for remote working had to change overnight. Recruiters who relied on the in-person round of interviews to wow candidates were now faced with new challenges. They couldn’t do that anymore.

As more and more job applications poured into Bond, we started to realise we needed to change up our process, to hack it if you will. We used to have the luxury of using our modern, stylish office space, nearby coffee shops, and a face-to-face personal connection to charm candidates. Now, we were limited to an environment the size of our Zoom window. We wanted to give every applicant a great experience, without making the interview process draining to candidates. We made a lot of mistakes until, of course, we got it right.

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

Tweaking our process and finding the right balance, forced us to write many things down, tell our story better and faster. Since we were meeting with a broader variety of candidates, the mission and strategy of Bond needed to be easier to understand. Each candidate conversation was treated like a high-stakes board meeting. We tested, refined, and repeated our story until it was perfect. One of the resources we created in that time was a slide deck which turned out to be an easy way for anyone to understand Bond’s vision — to help any brand to be a fintech.

We also changed the way we think about remote work and remote offices. If employees can be productive working from their homes across the San Francisco bay, could they do the same from New York, Seattle or Toronto? This was the best time if any to try.

Our process changed from merely interviewing candidates to championing them. We provided them with all the material to get through a fintech and Bond crash course by using a real-life case study. By providing specific feedback, guidance and pairing candidates with members of the team whom they would work with. By doing this we both distributed the effort in hiring as well as helping folks human relationships with each other.

Our co-founder, Yan Wu, took all of these learnings and used it as the foundation for our submission to Tearsheet’s Embedded Finance Competiton which addresses the future of finance, banking and payments. Embedded finance is the idea that every app, software, retailer and business can operate as a bank. And for the category of best new Embedded platform, we won!

Proud to share the award among other great companies like Plaid, Marqeta, Goldman and Galileo.

Getting through the perfect “storm”

When adding new members to a team, it is quite normal to go through these four stages in Tuckman’s model. Welcome lunches, happy hours, a friendly handshake or a high-five can be powerful tools in building these relationships. Ultimately, we make progress not only because of hiring great talent but by bringing people together to form the relationships that create the foundations for success.

Sometimes people have disagreements. It could have been a customer call that didn’t go the way you hoped for or a group of team members who couldn’t agree on a product decision. These situations require tough conversations and are normally followed by a walk around the block or a cup of coffee. That’s not possible right now. And, in some circumstances, videoconferencing doesn’t cut it.

When you don’t have the freedom to change the environment, it becomes challenging to find these moments of breakthrough.

Experiencing this pandemic changed our behaviour in many ways. At some point, we stopped complaining about standing in a long line to order coffee, or when we couldn’t go to the gym. In our personal lives, we selected the battles we wanted to fight and this made us more resilient, and this carried into our work. We start building compassion for others when things aren’t quite going the way we wanted to.

This is all great stuff, but we’re still people after all, and we need non-work social time together. And everyone needs to eat, right? ;)

Sangria, yellow curry, and many more featured at BOND Chopped

While I have you here — check out the Bond Cookbook 2020!

The market is heating up

Startups have raised over 220 MM this year so far, 820MM including Stripe’s series G. In the past two months, we’ve seen several players raise their seed or A round.

Why is this space so attractive to investors and founders? $7 Trillion TAM. What’s so special about embedded finance? Why do brands care?

Imagine you’re a brand marketer at Nike working on a line of exclusive sneakers. How do you ensure your most loyal customers have first access to the latest products? How do you incentivise those loyal customers to shop at Nike? Imagine the impact of a Nike+ branded credit card with cash back rewards to drive basket size and recurring spend with your brand? And you can pay off your card in the same app that you shop for shoes. And what if you could do this in a matter of weeks with very little investment. That’ll make you a superhero. Now that’s the future we’re building here at Bond.

What we’ve built so far

Here at Bond in between lockdowns and creating a cookbook we’ve been striking bank and technology partnerships as well as signing on brands to deliver world-class experiences for their customers.

Especially at a software company, you sometimes find yourself working hard for weeks and months and not seeing the tangible outcomes you are moving. It was an unforgettable experience for us this quarter to be able to see the Bond physical and virtual cards in action and use them to buy something fun and extend this platform we’ve built to our brands. The first thing we bought was a James Bond Funko Pop.

We purchased a Bond Funko Pop doll with our first card swipe!

With the coronavirus vaccine on the way, we might be able to get back to a new sort of normal in the not too distant future. But the way we work and live has changed forever.

We have to accept this new normal and ask ourselves, how will this shift in human behaviour play out in what consumers expect of their favourite brands? What will you build with Bond?