June 22, 2022
Podcast: Building an auto refinance unicorn
In this episode of Fintech Thought Leaders by QED Investors, Managing Partner Nigel Morris is joined by Caribou CEO Kevin Bennett and QED Investors Partner Matt Risley.
Tune in to learn:
- [2:46] Kevin's personal journey from completing his law degree and serving in the Obama administration to building a leading auto refinance business.
- [6:44] The struggle of educating consumers to the fact that they are able to refinance auto loans, often saving more than $100 each month.
- [16:55] The tipping point in the Caribou distribution model.
- [22:12] What Caribou's $115 million Series C round -- and $1.1 billion valuation -- signals to the ecosystem.
- [24:38] How and why Caribou rebranded from MotoRefi.
- [31:05] How Kevin believes inflation and rising interest rates will impact the business.
- [35:01] The lessons learned as the company has scaled to more than 500 people.
- [40:23] How Caribou can play a part in tackling climate change.
Nigel Morris is the co-founder and managing partner of QED Investors, a fintech venture capital platform focused on disruptive, high-growth financial services companies. QED has made numerous unicorn investments, including Credit Karma, Nubank, Avant, SoFi, Klarna, GreenSky and AvidXchange.
Nigel is the Chairman of ClearScore and Mission Lane and serves on the boards of Red Ventures, AvidXchange and Zopa. He also serves on the board of ideas42, and Scotia’s Digital Advisory Council, and he works in an advisory capacity with General Atlantic and Oliver Wyman.
Prior to QED, Nigel co-founded Capital One Financial Services in 1994. Under Nigel’s leadership as President and Chief Operating Officer, Capital One pioneered an information-based strategy that transformed the consumer lending industry.
Nigel grew up mostly in England and takes immense pride in the fact that he is at least half Welsh. He has an MBA with distinction from London Business School, where he is also a Fellow. He is an avid cyclist, but is happiest when he is at home in Virginia with his wife, four children, and three grandchildren.
Matt Risley serves as a partner at QED.
Prior to QED, Matt has spent his career in fintech and payments in a variety of roles, including finance, marketing, product development, and risk management. He has experience in both the U.S and in Europe, having spent much of his career working in Spain and Sweden. Prior to joining QED, Matt served as the CFO & Chief Credit Officer at European payment unicorn Klarna where he managed Klarna’s machine learning strategy and equity offerings, among other initiatives. Before joining Klarna, Matt advised fintech and large financial services providers on strategy and risk management with Treliant Risk Advisors, a financial services consulting firm. Matt has also had leaderships positions in a peer-to-peer lender, digital student lender, and with Capital One.
When not at a desk, Matt looks to be biking, running, climbing, or kayaking. Matt graduated with a B.S. in economics from Duke University and later dropped out of business school.
Hello. I'm Nigel Morris from QED and I am really excited today to host the Fintech Thought Leaders Podcast. I'm joined today by Caribou's CEO, Kevin Bennett, and our very own QED Investors partner, Matt Risley. Caribou has been an incredible success since you took the reins some four years ago, Kevin. Caribou offers auto loan refinancing and digital car insurance. Kevin, welcome to the podcast. Lovely to have you on. Let's kick off, shall we, with just you giving a very short precis of what Caribou does. Will you?
Absolutely. Well, first, Nigel, Matt, thank you for having me. This is really fun and really exciting to spend some time with you all today. Caribou's on a mission to transform people's financial relationships with their cars. Your car is the largest or second largest asset most of us own, but it's an asset that can feel like a liability.
People are often overpaying on their car payments, their auto insurance. We really help fix that by helping people save money. We make it easy and we save people on average over $100 a month on their car payments and usually cut the rates in half.
The relationship with the car. How do people feel about their car? In a country where public transport is often not that great, cars are not only pleasure, but a necessity, Kevin.
It's a great point. I think people and Americans in particular love their cars, have always loved their cars. Cars are freedom. But to your point, it's also the way that they engage with society. It's how they get to work. It's how they get their kids to and from school, the grocery store, go on road trips, see families.
It's an integral part of American life. Unfortunately, what people don't love, very understandably, is everything around the car. The expenses. The experience of buying it. Often having to haggle or wonder about the price they get on their auto insurance or their financing. We try and take care of the stuff that is challenging around it, so that people can spend their time using their car to live their lives.
Enjoying the car as a critical integral part of Americana. That really does make so much sense. Before we dig into the business model of Caribou, tell us about your own personal journey a little bit, will you, Kevin? I know this is not your first startup. In fact, I think it's your fifth.
You have a very interesting background. You did your J.D. and your MBA, and you've been a writer in the political sphere. Often, when you and I get together, we tend to kick off with talking about the political environment. Tell me a little bit about your background and from whence you came, will you?
Absolutely. I should start with my parents. I was fortunate to grow up with wonderful parents. They were entrepreneurs, and had a small business in Washington, D.C. in real estate construction. My father was a very curious person and got involved in a number of things. He was a sports agent for NFL football players, American football, hockey players, other athletes. He got into finance and currency and commodity trading. All kinds of things.
I really learned from that. That you can give yourself permission to be curious to go out on your own to try something different than maybe the standard 9:00-5:00. Also, learned the importance of service. We spent a lot of time volunteering and giving back. It gave me permission not just to maybe do things a little differently, have a different career path where I worked in a bunch of different areas, but also the importance of mission and helping to improve people's lives.
From a startup perspective, those startups in public service, as you mentioned ... Working for Mark Warner and then the Obama administration, where I fell in love with tech and worked on tech policy. And then, I have spent the last decade plus in tech startups. It's been a wonderful journey and I have to credit my parents for a lot of it.
I think this is true, Matt Risley, that you are one of a very small number of portfolio companies ... QED has made 180 investments now over these last 15 years, but I think you're one of a small number of companies that are actually local. You grew up here. You went to high school here. You did your law degree at Georgetown. I think you have very deep tentacles into Northern Virginia and D.C. area, Kevin.
Yep. I've spent most of my life here, grew up here, and it's home. I have family and friends here and live in Washington D.C. proper with my wife, Kristen, and our boxer-pit rescue, Judy Garland.
We like our family here and it's been a lot of fun. To your point, it's so fun to be effectively co-located with QED. Obviously, Caribou, then MotoRefi, was started out of your basement by you all. I think it was your and Frank's idea. Matt early on as well. It was incredibly fun to be local and to be embedded with you all bringing this project to life.
Frank Rotman is co-founder of QED. I remember being on an airplane coming back from San Francisco. He and I were kicking around ideas of businesses that we thought could be interesting. We started talking about how people refinance their houses, but don't refinance their cars. We had seen from our Capital One days that, not only is the experience of buying a car not particularly pleasant, but often the car dealership, particularly for used cars, the dealership makes money on the F&I desk. Financing and insurance desk.
We found that a lot of people were paying far too much relative to their credit profile for their car loans. Therefore, if you could systemically figure out who's paying too much and you can go get that data from the bureau, how much they're paying relative to their credit score ... You reach out to them and say, "Look, why don't you refinance the car?" That was the kernel of the idea.
We did incubate it in our offices in Alexandria for a bit. And then, we were able to have you come along and turbocharge this juggernaut and turn it into the business it is today. One of the things that we didn't do early on, Matt Risley, is that we didn't find a Kevin Bennett early enough in the process. I think that we probably could have accelerated the business even faster than we did in those early days. As you look back on those incubation days, Kevin, how would you characterize it?
It was all of the fun in the rollercoaster of early stage startups. We were learning. The vision was incredibly durable. Consumers do often overpay. They are overcharged often at the dealership. I just read this morning. As of May, the average car payment is over $700 for the first time ever. These payments are incredibly large and they're a material impact, often to the negative, when consumers pay so much.
And so, a huge opportunity to save consumers money. Most people don't know they can refinance their car. You're spot on. Most people are aware they can refinance their home, but refinancing your car is a huge opportunity. The opportunity with credit unions, community banks, and other trusted lenders to help consumers save money. We put together the software technology in the marketplace to help make it happen. Those early days were fun. There were ups and downs like all the early days in all startups, but it was a ton of fun. A ton of fun to really do it with the then MotoRefi team, but also the QED team.
The Caribou experience, the MotoRefi experience is a jewel in the QED crown. We are very much indebted to you and your team's leadership in scaling it. Let me introduce Matt Risley, partner at QED. He can say a few words about his background.
Matt tends to focus his efforts on businesses that are breakouts in the payment sphere. Caribou, of course. Albert. Mudflap. Worked with me at Remitly and Avid. Previously, was at Klarna and Capital One. Matt, a quick word on your background and your introduction to working with Kevin and Caribou?
Yes. Like most of us at QED, I'm a lifelong fintech practitioner. I've spent 15 years either within or around consulting for fintechs. My last operating position, I was the CFO and chief credit officer of Klarna out in Stockholm, before joining QED five years ago. I was lucky enough that the first company I got to work with was MotoRefi. Now Caribou, obviously. This company has just evolved tremendously.
There are some startups where you have a great idea, you put out an MVP, and it takes off like a rocket ship. This was not one of those companies. Not for any fault of what was behind this, but this is a very complex business to get off the ground. This is a business which, from an investor side, requires patient capital. And it's capital intensive to get off the ground. I think on the management side, it requires perseverance and putting together a great team.
This did take a while to come together. When I talk about the complexity of the business model ... In order to make MotoRefi or Caribou get off the ground, you've got to be good at marketing. You've got to have distribution. You've got to have a great technical layer to bring people through your funnel. You've got to have a manual ops team who are working with your customers to sell the product and to retitle the loans.
You've got to have a balance sheet. You've got to be able to speak to banks who are going to take these loans. There's only a handful of organizations out there in fintech who can work with banks and also work with tech. Really, when I look at the evolution of this company and what made it a success, I congratulate us for having the perseverance of patient capital, but I really give the kudos to Kevin.
Because building a great business here means bringing together really diverse talent to tackle a number of different fronts. It's not just having one or two good people on your leadership team. It's having five, six, seven great people to handle all these fronts. I think Kevin has just assembled an incredible organization. And that's one of the really key levers to making this thing take off.
I think that's so well-articulated, Matt. Often, when we read in the newspaper, we see online, "Here's another company that has made it to be a unicorn." By the way, we should have said that your valuation last time around is now over a billion dollars. Congratulations to Caribou. It seems like the company's an overnight success. Great businesses take years to build. Particularly, complicated ones.
We at QED often say that you have to be good at all the basic things to make a fintech happen. Culture scaling. Managing your economics. But also, there's a whole series of functional skills that you have to be brilliant at too in order to be in the fintech space. AML, KYC, fraud risk, credit risk. Understanding the regulatory environment, and in this case, the loans that you refinance are passed on to third parties.
You talked about the credit unions. That means that you are having to manage a very complicated, nuanced ecosystem. Here we are now. I think we're now six years into the journey. With over four years with you at the helm. How do you manage this complexity? You're always incredibly modest about it, Kevin. We've heard Matt talk about team and focus. Talk a little bit about how you've been able to scale this complexity to get to where you are now.
I've been incredibly fortunate, as Matt pointed out, to have a great team. And it is really a tribute to that team and the folks that have been building this together. I think one of the elements that stands out about Caribou and our business is the complexity, to Matt's point, and the fact that you need people who are great at different things.
You need people who are the best experts at lending, the best experts at consumer marketing, experts in the lending operations. All of those pieces. I'm fortunate to know that I am not the best at any of those, and that I can bring together a team of incredibly talented folks. I think the mission ... I remember from our first conversation that this is a mission-driven company. That was so important to the culture and the orientation. That we're a values-led company.
No one wakes up every morning and dreams someday of joining an auto refinance startup. But the opportunity here is about helping transform people's lives. It's about helping put real money in the pockets of middle class Americans. It's about improving the financial system and the landscape of credit unions, community banks, and other lending institutions.
When people understand the opportunity, the scale ... As an asset class, it's 1.5 trillion dollars. It's doubled over the last 10 years. It's growing faster than mortgage, faster than student lending, et cetera. And so, it's a huge opportunity to really help meaningfully change people's lives. That's a mission that a lot of people get really excited about. We've been fortunate to bring a lot of great people onto the team to help us really transform people's lives.
Well, there's never been a more important time to help middle America manage its P&L, with gas petrol prices now over five dollars and we're seeing what's happening with inflation. When we started working together, Kevin and Matt, one thing we did become blood brothers about was holding firm to saving every customer $100 a month. Of course, $1,200 a year. It's a huge amount of saving for the consumer. You've held steadfast to that, I believe. And that's been a critical plank in your mission-driven focus.
Absolutely. We are completely aligned with the consumer. Our goal and really our reason for being is to help consumers save money. And so, we are completely aligned with the consumer and helping them do that. As you mentioned, it's now well over $100 a month and has been consistently $100 or more over the last several years.
And it's been incredibly motivating and gratifying for us to be able to hear from those consumers, hear their stories, hear how it's impacting people's lives. It's just a privilege to be able to do that and make that impact on the consumers and in their lives.
Never a more important time with so many costs rising. People do know that they can refinance their homes and it's de rigueur. As you said, the car is the first or second largest purchase in anybody's lifetime, but people don't know necessarily that they can refinance their car.
And so, in a sense, what Caribou is doing is creating a category, rather than competing with others necessarily. Talk a little bit about the journey of trying to build awareness in middle America. This is something that everybody should be doing.
It's a great point. Most people do not know that they can refinance their car. It's not a moment in the consumer's life that they're aware of, in the same way that they know that they can refinance their home. In fact, more people can save money refinancing their car than their home.
Wow. That's really true? That's a stunning statement.
It is. It's amazing. The mortgage industry's fairly efficient. Most people get a decent mortgage rate when they get their home financing. That's not necessarily true when they buy their car, as you alluded to earlier. A lot of folks, unfortunately, don't get great deals at the dealer.
The financial market there is not as efficient. And so, for that reason, most people actually ... They could go to caribou.com, see if they can save money, and actually very quickly refinance their cars and improve their financial situation within days or a week.
I think that's powerful. Matt, can I bring you in here? If you go back to the four or five years ago, when you began working on this idea. Talk a little bit about some of the big steps, if you would, that have accelerated the growth, accelerated the franchise. Just reflect on those a little bit for our listeners, would you?
I'll highlight the biggest step here, which is that there's a tipping point in our distribution model. With many of the partners that we work with, we are in a marketplace for auto refinance loans. For example, Credit Karma, as we all know, is a marketplace with various different finance providers on the site. With Credit Karma, they're also looking out on behalf of their customers. Trying to send their clicks to places that can successfully convert clicks, and can successfully provide the most savings to their customer base.
At some point in MotoRefi's and Caribou's life, they reached a point where they were able to provide the best user experience for the customer. So that customers wanted to go from front to back, which does have a little bit of friction for the customer. Because they have to sign some documents, do some applications. Caribou was able to deliver the most savings.
And then, once your distribution partners realize that you are the best provider of auto refinance loans, you go from getting X percent of click sent to you to 10 times that many click sent to you. Your volume just explodes. I think we've reached that consensus place where we are the best performing, most reputable, and the platform that treats their customers the best. We're in a privileged position to work with sources of volume for us going forward. Whether that's a neobank or whether it's a marketplace like a Credit Karma or a LendingTree.
How important strategically going forward, Matt or Kevin, will be leveraging other people's customer bases such as neobanks, where they're looking to offer their customers savings of $100 a month?
Well, I was just going to say, Matt, you were an early believer in this and actually saw it sooner than a number of us. I'd love to let you expound on it, because you've had this vision for a long time.
I think Caribou provides tremendous appeal to other companies looking to deliver value to their customer franchises. It's typical in this day and age that everyone's looking for opportunities to expand LTVs or the value of their customers. Sometimes, "Cross-sells," can be a dirty word. Because you're perceived as selling your customers and sending them to the marketing office and giving them things that they don't need.
In this case, we just have an incredible value prop where the customer wins and our distribution partner wins. I always think about a company like Geico, whose brand is built. "We save our customers 15% or more." And if you're a Geico or any other company whose brand is built on delivering your customers value, why wouldn't you want to save them on auto loans? We've got a great pipeline of clients which we've already partnered with, and ones that we're working through integrating with to deliver great value.
It's an incredibly powerful proposition. Are you using Caribou brand? Or are you white labeling?
We do this under the Caribou brand. We have great technology. It allows us to seamlessly integrate and actually pre-screen with our partners. The goal is not only to save our customers money, but obviously to make it as easy and frictionless as possible.
With the partners and the categories of partners that Matt mentioned. Whether you're a marketplace, a neobank, work in a different asset class and just know that your customers have auto loans and they're overpaying ... Then, it's a natural fit where we can integrate.
They can pass their customers along to us in a seamless way. Pre-fill forms, make it very simple for the customer. They then get the benefit of delivering incremental value for their customers, which their customers appreciate and save money. And then, they also generate economics as well. It's really a win-win-win for all parties involved.
I think that's so powerful. I know that you've spent a huge amount of time managing the funnel. How do you take the friction out? How do you pre-fill? How do you integrate fraud and AML-KYC? Because of course the loans are being passed on to regulated entities. They're very concerned, of course, that you are living up to the regulatory criteria that's necessary on AML-KYC. Managing that complexity is it is very tricky.
Now, we've got a sense of the business and what it does for our listeners. Let's talk now and celebrate a bit your Series C. An investment of $115 million led by Goldman Sachs, valuing the company at $1.1 billion. What an amazing milestone. Congratulations. Talk a little bit about that process and what you learned from that and how that extra fuel allows you to be able to take next steps.
A great milestone or mile marker on the journey. It was a stamp of approval from the market. I think we've been so fortunate to have incredible partners. If you take QED Investors on the front-end and all the way through the journey, and then Goldman Sachs led the Series B and the Series C. It's hard to think of two more prolific, more expertise from an investor standpoint than QED and Goldman Sachs.
And so, it's been incredible to work with great partners and help move the business forward, and obviously, have their confidence from the QED team from the Goldman team and many others to be able to move the company forward. From a uses of capital standpoint, it allows us to fortify our balance sheet, obviously, to continue to aggressively expand in the market. To continue to educate customers. To continue to help even more people save money on their refinancing.
We did launch auto insurance as well and work with great insurance carrier partners to help consumers save even more money. It's similar information and forms for your financing insurance. Our goal is for the consumer to have to input as little information as possible for both the refinance and the insurance. Save money twice and deliver even more savings. I think we'll continue to deliver products that help consumers improve their financial relationship with their car, save even more money, and also partner in more sophisticated ways with our lending partners as well. Make it easier for them to participate and help consumers save money as well.
We are seeing, of course, the markets change substantially, since you were able to raise your Series C. Let's talk a little bit about the name change from MotoRefi to Caribou. MotoRefi says what the company was. It refinanced auto debt. But the change to Caribou signaled, "We think the opportunity is way bigger."
The vista is much broader than just car loan refinancing. Talk a little bit about that transition, that leap, and how insurance and maybe other things can layer on top of the core franchise that you built.
Yep. You're exactly right. When we were early and budgets are thin and you're trying to prove out the thesis, the very straightforward name is helpful. You don't have a lot of brand dollars to put behind it. MotoRefi is straightforward. We refinance your auto loan. As we really became incredibly confident and ambitious around the consumer brand, around the opportunity, around the expansion of the value prop and becoming a multi-product company within auto ... Caribou was a huge opportunity and we fell in love with the name.
We fell in love with the name because the first three letters are, "Car." C-A-R. It's just a nod to auto. We fell in love with it because it sounds like, "Care." We are such a mission-driven and values-led company, "See people as people. Take care of each other." These are our values. The team fell in love with the name. They said, "Caribou. I care about you. We care about our customers. We're mission-driven." And so, it had the two great elements. It had the nod to auto and the nod to our values and our mission. We were incredibly excited about launching that brand late last year, and we're really excited about where we go from here.
As you think about the product portfolio, you talked earlier about cross-selling and how it can appear to be tawdry. Of course, it's focused on saving customers value and caring about you, as we just heard from Kevin. What do you think the product roadmap looks like? What things are you most excited about that could be on the horizon in the next year or two?
It's certainly an exciting time, Nigel. As a startup, you generally don't want to rush into new products until you've really nailed that first product and have great margins of success and scaling. We have absolutely achieved that and are comfortable that we have the best product in the market. Something that's scaling extremely rapidly.
Now, with that on the way, I think we've got some time to think about what's next. I'll let Kevin talk more about the details of what he's willing disclose. But certainly, we're looking at other things where it's lowering the cost of ownership of automobiles for consumers. That's per our values. I believe Kevin's already mentioned insurance, which I think can be a very fruitful offering for both us and the consumers.
Beyond that, we're also looking at some better ways to tackle our main problems. Traditionally, we've driven our balance sheet through credit unions. There are other ways to structure these transactions for consumers. To save them more money or to apply new structures. To enable different kinds of consumers to save money on their auto loans.
That being to widen the aperture of folks that you can serve, presumably?
Kevin. Without letting the cat out the bag, a sense of where you think things are heading?
Well, I think Matt's exactly right and said it very well. We're going to expand the offerings for consumers to help them save money in more ways. We will expand the offerings from the lending and capital market side to help expand the aperture and help even more customers save in different ways as well. We're incredibly excited about the scale and size of the opportunities, and we'll be working hard on it. We'll have more to announce in the coming months.
There we go. We look forward to it. You're quite right, Matt. We see this so often with our portfolio companies, as they ascend here at QED. Once you've landed the first product, the unit economics make sense, the net promoter scores are terrific. You are scaling it rapidly. Then, you hit a fork in the road.
The fork in the road is, "Do I offer the second, third, and fourth products?" Do I start to build up other products to build around the core franchise? Or do I take the core business and move it to a different geography? And it's pretty clear which one of those routes you decided to go down, Kevin.
Any sense of how interesting internationalization of this model is? Of course, we have the luxury of being here in the largest economy in the world, by some substantial amount. Does this model work in other geographies? How might that fit into your roadmap?
It's a great question. We've been so focused on the US market and, to Matt's point, really making sure that we nail our value proposition. That we're doing the best we can for customers here. But certainly, something we're open to down the road. Our goal as a mission-driven company is to be able to help as many consumers as possible. Whether that be in the United States or elsewhere.
I'm always fascinated by taking US models and exporting them geographically other places. I look forward to talking about that. Small companies ... Even though you have now 500 people and you've saved 50,000 customers $100 a month, which is more than $100 million dollars in interest payments.
Even though you have now substantial resource, and you have the fuel in terms of the investment, you still have to massively prioritize. You can very easily try and do too many things. I've always said, "Do four things really well, rather than try and do nine things averagely." Do you buy that?
You're exactly right. Actually, this is one of the ways that Matt has been so incredibly helpful, is helping us stay focused. There is so much opportunity out there. Really making sure that you can fully execute on your vision for your core products, expand in intentional ways, and then really be working from a position of strength is so important for all startups. Because there's always so much ambition and so much vision. But being really intentional and focused is absolutely critical. Matt and others in the team have been incredibly helpful on that front.
A word on everybody's lips today is, "Inflation." We're seeing that impact. It's impacted used car prices. It's impacted the price of gasoline, of course. How will rising interest rates impact your business? How will it change the shape of what you are doing this year and next year?
Well, you're exactly right. The consumer is feeling so squeezed. Because of inflation. Because of the rising prices of gas. Gas can be upwards of five dollars a gallon. Inflation. The car values have gone up, but car prices have gone up incredibly. As mentioned earlier, your average car payment's now north of $700. There is a lot of motivation from the consumer to help them save money, to find places to save, because everything in life is getting more expensive.
And so, it's a huge opportunity when everything in life is getting more expensive. We can actually make something less expensive, help people save money, put money back in their pockets. The mission is more important now than ever before. And that's exactly right. That opportunity to save people money is still there, because most people have payments.
Whether it's on their car payments or insurance that are higher than they need to be ... Even in an environment where rates are rising, most people can still save money. Our goal is to get as many people to caribou.com as possible to check their rate in seconds, find out if they can save money. Our goal is to help as many people as possible.
If you save $100 plus on the car side ... Give us a sense of how much your early election returns are that you can save on auto insurance?
In early days, when we were testing this, we knew we were onto something. We knew customers were saying, "How else can you save us money?" Auto insurance was an opportunity that made a ton of sense. One of our customers called us back just to say, "Thank you." They did because we saved them $500 a month on their insurance policy. Now, obviously you could have many cars under a single policy. You could have many different drivers and risk profiles, et cetera.
But there's so much opportunity to save consumers money. Because often, most people don't know what they pay in insurance. They sign up and it sits there and auto renews. And that price can go up every six months or so. And then, several years later, you're paying orders of magnitude more than you were paying when you started. You might not be fully aware of that.
It's really a huge opportunity to help consumers. Because people are busy. They're busy with work. They're busy with their families. They're busy with everything. Most people don't wake up every day saying, "I'm going to price out my insurance. I'm going to shop it." Et cetera. And so, we're able to make that easy and deliver that savings. And it's really important.
When you meet somebody at the cocktail party or chat to somebody at the park, you might say, "Let me tell you about my new car, which I really like." But you don't talk about, "Let me tell you about my car loan." Or, "Let me tell you about my car insurance." These are not categories by and large that excite consumers.
Until they've used Caribou.
Until they've used Caribou. Look, if we go back to the Capital One days, Matt. The whole point of, "What's in your wallet," was to shake people from their complacency and make sure they're getting a good deal. What's in your wallet? With Visigoths and Vikings running around on those TV ads. Now, the goal was to say, "Have a look and see what you're paying, because you might be paying too much." Come and check with Capital One and see if you can save yourself some money.
There's a real opportunity to encourage folks to take a good hard look here at these products, and save themselves a huge amount of money, at a time when money is in shorter supply. I want to switch to talk a little bit about leading here, if I can, Kevin. In the years that you and I have worked together, I've always sensed that you lead from the front with this generous, humble engagement of your team approach.
You are always very mindful of handing them out kudos in terms of what's been achieved. You lead from the front with that passion and energy. Talk a little bit about the growth of going from a small handful of people when you took over the business to now 500. Lessons learned in your own journey in becoming a leader of what is now a substantial company in size.
I think one of the aspects that has been so helpful has been to focus on purpose and to focus on the why. This has certainly been an impact of COVID as well, as people reevaluate what they work on in their lives. It's this moment to reconsider, to reflect. People really have thought a lot about what they want to be working on. I think people who work in startups, folks who are ambitious, tend to work a lot.
They want to work a lot and put all that time and energy towards something that matters. And so, the ability to articulate the purpose, the "why" behind the work is so important. I think creating that shared and collective buy-in and understanding of why the work is important, the mission and values and vision behind it, has been incredibly helpful for us to build a team.
Not just of highly talented people, but of people with a shared understanding of the mission and the purpose of the company. That's been incredibly valuable over time, and it's helped us scale. Because I've brought on a team of leaders who lead other teams, and teams of teams. The scale that brings is incredibly important to have really wonderful people leading all those teams.
That mission permeates everything that is Caribou. I think that's fantastic. Any forks in the road over these years as you've scaled, where you felt an imposter syndrome? Where you felt like you had to make a really tough decision? Where you feel like, on reflection, you could have done some different things? Anything you could share with listeners?
Absolutely. I think candidly ... Nigel, Matt, you all know this better than I do, having put up with me all these years. I had no idea what I was doing when I was starting. I think it's important just to be authentic. To recognize that, often in startups, you're making it up as you go along. You're testing, you're learning, you're trying to be rigorous. You're trying to be thoughtful. But you're learning like everyone else.
To be authentic in your own self-reflection around your development as a leader is really important, and to be open and honest with your team. I think that's something that's been really important and really helpful. And I've learned so much over the last four years from you, Nigel, and from you, Matt. From all of the people on the team. I think it's made us certainly all on the team better. It certainly made me a lot better. I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn along the way. It's been a lot of fun.
Matt, anything you would add to that?
No, I think Kevin said it well.
Most of the people that are running companies in the QED portfolio are today running the biggest company they've ever run. Therefore, they're in uncharted territory. Universally, the CEOs will get flashbacks, flashes of imposter syndrome. "I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go for advice." One of the things that I think we really relish about the partnerships and relationships that we've been able to build ... Because Matt and I, and the vast majority of people at QED have been ex-operators. We've been where you are.
In the Capital One days, I was managing the biggest company I ever managed with every day that went forward. With that, lots of complications and trade offs. And so often, we find ourselves in a position where our founders will reach out to us to ask the questions. Usually, around organization, around people, around management, around how to lead. Particularly, when things don't go well.
I think we are very excited that we can continue to play those unique roles in helping our portfolio companies navigate, because we've been there ourselves. We have scars on our backs. I can't tell you the innumerable mistakes I've made. The clanging mistakes I've made as a leader. If I can tip you off, so you don't make the same ones, that always makes me really happy.
That has been ... I want to double click on that. That has been so incredibly helpful. So incredibly helpful for me. So incredibly helpful for our team. It has been a huge asset. Part of what can get lost sometimes as you're laser focused on building your startup, as you're trying to knock out every task every day is ... On the journey, you're building a community.
That community will support you. You will need to lean on that community. And that's a community of investors and board members. People on the team, advisors, mentors. I think I've been so incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful and robust community to help me along the way. And that certainly started and continues with you, Matt, and you, Nigel, and QED.
You're kind. You're kind. As we look to wrap up here, another thing that's on the minds of consumers and on car manufacturers, for example, and I'm sure lots of other constituencies too, is as we start to look at what's happening in energy and what's happening in terms of climate change.
We're seeing more and more efforts around electric vehicles and the innovation that's occurring in the way we power our transportation. I know a little bit about where you would come from politically on this. You can share that, Kevin, but how from a business standpoint is Caribou going to face off into this space? How can you be helpful in helping consumers navigate different forms of transportation here?
To state the obvious, climate change is one of the great challenges and really threats of our time. It is incredibly complex and it's going to take every part of our economy working together to address the challenge. Obviously, some parts will take more of a leadership role than others. I think the part that we have to play is helping to integrate the true innovation around electric vehicles.
For example, into the financial system. Help work with our lending partners. I think everyone's exploring asset values, how those change. The depreciation curve of vehicles will change. Every aspect of the ecosystem will evolve and change. We're doing our part to try and help include electric vehicles, to help partner with lenders to move that forward, and really continue to drive the innovation we can. Some of that certainly can have a benefit when it comes to climate change. We're really excited to play our part.
You clearly can pay a part. Do we see this across the board, Matt? Obviously, I'll bring you in on this question. It's just the really very low levels of consumer dexterity or jointness around making financial decisions. We mentioned earlier, part of it is just because it's not particularly salient to a lot of people. It's not what you want to talk about.
Very often, talking about your financials is like sometimes going along and seeing the headmaster. It's not exactly fun. But I think that we are moving to a time, particularly with the digitalization, where companies like you can play a role in consumer education. And it's not just about how to finance your car or how do you think about insurance and coverage.
But also, about ... When do you think about switching from one form of energy source to another? Because you have such a super net promoter score and because you are building such a brand, you have permission to be able to engage with the consumer where the consumer is on it, and helping him or her along that route. Particularly, if you save them money. Does that make sense?
It completely resonates. I think you're totally right. We all have a part to play and we're looking forward to continuing to play our part and expand our role as well.
I'm going to wrap it up in a second. I'm just going to give Matt Risley a chance to say a few final words. And then, I'll pull it together and we will ...
Yeah. I'd just like to thank you, Kevin, for joining us today. It's been phenomenal to share the success with you of MotoRefi over the last five years. I'm really looking forward to continuing that journey and delivering on behalf of the customers going forward. Looking forward to good times ahead.
Kevin, I can't thank you enough. You've been an amazing partner, a terrific CEO. You're building something that's meaningful, that matters, that has scale. And it's just getting started. I think there's so many more chapters yet in the Caribou story. Building things out of the ground is really flipping hard. Most people that try to do it fail. Here you are now at escape velocity. Building something that we can all be really proud of.
The mission is so important. I know it marbles through everything you talk about. The last thing is that building companies, because it's so hard, it's a team sport. It's a team sport, in terms of your own organization. And as you rightly said, it's about mobilizing your board and your investors and various outside constituencies to be able to have a gestalt that increases the odds of being successful.
Kevin Bennett, hats off to you and hats off to everybody at Caribou. Matt Risley, thank you so much for everything you've done in helping Kevin and MotoRefi, now Caribou, on its journey. Thanks everybody for listening and we'll wrap it up. Thank you much.