May 2, 2023

Episode 261: Noah Kerner, CEO of Acorns

Born in New York City’s east village, Noah Kerner is the CEO of the micro-investing app Acorns and co-founder of the shareholder rights startup Say. His background is colorful: 4X entrepreneur, Co-author of "Chasing Cool” with the former CEO of Barneys, and former DJ for Jennifer Lopez. In his 20s, Noah built the leading creative agency for the young adult market, Noise. Before being acquired by Engine, Noise developed hundreds of products and marketing campaigns for this generation including Facebook’s first application, the first credit card to reward responsibility rather than spending for Chase, Vice's music site Noisey, and the top branded game in the App Store.

Noah has been recognized as one of Billboard Magazine’s “Top 30 Under 30,” AdWeek’s “Top 20 Under 40,” Fast Company’s “Innovation Agents” and “Impact Council” members, and as a judge for the Webby Awards. He has also advised and invested in a variety of fast-growing startups, including WeWork, where he served as the first Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer from 2013-2014.

Passionate about educating today’s youth, Noah has lectured on entrepreneurialism, fintech, and media at NYU, UCLA, Stanford, and Columbia and currently serves on the Board of VH1's Save The Music Foundation. Noah is a graduate of Cornell University where he studied Psychology and Economics.

Julian:Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast.Today we have Noah Kerner, CEO of Acorns, the Mobile Savings and MicroInvestment Platform. No, I'm so excited to chat with you, not only because ofthe success you've had at Acorns, but your journey and really what you've seen,through all phases of growth.

Obviously,nothing's all said and done with Acorns currently, but in terms of where you'vestarted the company and where it is today, so much has probably happened and Iwould love to. Kind of dive into that experience and what you've learned, sharethat with other members of our audience as well.

But before we getinto Acorns and what you're doing now and what you've done so far, what wereyou doing before you started the company?

Noah:Thanks for having me on. Julian', can you hear me? Yeah. So I, I, my, my lifestarted in New York City, east Village kid. I was a product of hiphop culturegrowing up and, I got I got into DJing and, and, and and hiphop as a kid at 14.

Yeah. Started doinghiphop nightclubs early, working with a bunch of artists and and had thathunger to kind of create something right out of the gate. I felt like I, I, Iwould be better off professionally in my life, work, doing my own thing and,and pursuing my own passions and, and building my own stuff, so, First company,21 years old was the, was the, the first one-stop shop for hiphop.

Yeah. On the web.And, and that was, that was based on this, this insight that for the most part,unless you were in the major metro markets, you couldn't get access to hiphop.Yeah. Products, turntables, fashion, all that kind of stuff. So, so built thatand then, and then really just started that journey of building things that.

That that I feltlike I wanted to, to broaden access to, or, or, yeah. That I was passionateabout and felt like, I want other people hopefully would feel the same. So, sobuilt, started and built five companies and there was a, there was a point atwhich it became clear to me that, things I was passionate about.

Yeah. Had to bemarried with. Service to society. Yeah. And I think that that hit me kind ofhard at like 31, 32. Yeah. And, and so, thought about what are those thingsthat, that where, where I could really contribute the most, feel passionatepersonally, but contribute the most. And so, wealth gap, health education, thearts.

There were acouple. And, and that's part of what, what got me here today to this point withAcorns, which is really about helping every day. Americans and, and we can talka little bit about the, the deal we just did. Yeah. Cuz we're a global companynow, but helping everyday Americans save and invest and get smarter.

With their moneyand, and, and provide the access to the, the tools of wealth making that peoplejust didn't have before.  

Julian:Yeah, yeah. Obviously, I think there's so much in, in terms of talk about, interms of accessibility and information and what that really enables people todo and kind of it's overall impact.

But obviously justto touch as a huge hip hop fan myself who are the, some of the favorite,favorite people that you DJ'ed for or were around, especially in New York City,being that it's such a hub for. Innovation, creativity in individuals comingtogether. What were some kind of fun experiences there that, that you wannashare?

Noah:Well, the fir, the first hip hop group that I opened for was, was the Wutangclan, actually. Really? And yeah, and and I, and I from there all the way to.Being the DJ for Jennifer Lopez in her, in her band. So, so shows and but, butI, I've worked with a bunch of artists performed with a lot of differentinteresting DJs and, and yeah.

In a lot ofinteresting spaces and had the chance at a young age to do Yeah. To, to, to,to. To pursue my passion and, and, and, and be really creative that way. Butalso, yeah, it was an interesting intersection of creativity and commerce.Yeah. So, being, being able to really make make a good living as a, as a youngkid while doing the thing that, that I, that I felt, really excited about.

And, and that was afun, that was a fun time in my life. Yeah. In the one, in the summer of, Ithink it was, it's probably 96. But in the summer I did a, a spun out in, in LAat the Roxbury. And there was one night I was doing it, it was like East coast,west Coast. Yeah. I was doing spinning a lot of east coast hip hop on, on the,on the west coast.

So I was doingbiggie, NAS, this kind of stuff. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the, the, the promoterof the of the party came up on stage and whispered in my ear that Tupac was inthe back and I looked in the back and he was actually throwing up like Westside. Yeah, yeah. So, so I thought it's probably, I, I probably better do aWest Coast set.

So I, I put on likeevery snoop record, every trip, far side souls mystery, all that kind.  

Julian:Yeah. But that Nate Dogs g got thrown in there. I'm sure  

Noah:all that. Yeah. It was, it was, it was just a good time, a good, a goodexperience and, In my life to have to be able to do that.  

Julian:But it's, it's so fascinating thinking about, obviously, I don't know if I'mmaking loose, loose ties here, but, it's interesting thinking about hip hop asa vehicle for innovation culture and, and really kind of having its heartbeaton, the current interests of, of a younger population.

And, thinking aboutall the other companies you ran in that access to a younger demographic,especially with Acorns, what does it mean to be within that kind of ecosystemunderstanding? What's gonna be valuable, what's gonna be a low barrier to entryfor people who are seeking out innovation, seeking out new experiences, seekingout other, I guess a common experience.

Like I feel like,hip hop maybe whatever's the popular form of music or genre at that time kindof injects this innovation in, in creativity and, and this this genuinecuriosity, how have you kind of thought about. Giving access, coming from aplace like New York and how are you actually able to give people that accesswithout, giving them that experience?

What if somevehicles you can communicate that?

Noah:I, I, I, I talk a lot about this to, to people who ask, how, how do you, howdid you move from. That kind of world into the, into the business world orstartup world, and the experience of performing in front of crowds like thatall the time. Yeah. Night after night. Small crowds, big crowds, yeah. It, it,it had a lot to, for me, it had a lot to do with understanding what movespeople, how to connect with people. Yeah. How to capture a crowd, how to lose acrowd, effectively, and you didn't, didn't know this at the time, buteffectively, all the things that go into building products.

Building companies,building marketing, it's all about connecting with consumers and understandinghuman psychology. So that, that was, it was night after night of being tappedinto the pulse of, of people and what, and, and their movement. So, so thatwas, that was a really good experience from the perspective, from theperspective of having, being able to build things later.

And I, I think somuch of creating, whether it's companies or products or marketing campaigns, isabout. Having a good instinct about what moves people. Yeah. Being you, youasked about connecting to hiphop, but, but being authentic. Yeah. Not, not, nottrying to be something. Not trying hard. Do you know, creating things that you,that feel honest.

Yeah. And that'sone of the things about Acorns that I, take a lot of pride in is it's a, it's avery authentic, honest brand. Yeah. It's accessible. It's not, try hard, we'renot, We're not trying to connect to any particular audience. We're trying to beaccessible to everybody. Sure. And so, and so we speak in a particular kind oflanguage, keep it really simple.

And, and, and, andI think you can feel, I think people feel that when they interact with, withthe company that, you know.  

Julian:Yeah. It's interesting to think about, obviously Acorns has expanded into manydifferent offerings and many different products. But the initial con. Idea ofusing this idea of change that we all kind of are are, are, it's like a commonexperience thinking about a change jar growing up and things like that.

But really puttingthat into an investment vehicle that compounds over time. It was definitely aninnovative idea at, at the time, using that money, using that spare amount tothen you start to build wealth. And what was the initial kind of, catalyst forthat idea. What, what inspired that idea to then start, growing into other waysto give people access to financial kind of, I guess, systems that they didn'thave access to before?

Noah:Well, Acorns is very much about making big decisions, small, and we like tosay, make big decisions small. Don't make people do math. So spare change iseverywhere around you. It's in the, it's in the jar and, and your cards andyour, your couch cushions. It's in your pocket. It's every, so it's somethingthat everybody can relate to.

Yeah. And investingis complex and something that people can't relate to as well. So, so breakingdown that barrier, was, was fundamental early on in spare change is that thingthat cut through. Yeah. And made it, made it easy for people to understand thatthey could participate in this system that hadn't, hadn't been accessible tothem.

So that's reallyimportant. I think, I think being able to, to connect into people's lives in away that they can relate to especially when you're talking about somethingthat's really, that's really complex for the majority of people. So, sparechange. Was, was, was core to to making, investing something that, you know,that that someone could say, oh, I can participate in this too.

Right. I have sparechange. Right. Yeah. Right. And, and then making it, making it really easy tothen actually invest the spare change and understand where it's gettinginvested and the concept of portfolios and diversification. These are moredifficult. Ideas to explain and, and, and understand. So automating thatexperience Yeah.

Was veryfundamental to this. Yeah. So it was that, that kind of simple idea of sparechange and then combined with automation, so somebody is immediately investingwithout even really knowing that it's happening. And then suddenly you're like,oh, I invested 25 cents and I invested $3. And it starts to add up and little,little bits start like we, tiny Acorns.

Grow into MightyOaks. So it was that tiny amount of money. And then through the power ofcompounding, you can see that become something, something more than itwas.  

Julian:How are you able to change the psychology of people in, in the sense to, thinkabout investing as not putting or paying extra into something that you don'thave currently, but using what you have and kind of almost just like moving itinto a different vehicle to actually grow.

Was it througheducation? Was it through campaigns? Go to market strategies. I feel like, atthe time when you did that, not a lot of people were thinking about ways ofusing what they had and just putting it in a different location versus thinkingin a way of purchasing, say a 401k or putting money aside, losing out to maybegain long term.

It's almost likeyou're working in tandem with that individual. What were some helpful ways youeducated your audience on the difference in that kind of psychology towardsinvesting?  

Noah:Well, on the subject of education, we decided that education was gonna be afundamental foundation of Acorns from the beginning.

Yeah. And so not inthe way that, that typically companies think about branded entertainment orbranded content or content marketing or this content and education is a corepart of the Acorn's product experience. Yeah. And making people smarter makingsure people understand money. It is fundamental to, to, to, to the essence ofAcorns, to the DNA of Acorns.

By the way, thathadn't been done before in financial services. The, the, the history of, offinancial service is often about obfuscating information and, and comp and,whether purposely or not, things being complicated. So people really don'tunderstand, A lot of these people don't really understand even how to read acredit card statement, right?

So, so that ideaof, of, of making sure people understand has been fundamental and we, we carrythat through and everything. We like to say educate at the moment of decisionmaking. Yeah. Make sure before someone is about to take an action, theyunderstand what they're gonna do while they're taking an action.

We're educatingthem about what it means. So if you think about things like the, like, likemarket performance. Or or, or compounding while that's happening, make surepeople understand and then after the fact, make sure people also understandwhat they did Yeah. And, and, and what the results are, of that action.

Yeah. So I, I, Ithink, I think, and that that has a lot to do with the values and mission ofthe company. Yeah. That, that it is really important to us that people getsmarter. That people, we like to say grow your, grow their knowledge. Yeah. Andthis, and then again, this is when, when you, when you prioritize things likethat as a dna, part of the DNA of the company, I think that cuts through.

Julian:Yeah. Thinking about, of course like, Acorn obviously was one, one of the firstto kind of do this whole micro investing. Kind of. The activity, but there'sother companies alike. Like there's Digit, digit recently got bought by acompany, I can't remember the, the acquirer, but there's other kind of microinvesting, micro savings platforms.

But why has, haveyou been so successful? Is what part of what Acorn does, is it the actualvehicle of the way you MicroVest is the education. What would you kind of pinyour finger on while you've been able to not only capture a large audience, butalso maintain that and retain that audience and expand into different productlines?

Being that. That'sextremely hard to do. Not, it's harder to go from zero to one, but it's evenharder to go from one to 10 and and beyond. And, and what was, what makes yourcompany unique in the way that you've been able to keep this kind of a reallyloyal customer base and, and grow these products on against the competitionbeing that they do something similar?

Noah:Yeah. I like, I like Ethan from Digit, they got bought by Opportune. Opportune.That's the company. Yeah. So, and they, and they built a good product too. I, Imean, I, I, I would say it's a couple things. It is, back to the, the point ofauthenticity. It, it, it's, it's about building a brand communication, product,experiences, design experience that's honest and authentic and people canrelate to, and staying true and consistent to those things.

I thinkprioritizing education, like we just spoke about, has been really core. That,that that, that, that we want to make sure that our customers understand whatthey're doing. Yeah. And that we're there in the tough moments when there'smarket volatility that we're, that we're constantly educating and, and we havethese mantras, like every downturn in history ended in an upturn.

And it's not abouttime in the market or it's not about timing the mar timing the market. It'sabout time in the market. Yeah. I think simplicity, simplicity has been reallyimportant. Focused. Has, has been really important. I think being focused isprobably the most important thing in business. So staying focused on the, onthe core, the design of the product, right?

The, the, the kindof the feel of the product is, is really important. And I, I, I, I think to be,to be good at consumer, you have to, you have to balance obviously a greatproduct with great marketing. And so focusing on both of those things and, and,and excelling at both of those things. Has been fundamental and having, havingthose things feel like one, the product and the marketing feeling as if they'reone has been really important to the success of a barn.

So, so those aresome of the things, yeah.  

Julian:Yeah. Thinking about expanding into different product lines, how are you ableto kind of build other products that still kind of, we're surrounded in thecore philosophy of what Acorn does, which the access to opportunity investmentvehicles information. How are you able to define what avenues, to go in ratherthan say, Hey, now we have a credit card.

Now we have,savings account. Now we have bankings and we're pretty much, similar to a, atraditional institution, but you do it in a different way. And, and I'm, I'mcurious on how you think about, product expansion, how to stay around that corephilosophy. That Acorn, kind of conceived in its initial build.

Noah:We don't, we don't have a credit card, which is part of the the point, right,right. Yeah. The, the answer to that question is about staying core to thepurpose of the product, which is making sure everyday people are saving andinvesting Yeah. For the long term. So when we launch a product, it has to comeback to delivering on that idea and delivering on that outcome.

So you talk about,we don't do credit card. We, we do have a, a bank, a spending product. Right,right. But the focus of the spending product is to make sure you spend less andsave more. So that, that, that's really the central, as opposed to this idea ofa dropdown menu of options where you're just sort of launching products thathave no real connectivity.

Mm-hmm. Don't comeback to essential purpose. For the customer and I think aren't clear to thecustomer like, why, why is this good for me? It seems like this is good foryou. If I use this, you guys are gonna make a lot of money, but why is thisgood for me? And what's the central unifying principle of this?

Yeah. And so atAcorns everything comes back to that idea of saving and investing and productsget put through that filter. If we're gonna launch this, it better, it betterunlock that, that possibility.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah, one, one thing, one thing I was really excited about in terms ofthe Acorns ecosystem was, when you shop at certain brands, you could earn kindaequity into the company, and that's a pretty cool idea in terms of, how itreally aligns with what we see at Trending, which is people being reallyconnected with brands in terms of the decision makings they make, where theysource their product.

Kind of all throughthe product life cycle, what does it mean to have that investment with thatkind of brand loyalty? And, and what kind of ways are you, partnering withbrands to show them the value of the, this investment kind of vehicle beingthat, these individuals are gonna become increasingly more loyal as you offerthem more incentives.

What, how's thatchanged in terms of, consumer behavior and consumerism in, in youropinion?  

Noah:We have a, a, a feature that allows customers to earn bonus investments whenthey, when they shop. So it was taking sort of the cash back idea and turningin it on its head, and we call it cash forward.

Mm-hmm. And again,this comes back to saving and investing. So when you shop with Nike, or whenyou shop with Cricket, or when you shop with Chevron in Acorns, weautomatically invest a part of the, a, a portion of the, the transaction intoyour Acorn's account. So it's, again, every, everything you do, coming back tosaving and investing for the future.

And we havethousands of brands when you shop with them. Yeah. You get bonus investments,right into your Acorn's account. It's another way to capture small amounts ofmoney Yeah. And, and put them into your future.

Julian:Yeah. Tell us, for the audience, share a little bit about the traction that'sbeen exciting up to this point, but also, there's been some recent news interms of, expanding the company and, and what you're launching.

I'll let you kindof go through it, but tell us a little bit about the traction you've seen thusfar and, and what's particularly exciting about the next phase of Acorns.  

Noah:So starting many years ago, we decided that we wanted to expand Acorns into thefamily system. Yeah. And the I that, that the idea of financial wellness forthe whole family.

Is a, a reallyimportant and powerful concept. That's, that's, when you think about the largestmarket in the world, sort of the, the family constellation. And, and then whenyou think about the largest white space in financial services it really is thatmarket on a global basis. And that hasn't really been served.

And, and companieshaven't built a, a full offering for, for, for kids, teens, parents, andeverything in between. So that's where we started down that road. We launchedAcorns early in 2020. Which is our saving and investing account for kids. Soour parent customers can easily do that. You can invite the whole family in toparticipate, uncles, aunts, godparents, whatever.

And they can, theycan contribute. And, and so we started down this path to, to to serve the, thebroader family and, and then got to this place where we were thinking about,okay, what about making products for kids? Yeah, this is obviously a reallyimportant thing to get kids. Saving and investing for the future.

Understandingmoney, becoming more financial, financially literate. And we got to acrossroads where we thought, e well either we're gonna go down the path ofbuilding this ourselves. Yeah. Or we're gonna do a deal with someone else. Andwe met the, the team at Go Henry two years ago. And, and for those who don'tknow, go Henry is the, the number one kids money app in the uk.

They had alsolaunched in the us. They're a subscription service like us, but they focus onkids. Yeah. And, giving kids an allowance card so parents can, can reward theirkids for doing chores and, and, and learn about saving and giving and, and allthese kinds of basic money principles and activities that, that, that we thinkwill help set kids up for a brighter future.

The school systemobviously is not, has not prioritized financial literacy for kids. So this hadto be taken into, go, Henry felt they had to take it into their own hands. Sowe just announced that we've acquired Go Henry. That, that means that we're nowin the uk They also have a company called Pix Pay, which is a teen bankingproduct out of France, Spain, and Italy.

And what we'regonna do in the United States we've just started rolling out our $9 premiumtier, and that tier is basically gonna be a bundle of products for adults andkids and, and the whole family. And I think, I think that idea of family andmoney and financial wellness for, for the whole family is very powerful.

And again, I, Ilike to say that fa that, that, that money is a family affair. Yeah. And so,this, this is this is, this is how we're gonna be focused, and it, it takes usto a place where we've got about 6 million, almost 6 million globalsubscribers, which is meaningful.  

Julian:Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yeah. Whetherthinking about an external or internal, what are some of the biggest risks thatyou think Acorns faces today?

Noah:Our, our biggest challenge is always inertia. It's always been inertia. It'sgetting people to start taking a leap and, and taking control of their, oftheir, of their financial future. Mm-hmm. So that's, that's, that's the, thebiggest risk for what we do. And. And, and I think moving society forward froma financial perspective is, is overcoming inertia.

Yeah. And obviouslythe, the, the macro economy, inflation, these kinds of things are challengingfrom a subscription service perspective, but just continue to see that thatinertia is the, is the biggest, is the biggest one biggest challenge.  

Julian:Yeah. Obviously things are going well, but if it continues to go well, what'sthe long term vision for Acorns?

Noah:The vision statement is a financial wellness. System that enables everydayAmericans to save and invest every day. That's, that's the, the, the visionand, and so saving and investing at the center always, but the way Acorns isgonna work in the, in the future is instead of signing up and just getting aninvestment account, when you sign up, you're gonna get emergency savings.

You're gonna getspending, retiring, investing, giving expenses, the whole sort of bundle ofproducts that you need to manage your money holistically. And then when you addmoney into Acorns, it's gonna automatically get allocated across the differentproducts for you, right? So that hasn't been done. We're gonna try to get thepaycheck, that'll be really important so we can allocate it most appropriately.

So you can imagine5% goes to emergency savings, 1% to giving, yeah, 40% to spending 10% toinvesting, to, and then the experience of, of the product will continue to becelebrating your growth, celebrating your milestones, and educating you. As yougo. So that's the concept of financial, the financial wellness system.

And of course,money will be allocated toward your kids as well. Yeah. So they can have abetter future. They can use that allowance card, et cetera, et cetera.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. I love this section. I called my founder F faq. So I'm gonna hityou with some rapid fire questions and we'll see where we go.

So, let's, let'sgo. Love it. All right. First question is, what's particularly hard about yourjob day to day?

Noah:I'd say, the first thing that comes to mind is I, I feel this incredible senseof urgency to get as many people doing this stuff as possible. Yeah. The fact,the, the sooner we can get people saving and investing for the future. The, thebetter society will be, the more of an even playing field we'll have, andparticularly when it comes to people doing that for their kids.

So what'sparticularly difficult about my job is the sense that hundreds of millions not,or billions of people are not doing this today. Yeah. And I feel thisincredible sense of urgency, around that. And I want to, I just, it justfrustrates me all the time that, like that more people aren't doing this.

Yeah. And we can'tget more and more people over that. Over that hurdle because I know once youstart doing it, it's so helpful Yeah. For you.

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. What, what's maybe one or two stories of someone, an experiencethat someone had using the product that really kind of changed their life or,or allowed them to purchase something or allocate money towards something?

Any story kind ofcome to mind that kind of always pops up in your head when you think about whatyour product's been able to do for people?

Noah:Yeah, I was, I was interviewing a woman once, actually for a role at Acorns,and she told me this story about how she had, she had used the product. She,she talked about the idea of saving in the background of life and she was usingRoundup, she was using recurring investments and she really kind of hadforgotten actually, that sort of said it and forget it, notion she hadforgotten that she was using Acorns and then she had it there.

And she gotdiagnosed at, at one point with cancer and, couldn't didn't have a way to payfor her for her cancer bills. And she realized with her husband that she had anAcorn's account sort of light bulb moment I was saying. And, and so she, sheopened the, the, the product and, and realized she had a pretty significantamount of money that she had saved and invested over the years.

That she was ableto use, toward her, toward her cancer payments. Yeah. And we hear those kindsof stories all the time. So that, that type of thing is incredibly motivatingthat, that, that the product can provide that kind of service for people in,in, in need. Like that.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. It's incredibly to hear that and, and it, it brings me kind of tothis idea of, of scaling, I was thinking about, a lot of times, you, you canhear kind of two buckets of founders.

Or two buckets ofleaders, those who start up a company, kind of bring it from conception andidea to adoption and, and, and to the market, and then others that will expandthat idea. We call it the, the builders and scaler kind of concept. How are youable to do both being that kind of the, traditionally they're two differenttypes of personalities and people.

What has kind ofallowed you to adopt yourself in, in your leadership kind of ability andphilosophy through the different phases of the company being that. It's hard todo as a founder, taking it from zero to one, but also taking it, from, from, anadopted concept and expanding it.

What's kind ofallowed you to do that?  

Noah:I'm always learning. I'm always listening. I'm always watching, always, alwaysjust taking everything in and, and, and remaining, I would say remaining agileand remaining open to change. Yeah. I love this, the. The notion that you can'tchange your mind or you won't change your mind cuz you're fixing an idea.

Just or fixing athought doesn't make any sense to me. So I'm, I, I'm, I'm really always justconstantly, constantly learning. I like the Tupac line. I, I don't lose, I winor I learn. Yeah. And I, I think that's fundamental to being able to go throughthe seasons of a company. Mm-hmm. And, and, and, and, you're confronted bythings.

All the time, everyday, every week that, you haven't been confronted by before. So if you're notalways learning and always evolving, and, and staying agile, I don't think, Idon't think you can move that way. I mean, I, I think it's particularlydifficult to do anything this way unless you have that mindset.

So that's, I wouldsay that's it.  

Julian:Yeah. I guess move from an operational standpoint. Is it, bringing certaintypes of people onto the team? Is it, allocating resources or structuring theteam in a particular way? I guess, from, from a foundational aspect and how thecompany operates, how does that change and how does, how does your, I guess,responsibility, day-to-day change as that evolves?

Noah: Imean, it's a similar, it's, it's a similar thing of constantly learning and,and in, in that vein, bringing on people who are smarter than you at certainthings. Yeah, yeah. And bringing on people who are gonna be better at you thanyou are at, at different disciplines, and then empowering them to take thecompany.

Forward andstepping back were appropriate, but, but, but staying close to things that arecore, like the bra in my view, like the brand, the design, the customerexperience. I think you always have to stay close to that when you're aconsumer company and doing the kind of thing we're doing. But, but I think, Ithink if you're always at, we, we, we talk about Acorns as a teaching hospitaland I love that idea.

And, and, and feelthe same. Like I feel like I'm in a teaching hospital constantly learning andand. And, and and part of that is learn is bringing on people who you're gonnalearn from. Yeah. And that's, that's really important to me, bringing onleaders like that.  

Julian:Yeah. How are you able to find and, and hire the right talent?

What questions, Iguess, help you identify someone that is, can be part of the Acorn team?  

Noah:Well, interviews are ter, I mean, interviews are just not very effective. So, Imean, they're, there's this like, Proven to be pretty flawed. So I, I, I, I, Ido interviews, but I don't, I don't, I don't put a huge amount of weight on, oninterviews when I do them.

I'm, I'm, I'mfocused mostly on the kind of, The why for why people make decisions. Sure. Whydo you want to come here? Why do you do what you do? Why is this important toyou? That kind of thing. But finding talent is really about having a widenetwork and, and doing, doing major background checks and, and making sure,making sure you get the, the real, the, the real deal about a person before youbring them in.

And by the way, nomatter what you do, no matter how good you are at that or how good you get,you're still gonna hire the wrong people. Sure. A a lot of times. And so thenthe question is how quickly do you act on that? Once it becomes an issue. Yeah.Which has been for me. A journey because I tend to, I tend to be loyal and topeople, so, but I think, I think once you, if you, if you, if you find that youhave not, you do not have the right person, you have to act quickly and make achange.

Julian:Yeah. What's a challenge that you've overcome in regards to hiring people for acompany that has, heavy compliance, heavy regulation, similar, like, FinTechcompanies, healthcare companies have a heavy burden to making sure people'sinformation is private. What, what's something that's been challenging aboutthe hiring process?

That, incorporatesthat idea of privacy and, and making sure people's information is secure and,things like that. Have you, only hired in, in a certain particular area becauseof it? What, what have been the limitations that that has had on you?  

Noah:Well, Well, I think when you're building a startup, you have this inclinationto wanna hire startup people.

And when you'rebuilding a startup in a, in a category like financial services, which isheavily regulated, you have to strike that balance between startup people andpeople who have, who have industry weight, and who come from the right kind ofexperience. And trying to marry those cultures of startup meets financialservices is tough.

Yeah. So you haveto find the right type of people on both sides of that. Of, of, of that Coinyou, it's hard to find people in financial services who have a startup mindset.Yeah. And it's hard to find startup people who have a scale mindset and anappreciation and respect for regulations and, and these sorts of issues you'reconfronted by in this category.

So I think, I thinkfinding that balance and then, and then marrying those cultures with a clearset of values and a, and a connection to the mission is, so I've, I've tried todo that. I've made a lot of mistakes. I think we've gotten to a place. Nowwhere we have the, the right, the right balance there.

Cuz in thiscategory you wanna move really fast. You wanna deliver fast. There's a lot to,to to deliver for, for, for our consumers and against our mission. But you alsohave to build. High quality product that really works. Cause you're talkingabout people's money. Yeah. So you can't fuck around.

Yeah. Yeah. So, so,so, so that's the, it's not move fast and break things. Right. It's move fastand make things that don't break. So that's, that's the, that's thebalance.  

Julian:Yeah. What's something you're really good at now that you wish you were betteron at earlier as a founder?

Noah:I'm not sure I'm really good at it. It's a work in progress. I'm, I'm, I'm,I'm, I think I'm, I'm getting better, better and better at it, but beingpatient. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I've always been very impatient. And so as a lifelongprocess of, of developing more patience, more patience for people, morepatience for, I mean, impatience, impatience can be a, a, a.

A benefit, but it,but it can also be a real problem. Yeah. So, so I think I've got, I think I'vegotten better at it with, with age and experience, but I still wish, I stillwish I was, I still wish I had a little more page.  

Julian:Yeah, yeah. With at least in the US with the changes to like, fed now and, anddifferent, changes within baking and news and.

There's a lot of, Iwouldn't say volatility, but there's just a lot of, I think, understanding of,of the banking market that people weren't necessarily privy to where they puttheir money. Where does that money go? What are they investing in? How has, therecent news like SVB and Fed now kind of changed the way Acorns does business,or if it hasn't, what are some ways you kind of go past those, updates and, andcontinue to offer service without having to adjust?


Noah:Well, this comes back to the point about education. We do, for instance, aweekly newsletter called, in a nutshell, comes back to Love it Acorns brand.But, but we are making sure that our customers know, what's happening in moneyand what's happening in money now. And we, I think we do a really nice job ofbreaking down concepts like, and, and issues like what happened.

With svb and, and,and the run on SVB and how that, how that came to pass and what it means andwhat it, what it could mean for your money, and, and also we are the operopposite of sensationalism. So you don't, you don't get that with Acorns. It'snot a media business. We're not, we're not, we're not building for clicks.

We're building totry to, create. Customer understanding. Yeah. And, and, and elevate people'sconnection to money and, and and, fundamental kind of handle on, on how thingswork so that they can be smarter. Yeah. And, and, and so that they feel thatAcorns is a, is a brand that they can trust.

Yeah. So that,that's, I think that's a really great. Service we get to provide to societysomething I'm really proud of that the simplification and demystification ofwhat's happening out there with the money minus the sensa sensationalization.And this is particularly important when there's market volatility, right?

Because whenthere's market volatility and you read the the news, you're going to withdrawyour money and stop investing. Sure. When there's market volatility and, andyou consume information at Acorns, you're gonna stick with it, which is theright thing to do. Yeah. Because, because as we say, every downturn in historyhas ended in an upturn.

So that, yeah. Sothat's, that's what, that's, that's what I would say.  

Julian:Yeah. And in terms of like the, the Fed now kind of the up upgrade in thattechnology and its ability to kind of interact with banks and, kind of, it's.It's speed of transaction, but also it's it's ability to be involved in thebanking system.

Does that change,the way Acorns run? Do you, have you had to consider that in terms of how thecompany moves money around and things like that? Has that, been something thatyou've had to build around?  

Noah:No. No. Yeah, no. We, we, Acorns is, Acorns was built for these times in thesemoments. And if I understand what you're, what you're asking now, we have, we.

We haven't had tochange anything in relation to what's been going on recently.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. I always like to ask this question. If you weren't working onAcorns, what would you be doing?

Noah:If I wasn't working on Acorns, I would be working on something in the animalspace.  

Julian:Yeah. What in particular?  

Noah:I'm really passionate about. Animals going all the way back to when I was akid, there was a period where I wanted to be a vet and, and I, I, I have thisfeeling that, humans have sort of squandered the opportunity to manage theplanet.

Yeah. And so, andso the, the question one of the, one of the big topics of our time is gonna be,is gonna be how do we make sure that we can preserve animal habitats and, and,and, and and not continue destroying animal habits. So, so I'm, I'm a big, I'ma big believer in, and, and, and I have a lot of passionate passion for the,for the animal kingdom.

So there's I, Idon't wanna reveal too much, but that's, that's what I, that's what I would be,that might be what I do. What if, if there's ever an end to the Acorns journeyI might, I might do something in the animal space. I love that.  

Julian:Yeah, I love that. I always like to ask this next question cause I love howfounders extract knowledge out of anything that they ingest.

Whether it wasearly in your career or now, what are some books or people that have had aheavy impact on you as a founder?

Noah:Well, I mean, there's a, there's a, obviously a huge amount. I'm a, I'm a bigWinston Churchill fan. Yeah. So, He's often considered the last lion. And sohe, he, his, his courage. Courage is my favorite character. Yeah. So hiscourage is an inspiration for me. Being obviously confronted by one of thegreat one of the great challenges of our, of our time.

So he, yeah, sohe's always an inspiration to me. His words are an inspiration to me, the wayhe defines courage. Is what it takes to stand up and speak. Sometimes. It'swhat it takes to, to sit down and listen. Yeah. He's always been aninspiration. Albert Einstein is, is, is an inspiration. And then I love, I lovemedical books and health books.

Yeah. So whenBreath Becomes Air is a, is a, is a, is a book that I, that I feel particularlyconnected to.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I know we're at the end of the episode here and I reallyappreciate you taking the time, but I wanna make sure we didn't leave anythingon the table. Is there any question that I didn't ask you that I should have oranything that we didn't cover that you wanted to chat about this last littlebit?

Anything that weleft on the table?  

Noah: Idon't think so. I don't, I don't think so. It was a pleasure, Julian.  

Julian:Of course. Yeah. Noah, thank you so much. And last thing is give us your plugs.Where can we find you? Where can you know, we find Acorns, where can we be afan of you as a founder, but also support the product?

Give us yourLinkedIn, your websites. Where can we be a part of the Acorns community. And also, as importantly, go, GoHenry. So in the app storedownload, go Henry or go to It's really. I mean, we acquired thecompany, so I'm biased, but it's a, but it's a great product for parents andkids and teaching kids the value of money.

So I, I, I wouldrecommend to any, anybody with kids or thinking about kids that, that you go, yougo get that.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. No, it's been such a pleasure learning, your early kind ofcareer and what got you to Acorns and how you kind of view this wholeinnovation, creativity, what your consumers are really attracted to, and how that'skind of bled into.

The philosophiesof, of Acorns and how you've been able to really give people access to,investment vehicles and savings and in a way that was not particularlyavailable to them before. So, I hope you enjoyed yourself today on BehindCompany Lines, and thank you again for being on the show.

Noah:Thanks, Julian. Pleasure, man.  

Julian:Of course.

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