ANNA (which stands for Absolutely No Nonsense Admin) is positioning itself in the increasingly crowded challenger market by targeting small businesses and entrepreneurs in the creative industries, like advertising, entertainment, crafts and even distilleries.
The company is not a bank but works with banks to offer services to small businesses, including invoice management, payments, payroll and domestic bank transfers. Moving forward, the company plans to introduce the ability for users to send invoices and chase payments.
Earlier in the year, I caught up with ANNA.Money and interviewed Daljit Singh, their Chief Design Officer.
Who’s in the team?
ANNA was co-founded by Boris Dyakonov and Eduard Pantaleev.
Dyakonov co-founded Bank24 in Russia in 2002. In 2013, together with Pantaleev, they founded KNOPKA; a digital assistant to unite banking and other useful services. Soon after they both created Tochka — an idea that became the world’s largest SME-focused digital bank and later launched the first Facebook-bot for bank payments.
Singh founded Digit, a digital design agency in 1996 that was later bought by the largest marketing agency globally; WPP in 2005.
He later founded ‘Conran Singh’ with Sir Terence Conran and The Happiness Company — a creative consultancy. Singh has established global strategies for Audi, HSBC and Harvard Business Review. Even more impressive, is how he has appeared in the FT’s “Top 50 Creative Minds” twice.
Where is ANNA based?
Their office in Cardiff hosts their superb customer support team who respond to every request 24/7. The rest of the operation is in London, including where the founders, design, marketing and product team live; to ensure they are able to oversee ANNA and its development. Then in Moscow, there is a team of 30 developers who are building enabling product’s constant evolution.
So where did the idea of ANNA come from?
Singh said that the team recognised and understood how admin, as most start-ups come to realise, is not a loved pastime. Excited entrepreneurs would much rather be focusing on product and client growth than the tedious back-end work.
“With this obvious insight, we developed the idea for ANNA. We see a future where ANNA would not only take care of things like invoicing, but be a handy digital assistant in your pocket that will do much more”.
A special feature that grabs a lot of attention and is a major user experience plus is the miaowing debit cards. Singh explains how “the miaow notification is designed to be fun — we want business owners to enjoy what they do, even if it involves spending their hard earned money. It will help business owners keep track of what and when they’re spending, with a cheeky reminder every time they make a purchase”.
“A recent survey found that 90% of small business failures are down to cash flow issues, so we’re doing all we can at ANNA to help business owners keep on top of their incomings and outgoings. We even have plans to release our own ‘lucky cat’ for businesses, which will connect to the ANNA platform and purr loudly whenever an invoice is paid in”.
Benefits of working in Start-Ups
Being part of something new is exciting and exhilarating, but it’s hard work. In the current climate of increased connectivity, working in or growing a start-up is now a viable alternative to the norms of a job in one place. Singh explained how when he set up Digit, he did so through a passion for design, and explained that the passion must be at the heart of any new venture — as when times become difficult it’s that ‘love for what you do that will drive you to succeed’. With the experience too, it beats everything into submission — real experience prepares you for each new venture. However, ensuring you have your ears and eyes open to new ideas is an essential ingredient to success.
He explains that a big benefit of working at ANNA is that he is continuously surrounded by smart people who all share a vision, which is always a good motivation to come to work. However, the drawback, he continues to explain, is that you have to have the energy to ”get beyond the excitement, as the staying power will always be tiring, and the system generally works against you when you need simple things like a mortgage, but that seems to be changing”.