Strange hoodies, JCRs signed up and intriguing Facebook activity, the new app “Cashew” seems to be everywhere. But what is it? Who are these guys taking on Silicon Valley?
As I was waiting outside Cornmarket’s Pret, a tired looking man in an intriguing maroon hoodie appears. He introduces himself as Jamie Cox, one of the three founders of Oatpay and I ask him how 0th week is treating him. “Great! Very busy. I’ve just had to coordinate 59 boxes of 3,000 Cashew hoodies being delivered to St Hugh’s. You can imagine the porter’s face”
Before our chat about the app even starts, Jamie’s vision for Cashew is revealed as he pays for his smoked salmon sandwich: “Cashew (part of Oatpay) is a new app coming out which uses industry-leading security to make it easier to buy tickets online for a handful of events which we are helping to run.” Jamie is particularly proud of the fact that over 6,500 Oxford undergrads are already using the oatpay system.
I start to ask Jamie who’s behind the app. Jamie is the on-the-ground Oxford partner, with David Hsu, a computer science grad from St Hugh’s, working on the project full time, allowing there to be a live-help facility. Jamie explains that the duo decided that “at the moment there are three ways you pay, as a student. Cash is unhelpful for paying for tickets, since you rarely keep that much cash on hand. Similarly, to plug in account numbers and sort codes is also a pain. The last option is an app like Tilt, which does have its merits, but is complicated to use with some features charging. We are simple and don’t charge users a penny”. Clearly, the demand is there and their astonishing usage in the last three months, launching in Oxford where they are committed to partnering with 7 major university balls.
I ask Jamie what he brings to the Cashew party, if his partners are Computer Science grads (I’m not sold on the idea that Classics and apps go hand in hand) and he explains that he has always been entrepreneurial. He tells me “when I was 12 I tried to make dinosaur cutlery for the Natural History Museum, but after that flop I went to start selling Roman themed soap in Bath Spa’s gift shop. Who knew that 3,000 bars of Roman soap were so in demand?” Sounded quite fun to me…
Jamie’s spirit is infectious and getting caught up in the Wolf of Wall Street vibe I ask him how much money he is earning: “We aren’t making any money at the moment”, he replies with a smirk. Instead, they are running off a combination of investment from their previous ventures and funding from investors. I ask who this mysterious person is, to which Jamie replies, “I’m not allowed to say the name, which is really annoying, because they are pretty high-profile”. Its obviously not just me they are impressing…
So what’s next for Cashew? Well, they are focussing on establishing the brand in Oxford before branching out at all. But the most refreshing thing about speaking to Jamie is that despite the raw ambition it does genuinely feel that their venture isn’t all about making money. The low rates, lack of data sharing and simplicity are designed to help users and the events to which they are partnered. Perhaps that’s why despite their phenomenal success they recently turned down an “offer from the UK’s biggest seed fund” as they don’t want to hand over a huge amount of equity and loose control of their unique approach.
As my phone, recording our conversation, starts to run dangerously low I bid Jamie farewell and walk down a busy Cornmarket quite genuinely in awe of this impressive set up. Of course, the world of apps and technology is cut-throat and merciless but if I were a betting man (which I am) I’d put money on us seeing a lot more of Oatpay in the future.