Capital One has now made another acquisition aimed at improving its product design capabilities with today’s announcement that it has bought Oakland, California-based Monsoon, a design studio, development shop, marketing house and strategic consultancy. The 40-person Oakland team, which has done work developing apps and sites for companies like Yammer, Zazzle, the NBA, HP, Cisco, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, and others, will remain in their offices following the deal’s close while the remaining staff – around 35 persons – will continue on as a rebranded agency called Kunai.
Deal terms were not disclosed, but we understand that it would have been similar in size to other acquisitions of this size at Capital One. Monsoon co-founders Sandeep Sood, Neil Tolani, and Rishi Mehta are joining as a part of the acquisition.
The two companies had been working together for around six months ahead of the acquisition on an upcoming Capital One product designed to support small business customers. According Skip Potter, Managing VP of Engineering at Capital One who orchestrated this deal, as the two companies continued to work together, they realized they were aligned in their philosophies around product development, and Monsoon had the skill sets Capital One needed as it continues to try to re-invent banking for the digital, mobile age.
As for Sandeep Sood, Monsoon co-founder and CEO, he says he took the meeting with Capital One largely because Monsoon’s team had been “huge admirers” of Adaptive Path, which Capital One bought last October. That earlier acquisition had some scratching their heads – why was a bank buying a design firm? – but it represented Capital One’s new focus on turning itself from being just another bank into being more of a software company.
With Monsoon, the bank also hoping to give itself another injection of not only design and development talent, but also a certain kind of reinvigorating culture.
Sood describes Monsoon as an intentionally small team, in free-flowing workplace where individual ownership is the norm. “There’s very little centralized management…we let developers make design decisions on a daily basis. We expect it from them, in fact. Then we also have the weirdness of a small, tech consultancy in Oakland,” he says. It also, fortuitously, works out of an old, historic bank in Oakland.
Meanwhile, from what Sood saw of Capital One, the team there seemed to value more in-house product development and an open culture.
“I think part of the reason we’re being acquired is our culture,” notes Sood. “Being able to maintain that to some level and still being close to have some impact on [Capital One’s] San Francisco office is a really nice, organic way to take advantage of culture.”
Plus, he says Monsoon is looking forward to being able to do long-term product development at Capital One – something that the project-based nature of a consultancy doesn’t allow for. Previously, Monsoon would have 12 to 15 projects running at a time, to give you an idea, and it has worked with over 100 clients to date. The firm had never raised outside funding.
Going forward, the Monsoon team will work on a variety of projects, including the small business project underway as well as the Capital One mobile banking app.
That app (pictured) is also relaunching today, and while Monsoon didn’t have a hand in the upgrade, Capital One is already taking steps toward being the kind of mobile banking app the company wants to put in front of customers. The app includes features like a credit tracker (your free credit score), human-readable transaction histories, maps and contact info for merchants and more along with tools to do anything with regard to your finances, whether that’s borrowing, spending, saving, or checking.