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From Goldman Sachs to enterprising apps

You’ve worked your way up the corporate ladder since graduating, you have a secure job that takes you all over the world, then out of the blue a colleague asks you if you want to start a business together. He doesn’t have an idea, but he had a dream he wanted you as a business partner. Would you take the risk? Alumnus Jinesh Vohra did.

Escaping London’s built-up urbanity, Jinesh (BSc Economics, 2005) chose to study at Warwick. During second year, when everyone on his course was looking for internships, Jinesh remembers writing 20-30 applications, focused on getting into investment banking. His goal was Goldman Sachs, a place where he was initially offered a ten-week internship – that internship was extended to 12 weeks and eventually turned into a job offer before his third year even began. “I was so relieved going into my final year and when it was done, they sent me out to New York for three weeks, which was really exciting and a great way to start my career.”

He stayed at Goldman Sachs for 14 years, rising up the ranks and going on to be responsible for around a third of the organisation’s operational risk. He travelled frequently to India, New York, Salt Lake City, and Hong Kong.

“You really learn to develop your skills; you learn how to handle pressure. The kind of errors that I worked with could cost the firm millions of pounds. So, it was high pressure, it was intense, but I really enjoyed it.”

The last thing on Jinesh’s mind was leaving, but he had always liked the idea of starting his own business. That opportunity presented itself via a colleague who said he was leaving to start his own company and asked if Jinesh wanted to join him.

“This essentially sparked the whole thing. When I went back to him, he said, ‘I don’t really have an idea, but strangely I had a dream I should contact you.”

His business partner was no stranger to entrepreneurship; he was the only person in his family that had ever worked for a corporation.

Entrepreneurship was in Jinesh’s blood too. His grandfather travelled to Kenya at 14 to find work, starting out on a construction site and eventually going on to open his own business. When Jinesh’s dad came to the UK, he had five pounds in his pocket and no job prospects. He went on to own an accountancy business.

Inspired by their forefathers, Jinesh and his business partner would meet with their laptops in the cafeteria and think up potential business concepts.

“We probably went through five or six ideas – all the ideas you get really excited about, thinking, ‘oh, this is going to change the world.’ But when you put it through two to three weeks’ worth of analysis, you find out the idea is terrible, and it's not worth leaving your corporate career.”

After five months, they came up with Sprive, a free app that uses smart technology to help homeowners become mortgage-free, faster. “It made sense. There was a gap in the market. We talked to people in the industry – investors, potential customers – trying to understand how we could build the technology. Everything was lining up and with everything we had on a PowerPoint, we managed to raise £300,000. And I thought, ‘You only live once.’ That’s when I left my job. I haven’t looked back since.”

Jinesh knew that time spent in validation was key.

“It's so important as a start-up founder to think carefully through everything before you take the risk, because most businesses fail. The failure rate’s something like 90%. Especially in the kind of company we created.”

After almost five years, Sprive is thriving. It works with 12 of the largest lenders in the UK, such as Nationwide, Santander, and Barclays to help customers get the best deals on their mortgages. It’s also partnered with stores like Morrisons, Waitrose, and Primark, so if you make purchases with these brands through the Sprive app, you are rewarded with extra money towards your mortgage.

With the cost-of-living crisis making costs soar, Sprive is well-placed to help people across the UK. The company now has 13 members of staff, including a fellow alumnus as their Chief Technology Officer. And Jinesh acknowledges Warwick’s integral part of that journey.

“Warwick massively influenced who I am today. I met my wife there and, without her support, I would never have been able to start Sprive. Also, the people I met and the network I’ve been able to tap into has been a vital part of growing Sprive to where we are today.”