CMO moves: From Airbnb to Fintech
Updated: Apr 14
Former Airbnb Marketing Chief Jonathan Mildenhall joins US banking startup Dave. Mr. Mildenhall will have a nine-figure marketing budget to boost Dave’s profile and customer base in a crowded challenger bank category.
Jonathan Mildenhall, who has held senior marketing roles at Coca-Cola Co. and Airbnb Inc., will lead marketing for less well-known banking upstart Dave Inc., with the goal of building its brand and bringing more people into banking, he said.
Mr. Mildenhall has joined Dave, a three-year-old financial services company that says it has 7 million customers, in the newly created role of chief marketing officer. Director of Marketing Jordan Gladstone, who previously oversaw marketing, will report to Mr. Mildenhall.
Dave has raised $186 million from investors including Mark Cuban and Norwest Venture Partners, and will likely raise more funds through an eventual initial public offering, Mr. Mildenhall said.
Mr. Mildenhall, who had been consulting for Dave through his firm TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, wants to expand the company’s user base by promoting its services and creating an online community around the subject of financial planning and literacy.
Dave caters to people who have not had bank accounts and people who don’t want to pay expensive bank fees or overdraft penalties. People who sign up for Dave pay $1 a month for access to financial planning and job-finding services, as well as overdraft notifications for their bank accounts outside Dave. The company, which is part of an emerging financial services category called fintech due to its technology offerings, also offers a separate banking option with a debit card.
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“This is building a product that literally can go up against some of the prejudices and biases of the traditional banking system,” he said. “I have a history of working with big, splashy brands. I want Dave to be the biggest, splashiest, most aspirational and accessible fintech brand in the U.S.”
Dave’s success in the long term depends on whether it can capitalize on the customers it gets, said Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst at investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. “There is a cost of forgoing all of these fees,” he said. As the fintech space crowds, it could also see heightened regulatory oversight, he said.
While Dave is less well-known than Mr. Mildenhall’s previous employers, its annual marketing budget will grow to more than $100 million in 2021, he said.
“When I got to Airbnb the total marketing budget was just $25 million,” he said. “This is fintech, and marketing budgets are vast. We really have to work hard to ensure that every dollar we invest on Dave feels like it’s 10 times bigger, so we can compete.”
This year, Mr. Mildenhall will focus on building a “Dave” community on social media, such as Facebook, where users can have conversations about finance. But he intends to join the biggest ad event of the year before too long.
“By 2022, I have every single expectation Dave will be out on the Super Bowl and I’d like to think it can dominate the Super Bowl conversation,” said Mr. Mildenhall, who ran a Super Bowl ad for Airbnb in 2017.
Mr. Mildenhall said he would continue to work for other brands at the consulting firm he began when he left Airbnb later in 2017, though now only one day a week.
Author: Alexandra Bruell at email@example.com.
This story was originally published in the WSJ here.
About Dave: Dave is a US-based challenger bank. Founded in 2016, the company has already gained a unicorn status and received a $1B valuation from its latest "Series B" round on Oct 1, 2019. Dave currently has over 7 million user members and is backed by Shark Tank investor star Mark Cuban.