Spring 2014 Magazine

Synthetic Biology

The Well-connected Money Man

Houston Frost (PhD ’07), co-founder of Akimbo Financial, believes the future of banking is now.


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After surviving the financial crisis of 2008 as an associate at J.P. Morgan, Houston Frost concluded that Wall Street wasn’t for him. He moved back home to Texas and began looking for ideas for a new business.

Houston Frost, PhD '07It didn’t take him long.

“I came across the prepaid card banking product and thought it would be neat to design a new checking alternative and debit card from the ground up,” he remembers. “We began thinking about how to create an online and mobile consumer banking product that had a social focus—a debit card that connected people.”

That sense of connection makes the Akimbo Card different from other pre-paid cards, says Frost, who co-founded Akimbo Financial in 2010 and now serves as president and CEO. Described as “a next generation debit card,” it allows people to put money in the pocket of a friend or loved one instantly by using a mobile phone.

Using the Visa-branded card, Akimbo members can access funds almost everywhere, including ATMs. The “sub-card” feature, which allows members to manage up to five additional cards, offers a handy way for families to pay allowances or small businesses to manage corporate expenses.

So far, the company has raised approximately $2.4 million from angel investors and mailed nearly 30,000 Akimbo Cards loaded with more than $14 million. With a goal of $1 million in revenue this year, Frost hopes to expand to a $50 million-a-year business within four to five years.

Not easily discouraged by the challenges of a start-up, Frost says he owes his persistence and determination to the lessons he learned while working on his PhD in chemical engineering at Northwestern.

“My time at McCormick instilled the belief that I could learn anything and gave me the ability and confidence to take on any problem,” he says. “It’s the kind of confidence you gain through the complex problem solving you practice as an engineer. If you can learn statistical mechanics and quantum chemistry, why can’t you start a financial services company?”

By: Sara Langen