086: Boston Speaks Up with Smoov Founder Tucker Cohen
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tucker Cohen is the Founder & CEO of Smoov, an app that makes it easy for couples to split their expenses automatically before they have a shared bank account. Smoov has enjoyed a popular beta period in Boston for its ability to save people time, money and headaches.
Cohen is an entrepreneur with a range of experience on the west and east coasts, and grew to become a very active member of the Boston startup community in recent years. He is also an Web3 maxi as an early investor in Acala and Polkadot, as well spending time as a VC Scout for SHL Capital.
Prior to Smoov, Cohen spent time in various sales and growth roles helping early stage startups build and scale their sales processes and teams. He also served as a Sales Core Leader at Underscore VC. Of note, he built and scaled the go-to-market team at Breezeway as the Head of Sales.
In May 2021 Cohen started Smoov for the same reason most people start any venture – he had a deep desire to fix a problem that he was experiencing personally. It all started when he and his fiancé were sitting down after a month abroad in Madrid. During the trip they were spending time with family and going out to dinners and most meals. Once back in Boston, they were reviewing their various credit cards and expenses, using a spreadsheet to tally up the damage of who paid for what over the past month, and sending Venmo’s to each other to settle up. As they were going through this tedious process, naturally they were chatting and came to the conclusion that “this sucks... and there must be a better way.” The impetus for Smoov was born.
On this episode of Boston Speaks Up, we chat with Cohen about his past experiences, his recent move from Boston to LA and his plans to grow Smoov as it emerges from beta.
Where did you grow up? And how would you describe your childhood?
I grew up in a small town north of Boston called Marblehead. I was lucky enough to grow up at a unique moment in time where I remember the onset of computers and technology in our lives at a young age, but I was part of the “go outside and play” generation of kids that doesn’t exist anymore. I played all the sports, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, tennis…
Who were your role models growing up?
My role models, outside of my parents, were mostly musicians and athletes. I loved MJ and Slash from guns and roses.
What is the first career you remember wanting to pursue?
I always wanted to control my own destiny in terms of a career. I grew up running the typical neighborhood money making operations, door knocking to shovel driveways or rake leaves or mow lawns, lemonade stands etc as long ago as I can remember… My first job was when I was 14 working in a kitchen and that experience provided me a lot of insight into what career I did NOT want to pursue. Of course I worked in 7 other kitchens after that… But yeah if I couldn’t be a pro athlete or rockstar, I’ve always wanted to work for myself and do something that helps people.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome getting to where you are today?
I have a hard time getting out of my own way. Imposter syndrome, coupled with some missteps surrounding leaders and mentors throughout my life and career - coaches, bosses, teachers... Ultimately these challenges have allowed me to maintain an increasing level of focus and responsibility for what happens. If something goes wrong with Smoov, regardless of what it might have been, I always trace back the situation to how it was my fault. This level of ownership is daunting but also empowering.
What do you love most about having your own company?
The deep sense of responsibility and pride. I control my destiny. As a caveat this is a double edged sword as it’s equal parts daunting and terrifying as it is empowering and motivating. The only thing more scary than not reaching your potential is actually reaching your potential…
Can you explain the rationale behind your recent decision to move from Boston to LA to grow Smoov?
For the past year people have been telling me that Boston is going to be a challenging environment to raise capital and build a consumer tech business - which it has been. LA has a litany of consumer tech success stories and has a much more open mind in terms of the opportunity for consumer tech. LA is the heart of media and entertainment and Smoov is the consumer’s, consumer tech platform. We have a great story to tell and this is the best place for the next chapter to unfold.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy’s 2018 Frequently Asked Questions, roughly 80% of small businesses survive the first year. Only about half of small businesses survive past the five-year mark. Only about one in three small businesses get to the 10-year mark and live to tell the tale. What are the most important characteristics of those who make it to that 10-year mark?
Smoov is just approaching our 2 year mark so hard to say what the next 8 years have in store for us. Speaking in terms of the companies I’ve worked with over the years I’d say the two biggest characteristics are the ability to adjust the business quickly and adapt to change while maintaining a deep conviction about the solution you’re working on.
Having worked in sales at various companies, both large and small throughout your career, do you have any advice for young people that are hoping to grow in the field? Where should they start? Any things you wish you did when you first started?
Sales is all about resilience and persistence. Managing your emotions to stay consistent during your highs and lows. Having a repeatable process that you can follow is a secret weapon. Finding peers or mentors in sales who you can use for high level advice or situational expertise
Regarding your time at Underscore VC, what did you like the most about your role? VCL has some great friends there and appreciate the community-driven approach they take to helping Boston startups.
Underscore has been great to me. It was unfortunate timing for the Sales Core Leader role as we started right at the beginning of covid and were only able to host one IRL event. After covid the Sales Core became more of a digital community but at that time when all of us sales leaders were trying to figure out how to navigate the new dynamic of covid, it was extremely helpful to have the sort of support group of peers to share challenges and ideas with. Developing the relationship with underscore paid dividends as they went on to let me use their amazing office space in Boston to build Smoov out of.
What are you going to miss most about Boston?
Sports. Family. Friends.
Now, getting into the incredible company you’ve started… Why did you first start Smoov? What was that “Aha” moment where the light bulb turned on?
Like we sort of mentioned at the beginning the concept for Smoov was born out of necessity. MY finance and I were spending a lot of time and wasting a lot of manual energy to do this right and in a world where my phone opens when it sees my face, there just has to be a more modern approach to this. The “aha” moment wasn’t really one specific moment but more like a series of events, the first was when I started to research the tech and see if it was even possible to build something like this. The second was when I started researching trends within relationships to see if others
Where do you see Smoov in 2-3 years from now?
You really never know with these things because there is a lot of forces that are out of our control but I can tell you that we’ll do everything possible to maintain our focus on helping couples with money, and see where that takes us. I think if we can help couples get their money right with solutions that they’re craving, we’ll find success.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
10 years from now I can see myself bouncing between southern California, Spain, Boston and Wyoming managing a family office sized investment fund.
FINAL QUESTION: We like the idea of ending our episodes with a challenge for the listeners/readers. Whether it be reaching out to an old friend, reading 5 pages a day from a book, creating a new healthy habit… what is one challenge you have for the listeners?
A timely challenge for everyone would be to take 30 days off of alcohol and see how they feel. I’ve done dry January 6 years running and every year I find myself more focused, fit, healthy and happy. My key takeaway on cutting out substances is less about none, ever and more about, moderation and appreciation.