In a world taken over by millennials, we can't help but hear about the problems they face on the financial side. Some blame economy, some blame their parents or the bad cases of FOMO. Others, unsurprisingly, blame the copious sums of money they spend on bottomless brunches and smashed avo.
That was exactly the thinking behind Oliver Mitchell's brand identity for Moneycado, the startup that intertwines travel and fintech sectors. As a co-founder and CEO, Oli's vision is to create an incredible savings experience for travel, where the financial product serves as an accessory, taking the agony out of amassment.
About your business
What’s your ‘Elevator pitch’?
Moneycado makes saving and budgeting for travel outrageously simple: you get a budget in 45 seconds, connect to your bank account to save your money, and then find activities and deals along the way to spend your money on.
What’s the app journey?
Moneycado does three things, initially:
- It helps you set budgets - we have crowdsourced data for 180
countries and over 4,000 data points to give accurate budgets about destinations;
- We help you save money. We either connect your existing bank account or help open a new bank account you can save money into, which is separate for your trip.
- We can help you allocate that budget - we have integrations with sites like Get Your Guide and Skyscanner,
so you can choose the flights, accommodation and activities for my trip, and this is how much it’s going to cost. And in doing so, along the way, you are budgeting for your trip, you're putting the money aside for it, and you're making sure that you spend it in a responsible manner.
And where did the inspiration for your business come from?
Originally, I was just really interested in the idea of financial literacy, and so I started teaching people about the basics of money. The more I got into it, I realised that, actually, teaching people about this stuff is not that effective, because the people who are looking for information, probably, will find it anyway. But the magic lies in finding people who do not deem that information interesting - and offering them products which make money exciting for them.
The number one savings goal for people of our generation is travel. And so the question became, "What does an incredible savings experience for travel look like?" An incredible savings experience for travel is one in which the focus is entirely on the travel, and the savings is simply a necessary byproduct. And, well, here we are.
What was your ‘lightbulb’ moment when you realised you could make this a business?
We went for a week-long team trip to Morocco with the intention to shut off our phones and just design the product for a week. After sketching out the first version, we grabbed a bunch of people from the surf hostel to test the app. There was one girl, Lisa, who we took through it, and immediately, we could see the light in her eyes, her whole body language changed, and she was really fascinated. At the end of the test, she looked up and said, "Oh, so can I keep this?" and we're like, "Finally, we're getting somewhere here! This is the product we're going to build!".
What customer problem(s) are you solving?
It's a very natural impulse to want to save for short term goals. So, if I say to a customer, "Tell me about a trip that you're planning to go on", they'll say in great loving detail about the places they want to go, the time of year which is best, all these exciting details, and I'd say, “Great, well, how are you financially preparing for it? How are you saving?". And immediately, that's a party killer - the light goes out of their eyes.
There's an issue - people have an impulse to save and financially prepare for these things - they feel better when they do, but the existing range of solutions doesn't work.
We see ourselves as helping people develop that savings muscle, giving them short term rewards, and that dopamine hit, so they can then a) get the holiday they want in the short term, but b) also develop that savings muscle, so that they're prepared financially for the other, bigger milestones in their life.
What makes you different in the market?
If I look at the landscape of savings and investment apps at the moment, I can describe them as digitised versions of existing products. We are a travel app, which is powered by banking data. I'd like to think that we are a step change in the evolution of what a financial product should look like.
What’s been your greatest success to date?
The moment I knew this was happening, was when we got the investment and the admission into Founders Factory. The fact that they invited me to pitch, accepted our application, gave us a bunch of money and six months support - that was the moment I realised that people other than myself and my immediate family are backing me in this, and I thought, "This is pretty cool! This is the time to shut up and do it!".
How do you see your market and business evolving over the next 3 years?
The way I see the business evolving is twofold: firstly, I really want to build out the idea of incredible savings and budgeting experience for travel. The other part of the expansion is looking geographically. At the moment, we're very lucky in the UK - we are frontrunners in open banking. Over the next three years, that's going to expand worldwide: Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Japan, and, perhaps, even the US. And so my personal opinion is that the firms that win the UK markets have a running shot at getting a global reach. And that's where I'd like to see us, of course.
What’s been your toughest moment? And what are the key lessons you took away from the situation?
The toughest moment for us was 4 weeks after we started at Founders Factory. What happened is... you come in with no product, and there's a whole bunch of really smart people who say, "Oh, try this and try that” and they are all right, which is frustrating, in a sense. You get pulled in all these different directions, and at the time there was only two of us, so we found ourselves flitting between ideas, assumptions and products.
It was really tough because it made me think, “Actually, do we have the fortitude to take the product to market? Or is that we will be spinning around, doing bugger all for a while?". What helped for us, what put us back on track, was to step out of our everyday, and take it way back to the customer problem we're solving. We worked right from the ground up and rebuilt the product - that was a really formative moment in the journey.
What advice would you give to a startup entrepreneur taking their first steps?
When I started out, reading all the books I could find on entrepreneurialism. They all made good sense in theory, but I could not apply any of it on practice. I sat down at my desk and I said, "Oh...what do I do now?..”
That’s when I decided to write a weekly blog about my own journey. And actually, that turned out to be the thing which really got me going a) because there was a bit of social pressure - I had to write every week, otherwise, it would be embarrassing; b) because doing so helped me reflect upon what I was learning and re-adjust every week.
So, I would say, find accountability - either people you already trust, or start publishing and sharing your journey right at the start. And then, just accept that you're not going to have all the answers. You're not even going to know the questions to ask, and you have to stumble blindly into a bunch of walls in order to get going. And that's okay!
How did you approach investment opportunities? Have you raised external funds?
The first investment in the business was a gentleman we met through Founders Factory - we started off simply exchanging advice about the business, which was super useful. And it wasn't until a few months later that we talked in specific about investments, and then a couple of months after that, it hit the bank.
What I found with investment as a young entrepreneur, is that, actually, you're probably going to muck it up the first few times - it's a strange dynamic and it's a strange conversation to have, if you're used to working in a corporate environment.
So give yourself a little bit of permission to not be that smooth straightaway, and also, do not be transactional about it - it's very much (and this is a huge cliche) about building the relationship and establishing the mutual connection. And then, to be honest, the investment should follow naturally thereafter.
Is there anything you know now, that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Well, building community is super important; being ready to fail is very important; being able to pick up stuff very quickly; being able to build teams, or at least, supporters. And after listing all these things, I realise that with entrepreneurship there are no silver bullets. It's a lot of tiny little lessons you pick up along the way. The overriding thing is your attitude towards this - do you have a growth mindset? Are you willing to fail and learn? If so, you can play.
What do you believe are common mistakes that founders make?
Here's one that I made (I wouldn't talk about founders in the abstract). You get very precious about your ideas. Everyone tells you not to, but you still do, because it's your baby. And it's very tough to listen to customer feedback well. But, being able to remove yourself and your ego from a situation, obsess about the customer problem rather than your particular solution for it, makes the quality of customer discussion, the quality of your product iterations so much higher.
About your team
What are your company values in regards to your team?
The Moneycado team is three: myself, Martin, our lead developer, and Aveem, our designer. I’m super lucky to have both of them - they are absolutely fantastic, and the dynamic when the three of us sit together and work through a problem is really constructive - we're always interested to hear about each others' ideas and that gives me a ton of confidence for helping develop the company and the product.
"I realised I can actually be crap at a few things. No one is going to judge me for it, mainly, because no one's even watching me!”
What does entrepreneurship mean to you? How did you decide to start your own business?
I freaking love it! I'd never do anything else. The way that I got into it, to be honest, was through a lot of books at the start. I was working in product management in banking and was absolutely fascinated by stories about business leaders.
I had a little bit of a quarter-life crisis, where I said: "I don't want to be that guy, a mid-level banking executive in his 40s, I don’t want that to be written on my gravestone!". That’s what gave me the kick, and I thought, "There's gotta be something more than this! I'm going to build something for myself." The genesis of it was this desperate desire to do something more than just push emails around in a bank.
My advice is - don't start because you're running away from your job, start because you're being pulled towards the new venture! When you're trying to do something new, you feel stupid because you don't know how to do it, and you think that all the people around you will judge you. The reality and the harsh truth is - no one cares! Everyone is wrapped up in themselves. And once you internalise that idea, it's very liberating, because you can go,"Great! I can actually be crap at a few things. No one is going to judge me for it, mainly, because no one's even watching me!”.
Describe your work-life balance
Your primary output, as a founder, is decisions and ideas about what to do next. The more mentally fatigued you are, the lower your quality of decisions is. Taking time off to reflect and rest is not only good for you, but it's actually good for your business and your product.
At the start of the year, I promised myself that I would have at least one full day off a week. And I made it one of my goals for the year, so I felt like when I was doing it, I wasn't cheating - in fact, I was achieving something.
How do you relax outside of work?
I do a lot of hiking, which Is really cool. A lot of physical pursuits and then a little bit of theatre, when I can fit it in. I like to sing and act, but also love to just go and see a ton of shows in the West End.
Favourite business book & why?
The best business book which made the most impact on me is, probably, Ben Horowitz’s “The hard thing about hard things”. It’s so incredibly detailed about what is actually going on inside of a business and inside of a startup. A lot of the books are a little bit too theoretical. On the broader point, I would say, it's very useful to be doing these things and reading about them at the same time, because if you just do them, you lack the perspective to change your behaviour.
App you can’t live without?
The app which I can't live without is Headspace. I think, meditation helps founders in giving the distance on things, Personally, it allows me to take one step back and go, "Cool, there's a bunch of problems here, but actually, I can just deal with them calmly one by one."
The problems are never going to stop, the quality and size of them are, if anything, going to increase. So, being able to have a healthy mindset about solving them is, I think, can be really important for long-term success.