French fintech start-up Joko raises €1.6m to reimagine loyalty cards

3 Jul 2019

From left: Nicolas Salat-Baroux, Xavier Starkloff and Alexandre Hollocou. Image: Joko

Joko plans to use its new funding to recruit more developers and data scientists to its team.

Joko, a French fintech start-up founded in 2018, was set up by CEO Xavier Starkloff, COO Nicolas Salat-Baroux and CTO Alexandre Hollocou, who had a shared aim to reinvent loyalty cards by integrating them into credit or debit cards.

This morning (3 July), Joko was pleased to announce that it raised €1.6m in its latest round of fundraising. Joko’s investors include Partech, Axeleo Capital, and Lafayette Plug and Play, as well as several angel investors from the fintech sector.

Joko set out its vision to potential investors, telling them: “Traditional and single-brand loyalty programmes are no longer appropriate for the customised buying experience that millennials want. With most brands, it is necessary to have the loyalty card with you and to scan it when you pay.”

The company pointed out that millennials are beginning to turn their backs on loyalty cards for that reason, but also because “the consumer accumulating points on each of [their] programmes has little visibility on the benefits” they receive, which makes the experience “disappointing”.

How it works

With a mobile app that has launched on both iOS and Android in France, Joko will turn an individual’s credit or debit card into their loyalty card. “After connecting the application to their bank through a secure interface, customers automatically accumulate reward points every time they use their usual credit card in dozens of big retailers such as McDonald’s, Uber, Starbucks, Zara and many more. When paying, there is nothing to scan, nothing to say, nothing to do; the user is automatically notified after their purchase and can check their points in the application.”

From the application, points can be converted into gift cards or donations to charitable associations. Joko also plans to customise the user experience with a “layer of artificial intelligence that suggests offers truly adapted to users’ habits”.

Starkloff said: “Our ambition with Joko is to build a strong brand; a product used by millions of people that retailers reward on a daily basis.”

Gamifying the product

Joko has been in beta for the last few months and, according to the company, “it has already been adopted by tens of thousands of people, with the user base doubling every month. Users have already earned tens of millions of points since the launch of the beta.”

It’s clear that as well as offering benefits to users, Joko will be useful for retailers and businesses, which can use the app to acquire and build loyalty through customised offers. Joko’s founders believe that gamifying their product has resulted in a “real impact on the frequency of purchases”, while providing retailers with a good idea of each user’s average shopping basket.

Pieter Lammens, director of Lafayette Plug and Play, explained why he felt compelled to invest in Joko: “As soon as Joko arrived in our fifth acceleration batch, we were immediately seduced by their vision and ability to execute. Today, as an investor, we are convinced that the Joko solution will have a major impact in the medium term for retailers in the recruitment and entertainment of millennials.”

Joko uses technology that was only made possible by the introduction of the EU’s PSD2 (Payment Services Directive 2) regulation, which gives consumers the power over their own banking data.

Alison Imbert, investment director at Partech, said that Joko has “an extremely strict respect of the use of data”. Joko claims to be the first mobile application in Europe to use the PSD2 regulation to redefine the loyalty card experience.

Explaining some of the technology that sets Joko apart, the company said: “Using machine-learning techniques, Joko has developed a transaction categorisation and intelligent identification engine that is able to identify merchants with unprecedented accuracy.”

Joko plans to use the funds raised in this round of investment to recruit more developers and data scientists to join its existing team of 15, currently based in Paris business incubator Station F.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic