Our Start-up of the Week is My Money Jar, an app that aims to improve financial resilience by making impulsive spending harder and promoting basic savings habits.
Kevin Treacy’s mission is to make unconscious spending more difficult. Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, he explained that this is particularly important as money is becoming “more invisible” for many of us as we start to use less cash in our day-to-day lives.
Spurred on by this idea, Treacy co-founded the My Money Jar app in 2018 with Jonathan Staunton and Johan Reveillard. It aims to help users keep track of saving, spending and sharing finances.
“In the past decade, wages have remained relatively flat, while the cost of living has increased dramatically,” Treacy said. The result of this is that many people are now living beyond their means, which is creating “unprecedented levels of financial stress”.
“This financial stress has a significant negative impact on businesses, with employee financial stress now being the single biggest cause of reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and sick days, and even increased employee churn,” he added.
“Most leading employers already provide workplace wellbeing programmes aimed at improving the physical and mental health of their staff. My Money Jar wants to be the solution to employee financial stress.”
Treacy explained that My Money Jar is built on a standard white-label banking-as-a-service platform, provided by Prepaid Financial Services.
“While we utilise some financial technology in our solution, we are very different from neobanks,” he said. “These businesses are improving customers’ relationships with their banking, while My Money Jar wants to improve people’s relationship with their money.”
The company is currently in the early stages of commercial pilots, with four SME clients providing My Money Jar to their staff.
In October 2019, the start-up received approval to operate under the e-money license granted to Prepaid Financial Services by the Central Bank of Ireland. In November, it released the beta version of the app and closed a pre-seed funding round of €700,000 led by Enterprise Ireland.
‘We encourage you to lock your money away from yourself so that it’s available to you when you really need it’
– KEVIN TREACY
Treacy said that the start-up has consciously added a level of friction between the app’s users and their capacity to spend impulsively through the app and its tools. Users have to actively load money onto their cards in order to spend it, which allows them to set a definite limit for card spending.
“We encourage you, quite literally, to lock your money away from yourself so that it’s available to you when you really need it, for the things that really matter, like rent and bills,” he said.
Users can allocate different amounts of money to various ‘jars’ that can be used to budget or save. For example, they can create a weekly coffee jar, a monthly rent jar or a mortgage deposit jar.
Payments into and out of jars can be automated, so users can configure automated recurring bill payments and not have to manually process them each month. The app also offers a rainy day jar, which encourages users to create a savings habit.
“Our systems are more directed towards what you are going to do and what opportunities you have to improve, based on previous and current behaviour, as opposed to just telling you what you’ve done in previous months,” Treacy said.
“It’s worth noting that we operate with industry standard security protocols and systems, we are [payment card industry] compliant and our users’ funds are safely stored in an Irish bricks-and-mortar bank.”
Treacy grew up in Belfast and studied politics and economics in France, before switching paths to become a cinematographer. He spent time working in Los Angeles, Belfast and Dublin, making low-budget films, and said it was here that he learned how to attract and retain teams, fundraise off just an idea and squeeze the most out of scarce resources.
Staunton, who is chief commercial officer of the business, has been active in Dublin and London’s start-up scenes since 2012. He previously worked as CCO of Brandtone, where he led global expansion across India, South Africa, China, Russia and south-east Asia.
Delighted with where we have got to thus far, onwards and upwards now! 👍 https://t.co/sB8BM26KgR
— My Money Jar (@MyMoneyJar_) March 20, 2020
Reveillard, the CTO, has worked as a consultant in Austria and worked with advertising agency TBWA, where his clients included BMW, Bank of Ireland, Electric Ireland, Dublin Airport Authority, RaboDirect and GSK.
Treacy said that the team’s ultimate goal is to equip a generation with the tools to empower, nudge, educate and gamify better personal decision making and behaviours around money.
Looking ahead, he said that the company plans to launch a seed round in the fourth quarter of this year to fund scaling in Ireland and the start-up’s entry to the UK market. The company is also setting its sights on the US market, where there is demand for workplace wellbeing tools.
The Irish start-up scene
“In February, we attended the Enterprise Ireland Start-up Showcase in Croke Park, as one of 91 new high-potential start-up portfolio companies,” Treacy said. Weeks later, Croke Park became a drive-thru testing centre for suspected coronavirus cases.
“This highlights the profound changes sweeping through the country, which will have an immediate impact on the start-up scene in Ireland, particularly with regards to access to capital,” he added.
Prior to the current crisis, Treacy said that the Irish start-up scene was “booming”, with an incredible base of talent across different sectors of the ecosystem. As a fintech company, My Money Jar has benefited from “those who already blazed a trail in this space”, he said.
“There is great help to be accessed by engaging with fellow founders in the Irish start-up community, who are happy to share problems, experiences and ideas with one another.
“We are part of the incredibly supportive Huckletree community, and at times of increased uncertainty, the greatest reassurance and rebooting of belief can come from your own peer group of fellow entrepreneurs who are facing the same challenges.”
Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.