Olivia’s AI assistant encourages mindful spending and saving

15 Jun 2020

Olivia founders Cristiano Oliveira and Lucas Moraes. Image: Olivia

Our Start-up of the Week is Olivia, an AI-powered financial assistant that looks at your spending patterns and provides tips on how to save money.

Managing money is a stressful task at the best of times. Olivia co-founders Lucas Moraes and Cristiano Oliveira recognised this and decided to create an automated fintech tool that aims to help users get more out of their money.

Firas Said, a senior project manager at the Palo Alto-based start-up, told Siliconrepublic.com that the idea for Olivia was born after Moraes and Oliveira realised that they could create an automated budgeting solution “where users don’t actually have to think about what they’re spending”.

The team built an app that consolidates details from a user’s bank accounts and incoming and outgoing transactions. Olivia’s AI technology then proactively provides users with insights on how they could be spending their money in order to improve saving habits.

For instance, if you regularly spend €40 per week on taxis, Olivia can challenge you to reduce that to €30 next week, or set similar challenges for lowering grocery budgets.

Introducing Olivia to Ireland

Oliveira has a background in tech and AI, having been a founder and CTO of Spring Wireless, a Brazilian cloud-based mobile application company. Moraes, meanwhile, comes to the business with a slightly less conventional background. He was previously a professional motocross athlete, but began to study entrepreneurship before meeting Oliveira.

After launching in the US and Brazil, they have now brought Olivia to Ireland through a partnership with pensions and life assurance business Irish Life.

Because of the partnership with Irish Life, the app has been able to launch without advertisements. Said explained that the support the start-up is receiving through the partnership is “pretty much the only revenue we’re getting from users in Ireland”.

A person holding an iPhone underneath a plant with the leaves obscuring the screen.

The Olivia app. Image: Olivia

He said that the start-up is not selling or sharing data with third parties, so its long-term revenue model is going to depend on partnerships such as this one or with retailers.

“We could look at our users and realise a lot of people have Vodafone cell phones and then we could go and negotiate on their behalf with Vodafone or potentially any other party saying that we have a very good critical mass of users over here if you want to provide a certain discount,” Said explained.

He added that Olivia takes advantage of new regulations such as PSD2 and open banking, which enable consumers to connect third party apps to their bank accounts.

“The Olivia team thought there was a big market in Ireland from surveys and questionnaires that they conducted,” Said explained. “We realised a big ask within the Irish customer base was for a financial wellness app, so we began embarking on that journey in April of last year.”

The app is now available on iOS and Android devices in Ireland.

By launching the app in markets as diverse as Brazil, the US and Ireland, Olivia is looking to create a richer dataset that can make the app’s predictive capabilities stronger over time.

Keeping customers engaged

Most smartphone users will be familiar with notification fatigue – from Duolingo’s pleas for attention or those Apple Watch reminders that it’s time to take some deep breaths. So one of the challenges for Olivia is finding ways to keep customers engaged.

“We have a great product team who are constantly thinking of new features and ways to engage the user,” Said explained. “In general terms, the whole reason Olivia was created was because we don’t think that financial wellness is ever going to become an issue that a user can set aside.

“We think that there will always be ways to do better, provide better insights and that the month over month returns will encourage users to keep coming back to the app.”

Gamification is an important part of the app, according to Said. “People like to feel like they’re succeeding and with Olivia,” he added. “The app will regularly challenge you to decrease your spending or increase your savings, depending on what your finances look like.”

A person holding a smartphone showing a white app.

The Olivia app. Image: Olivia

Natalia Hazarian, Olivia’s head of marketing and branding, added that the app’s AI can help users in ways other than managing money.

“We’ve had a user who identified a water leak at home,” she said. “She understood her monthly bills had a certain pattern and one month her bill had a higher value, which prompted Olivia to ask what caused that. After interacting with the app, she then discovered the leak.

“It all comes down to the intelligent recommendations that Olivia can provide to users. For us, it’s not really that simple to go through all of the data that’s available to us at the same time to understand what the best breakfast choice is or what the cheapest way to buy something that we want is.

“Olivia’s AI learns from data to help make recommendations to simplify that for users.”

Updated, 11.20am, 16 June 2020: This article was updated to clarify that Olivia is also available on Android in Ireland.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic