Start-up of the week: Plynk

24 Apr 2017335 Shares

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From left: Clive Foley, Plynk; Lesley Tully, Bank of Ireland; and Charles Dowd, Plynk. Image: Naoise Culhane

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Our start-up of the week is Plynk, a messaging app that lets users send each other money within conversations.

Fintech Week

Founded in 2015 by Charles Dowd and Clive Foley, Plynk offers a money-messaging app that lets phone users chat one-to-one and in groups, and send and receive money instantly from within the chats.

“Plynk is a money messenger,” exclaimed Dowd. “We use the familiar setting of a chat app to allow people to make person-to-person payments instantly and for free.”

‘17pc of all payments globally are person to person. We aim to capture this part of your spending. First in Ireland, then targeted EU countries and then into the US’
– CHARLES DOWD

In recent months, Plynk raised €725,000 from a number of sources including Bank of Ireland’s Start-Up and Emerging Sectors Equity Fund, which is managed by Delta Partners. Additional funding was provided by the latter, Enterprise Ireland, NDRC and a number of angel investors.

The market

“Our initial target market is 18-24-year-olds on college campuses across the country,” Dowd said.

“Long term, 17pc of all payments globally are person to person. We aim to capture this part of your spending. First in Ireland, then targeted EU countries and then into the US.”

The founders

Dowd is a former IBM and Microsoft executive who has been involved in multiple start-ups with a couple of exits.

“Most recently, I spent five years at Facebook between Dublin and Mountain View.

“My co-founder Clive is a Full Tilt and Wonga veteran with years of experience building products in highly regulated industries.

“The rest of our team have experience across all sectors, from finance to consumer,” said Dowd, gaining insights from Ding, Citibank and Uber.

The technology

“On the user-facing side, we have a mobile app that looks like a messenger but is sitting on top of some complex financial products,” Dowd explained.

“All our engagement in the app is driven by bots and on downloading the app, users are engaged in conversation by Plynkbot, who asks them some simple know-your-customer (KYC) questions.

“Once answered, the user is issued with an IBAN and Mastercard so they can begin loading and spending money on their Plynk account instantly.

“All transactions on the network take place instantly thanks to our unique way of managing multiple accounts across one platform. Right now, we require the user to set up their account with Facebook for anti-fraud and connection reasons. As soon as you sign up … all your friends on Facebook will be connected to you on Plynk.”

Dowd said that the ultimate goal is to build a person-to-person payments network.

“Right now, the banking network handles large business-to-business transactions well. The card network handles point-of-sale and consumer-to-business transactions.

“The missing network is person-to-person payments. Once you solve this problem of social payments, you open up a whole host of possibilities for users, developers, marketers and freelancers currently operating in the ‘gig’ economy.”

Momentum

Plynk recently hit its first big milestone of 4,000 users on the service.

“And, with some big co-marketing deals in the pipeline, we’re hopeful to really accelerate growth over the summer,” said Dowd.

“There’s a few big technical milestones we still need to reach, and [we] are actively hiring engineers and developers to help us get there right now.

“We’re all set for the moment, but that’s not to say we won’t be looking for more to fuel growth in the future.”

Dowd said that operating in a highly regulated space such as payments comes with significant challenges.

“But we’ve so far been able to overcome them. Finding top talent is always a time-consuming process and no doubt we’ve had delays along the way, but we’re hopeful that the next few months will be some of the most productive for Plynk thus far.”

Tough ground to seed B2Cs

Dowd said that it is a tough time for a B2C technology venture to raise seed capital.

“VCs and angels are both searching for the ‘safe bets’ of B2B SaaS companies, with X amount of annual recurring revenue (ARR) and Y amount of international sales.

“In my view, the whole point of investing is to actually take risks, so a little more latitude from the purse-holders could potentially breathe a lot more life into the scene in Ireland.”

His advice for other founders is to reach for the stars. “Go big and don’t be too worried about the first 18 months.

“It’s likely that 50pc of what you do then will have no bearing on where you end up. I’ve been around for a while and I’m still learning on the job.”

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Updated, 4.42pm, 25 April 2017: This article was updated to amend a quote following clarification from Plynk on the definition of ARR.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com