Our Start-up of the Week is Wedding Wallet, an app designed to keep financial stress out of the big day and pave the way for cashless weddings.
“Wedding Wallet is a financial management platform, a first of its kind within the wedding industry that takes all elements of organising and paying for a wedding online,” said Wedding Wallet co-founder Justin Kearns.
Wedding Wallet helps couples to budget, save and pay for their big day, and connects them with on-board wedding vendors.
‘Most Irish couples plan their own weddings and, with most couples being tech-savvy, Ireland is the perfect place to enter this very attractive wedding market’
– JUSTIN KEARNS
“We know our couples’ budgets and we know our vendors’ availability and price ranges, so we are ideally positioned to match couples with vendors during the planning stages, saving couples time and helping vendors grow their businesses and seamlessly manage enquiries, send contracts, invoices, and collect payment.”
Kearns said that the global wedding industry, which he estimates is worth €266bn a year, has seen a surge in innovation in recent years – but very little, especially in Ireland, when it comes to the most important practicalities of the wedding: setting the budget, saving and paying for it.
“As a consumer-facing and customer-facing platform, we’re targeting both couples and vendors – a generous opportunity with over 23,000 Irish couples getting married every year.
“Most Irish couples plan their own weddings and, with most couples being tech-savvy, Ireland is the perfect place to enter this very attractive wedding market before we set our sights further afield.”
“Previously, I shared a co-working space with Bart Rojowski and we just clicked. I could see that his background in design and software development was a great match for my background in digital marketing and business management,” said Kearns.
“In 2016, we founded a fintech start-up called Tucr.io and together built an online payments platform … It supports consumers to pay for the moments in their lives that matter the most and, to date, it has managed over €1m worth in global transactions for businesses and their customers.
“Interestingly, 50pc of those are wedding-related so we developed Wedding Wallet as a direct result of identifying this niche market, with Tucr.io’s technology powering it.”
Kearns explained that Wedding Wallet removes the need for any cash to pass hands at a wedding and allows everything to be paid for in one place – a comfort to vendors and couples.
“Couples use Wedding Wallet’s budget planner to get an estimated breakdown of costs for all aspects of their wedding, based on their own available budget. From there, they can request Wedding Wallet to find affordable vendors for each expense, with them receiving a list of vendors who are within budget, available on their chosen date, in proximity to the location. Once the couple matches with a vendor, they can communicate directly over the platform before sending the initial booking deposit. The remaining amount due can then be paid in one payment before the big day or by creating a manageable instalment payment plan.
“Our technology even allows the couple to accept cash gifts by sharing a private link with friends and family, upon request.”
“Wedding vendors can use Wedding Wallet to connect to couples that have an account, and a key thing to note here is that they can also use it with couples who may never have heard of us. For example, if a vendor has an enquiry from a couple it met at a wedding fair, the vendor will use its Wedding Wallet account to send a contract to the couple and collect deposit payment, then manage communication and collect final payment all through the platform.
“This is fantastic because it introduces more couples to our platform and helps spread our reach while also simplifying client management for the vendor.”
Kearns said that the goal is to establish Wedding Wallet in the Irish and UK market, and become the go-to platform for wedding payments.
Taking the plunge
“We trialled Wedding Wallet for three months in the Irish market in late 2018 and got a fantastic response with over €750,000 in wedding expenses logged by couples and over €100,000 in transactions between couples and vendors.
“This early traction encouraged us to reinvest in the product, and on Valentine’s Day we launched our new brand, a new website and an updated platform. Since then we have hit €1.2m in wedding budgets, not only strengthening the marketing opportunity but also detailing how intuitive and easy to use our consumer- and vendor-facing dashboards are.
“The uptake so far is as rewarding as it is encouraging as we consider next steps and further investment. To scale over the coming months, we’ll be looking to connect with people that share in our vision. Personally, I would love to get the Irish wedding industry behind us and have them share in the future success of this product.”
Kearns said that support from Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office has been invaluable.
“But there are certain things you just have to learn yourself as you go; these gaps in knowledge get coloured in quickly when you come up against new problems and you come out the other [side] a little bruised and a bit wiser. These problems could be not doing enough early-stage research before developing a product, or wasting time with people who are not decision-makers, or just being too late or early to market. Whatever the lesson is, hearing about them from experts or other founders is great, but more often than not you only really learn by doing.”
Kearns feels that Irish start-up scene has levelled out slightly, “but it is still very active and I think it will flourish as indigenous skill and talent grows”.
He added: “There has never been a better time to start a company with so many start-up supports available, but the fact is there is not enough ‘clever money’ in the market to support scale-ups.
“As more Irish tech companies do find a way to support scale, it is natural that things will change and we will see more exits, more second- and third-time founders, and more investments being made by experienced, veteran tech entrepreneurs.”
The best ingredient for success, he believes, is hard work. “I think one of the things I’ve learned is that if you focus hard on getting the holy grail of product market fit, you can sometimes miss opportunities for sustainable growth.
“Do things that don’t scale, bootstrap, get customers, get revenue, and always improve your product/offering based on feedback from customer and target customers in your market. This will all eventually help build a better end product, and hopefully for you it will be in a scalable market which will attract investment.”