Oli & Matt's Startup Story: Co-founding the world's first savings account for travel
Before meeting at an Escape Startup Accelerator, Matt and Oli had successful careers in digital marketing and finance. Since then, they have quit their jobs and gone on to launch the world’s first savings account for travel. Here they share their journey to entrepreneurship…
What business have you started and why?
Moneycado – a new savings account for your bucket list that rewards you along the way.
Matt: I have always wanted to work in the travel industry and find a way to inspire others and share the amazing experiences travel has given me. Helping and encouraging others to successfully save for their next trip is the first step in getting them to experience the beauty of travel.
Oli: I believe strongly in making great financial habits accessible. In my view financial literacy is not the answer, rather we should be seeking to build financial products which make sense in the context of people’s lives. This is our contribution.
Describe your life before you founded your business. What were you doing professionally?
Matt: I was employee number one in a digital marketing startup. I was responsible for growing and managing the team and business development. Although it was extremely rewarding working in that environment, I wanted to run a business that I felt a connection to. From an agency perspective, you are always looking for ways to grow other people’s companies and brands. Often there is no personal connection to the brands you are working with which makes it challenging.
Oli: I worked in product management for HSBC in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
How were you feeling at this point in time?
Matt: I was feeling like I was in a bit of a rut. Once we had grown the business the fun stopped a bit and I found myself doing the same thing day after. Managing client expectations and doing sales call after sales call following the same script I had developed. I had also moved to London and decided to work remotely, away from the team I had built in South Africa. I missed the team environment and wanted a fresh challenge. That’s when I started searching for something new. I was bored and lost the feeling of relatedness to my job.
Oli: I felt frustrated. The learning curve for my role had levelled off and I was searching for something more, where I could build something with genuine social benefit.
What main blockers were stopping you from starting your own business before joining The Startup Accelerator?
Matt: I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Although I have worked primarily in startups I have always had someone to seek advice from at work who could guide me in the right direction. I knew that setting it up on our own would be a challenge as we would need to find these advisors outside of our own environment. Another blocker was money. Starting a business means no salary until you convince an investor to back you or make sales. Having a savings pot for exactly this reason is what has allowed me to venture out into the unknown and take the risk.
Oli: So much of my identity was tied up in my work. I took pride in being a high-achieving professional and working for a well-known bank. Entrepreneurship was a foreign island.
Why did you decide to join The Accelerator?
Matt: The first week I moved to London I attended an Escape meetup. I had read about all the amazing work they were doing and followed their content. I wanted to meet the team in person. I was invited to a mentor day to speak about my experience of working and growing a startup which led to being offered a coaching position on the next Startup Accelerator in January. I was working full time but knew that joining them would be an incredibly rewarding experience and give me the opportunity to meet more of the Escape community, and my co-founder, Oli. Although I went into the Accelerator as a coach I knew I would learn a lot from the experienced team at Escape and the other inspiring people on the course and jumped at the opportunity.
Oli: I went to a ‘taster’ workshop which Ben ran in December 2017. I was well versed in the theory of product development, but it was laid out in practical terms. As soon as I walked out the door I sent in my deposit for the Startup Accelerator.
What did The Accelerator mean to you?
Matt: Being part of the Escape ‘Tribe’ is exactly that. A Tribe of incredible people. People who push you outside your comfort zone to get your idea out there and support you along the way. It’s like being part of a big family. Everyone is in the same position and everyone wants to help. There is no competition. It’s all about progress together. The one thing that resonates the most with me is the support system Escape has nailed. The culture of help each other and help yourself is incredible.
Oli: It created structure. Building something from nothing is lonely and doubtful. Having a tribe of people who are struggling with the same issues, who you see and share with each week, is unbelievably powerful.
How have you managed your finances whilst moving into entrepreneurship?
Matt: I have some savings tucked away to support me on this journey and decided to use that. I have cut down spending on entertainment. I try to cycle (until my bike was stolen) or run to where I have to get to. London is actually quite an affordable city if you not going out anymore haha!
Oli: I’m drawing down on savings. I was happily overpaid when I worked in banking and I don’t really like spending money, but it’s still really stressful going without an income. In the context of a 50-year career and the amount I’m learning I have no hesitation, but it creates a persistent low-level anxiety.
What has been the best advice you’ve received/most helpful thing you did?
Matt: Embrace the journey. Know that there will be difficult times ahead but also remember the reward is worth it.
Oli: I committed to writing a weekly blog. It’s helped me to reflect each week on my progress, and to share the journey with my network who have then pitched in with advice, connections, and support.
What have you been up to since finishing Escape’s course?
Matt: I continued in my position with the digital marketing startup until Oli invited me to join him as a co-founder. Since then, we pitched to and were invited to join Founders Factory accelerator program which we will be starting in September.
Oli: I handed in my notice at HSBC 2 weeks after finishing the Startup Accelerator. I was wavering on whether to commit full-time to Moneycado until a friend (and fellow escapee) gave me some brilliant advice. She said that I shouldn’t expect to have all the answers when I start, simply the confidence to back myself to figure it out along the way. Then I went for it.
What are you doing now? What does your day-to-day look like? Matt: Today I am finding new ways to reach our potential customers. As we are still very early stage we are testing target market assumptions through different marketing strategies. I split my time between learning and doing. Bootstrapping your company means you have to do it all. Sometimes there are things I have only read about but never implemented so it’s a constant learn, test and iterate environment. My main priorities at the moment are building our waitlist and getting our idea out there.
Oli: Today I’m writing the investment thesis for Moneycado to attract seed investment. Tomorrow I’m meeting a customer to run some research, and a couple of other Fintech founders to speak about open banking developments. There’s very little pattern to my calendar, which is both intoxicating and vaguely alarming.
What has been your biggest challenge since joining Escape? Matt: The biggest challenge for me is marketing a product without budget and something that is completely new. I am used to working with companies who have a marketing budget and previous data to work with.
To deal with this, I have embraced learning. Reading as much as I can and doing online courses to become a master at my craft. I am trying to build a network around me of other skilled marketers in this space. Something which is a challenge in itself.
Oli: The biggest challenge was finding the courage to commit full-time to Moneycado. Since doing so, I feel set free.
What’s felt like key milestones so far?
Matt: Everyday we have new subscribers to our savings bot we know we are on the right track. Every subscriber feels like a milestone!
Oli: The biggest milestone was having Matt come onboard as co-founder. Solo entrepreneurship is very tough, you feel like a bit of a crazy hermit sometimes. Having someone else commit to your vision is the first important validation that you’re building something of real potential.
How are you feeling about your work now?
Matt: I love the feeling of autonomy and relatedness. I love being able to work on a product that I really believe in and know the benefits it will have for our current and future users. The best thing about it is that work doesn’t feel like work. It’s just something you want to do. I am most excited about when we help our first user successfully save and go on a trip of a lifetime. I am excited that we get to help them create those memories.
Oli: I feel challenged. Each day brings a new problem to solve, a new assumption to confront, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What advice would you give to those feeling the way you did before you began your escape?
Matt: Know that the journey is going to be long. It will probably get harder before it gets easier. Stay true to your vision and what you are connected to and things will work out. Go outside your comfort zone and you will grow as a person. Stop worrying about what other people think!
Oli: You know those people who you think are judging your progress and choices? They couldn’t care less, they’re really just worried about themselves. You may as well go after something that matters to you.
Matt and Oli met at Escape’s Startup Accelerator in January 2018. To start saving for your bucket list, find out more here. And if you’re a travel blogger, travel influencer or a marketing/partnership manager working the travel industry and interested in working with Moneycado, Matt and Oli would love to hear from you!