Oli Mitchell is the founder of Moneycado, an app which helps people budget, save and organise group payments for their holidays. Oli gives wonderful advice about anyone thinking about setting up an app, as well as anyone on the fence about joining an accelerator and just what to expect. The Moneycado mastermind gives both an honest and insightful account to anyone whose looking to grow a team or jump into entrepreneurship. Looking to budget for your travels? Well find them on the App Store where they recently launched just last month…
Name: Oliver Mitchell
Age: 28th March 1991
Where’s home? Born in London, raised in Sydney
Company Name: Moneycado
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?
Yes and no. I always had a notion of studying law – proclaiming loudly from the benches in a packed courtroom – but quickly learned that the reality didn’t match my fantasy. I switched to a business degree and fell in love with both the language and order of the financial system.
What is Moneycado and when did you launch?
Moneycado is an app which helps people budget, save and organise group payments for their holiday. We launched in the App Store at the start of May!
How did the idea for Moneycado come about?
I started with the question ‘How can I make personal finances more accessible and relevant?’. Initially that meant writing blogs (the old ones are actually on 20MC!) and running workshops. I then realised that the key to answering this question was not in education but engagement; building the kinds of money apps which really excite people. In user interviews, holidays came up again and again as a financial goal so I began to focus in this area.
How did you get the ball rolling for Moneycado?
We initially built a chatbot on the Messenger platform, to give users a flavour of what we were trying to do. It was useful as a learning exercise but had very little utility for users.
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for Moneycado?
I liken early-stage entrepreneurship to a big game of chicken and egg. You need users, co-workers, investors, partners and supporters, and you start off with zilch! It’s a constant game of ‘If I got X, then would you contribute Y?’ and then ‘If I got Y, would you contribute X?’ until you have sufficient resources to actually build.
This period can be frustrating, but often great creativity emerges under severe constraints!
You decided to go through Founders Factory. Can you tell us what Founders Factory is and what the process of getting into Founders Factory was?
Founders Factory is a corporate-backed accelerator and incubator. I was initially drawn to the Factory as they had sector expertise in both traveltech and fintech, which are the areas that Moneycado straddles.
The process was thorough. We entered the accelerator programme at a very early stage – we hadn’t yet shipped any product – so the process was more focused on me as a person. I had initial meetings with the Investments team before meeting a couple of other experts within the programme, before pitching with my former co-founder to the Investment Committee.
What advice would you give to someone looking to go through an accelerator and what should others expect?
Two big, and slightly contradictory, things stand out for me.
First, attend an accelerator ready to listen and genuinely take the advice of the people there. Yes, you’re a brilliant and a visionary founder but the experts you’re speaking to understand their domain a lot better! Show humility.
Second, remember that the decisions belong to you. You’ll meet a lot of clever people who will have very valid and useful ideas. You definitely can’t implement all of them, especially at an early stage where your resources are limited. Listen carefully to all advice but be selective about what you implement.
In terms of getting in, there’s no set formula. I used to write a blog each week about my progress and learning which helped make me more visible. Find a way to stand out as a company or founder.
What three tips can you give to someone setting up an app?
- Focus deeply on the user problem ahead of your solution. Set out to collect as much information about how the users currently solve their problem (e.g. managing their travel financially) and what they find frustrating. It’s difficult to overdo this.
- Learn basic product design skills yourself. As a founder, you’re useless if you can’t articulate at least basic ideas through wireframes or user stories. App ideas are common and largely worthless, you need to be able to execute in order to progress your idea and test with users.
- Investigate the no-code route to development. Getting an app developed is hard and costly. You also surrender a lot of control at a critical stage if you use an agency or freelancer. Tools like Bubble, WebFlow and Coda make creating a first version yourself much simpler, and you’ll learn a lot of useful skills in doing so.
How have you gone about growing your user data base?
Slowly! We haven’t spent any time or resource on paid marketing, it’s largely word-of-mouth at this stage. My priority is to have enough new users to get solid, statistically significant feedback about the direction of the product. That way we can focus on improving it until the point that we have built something truly astonishing. Then we market!
Tell us about growing your Moneycado team and any changes you’ve experienced along the way?
In June last year my friend Matt joined me as co-founder. We then decided to split in January, realising that there wasn’t space for two non-technical founders in a tech start-up. Getting on well personally is necessary but not sufficient for a strong co-founder relationship, something we learned the hard way.
In February, Martin, our Technical Lead, and Aveem, our freelance designer, joined. They’re both brilliant and kind people, and I feel very lucky to work with them.
How have you raised investment? Or equally how are you raising investment?
We have raised a small amount of cash from angel investors, though truthfully most of this journey is still ahead of us. It’s difficult to seek investment with a B2C app ahead of launch or meaningful traction, so we’ve focused on keeping our expenses low and making as much progress as possible before we need to go and raise.
How do you think Moneycado differs from the competition out there?
I’d like to think Moneycado exists in a new wave of fintech. Previously products were all about digitising existing experiences – e.g. a slicker payment flow or easier savings process. Moneycado is a combination of multiple functional elements of financial infrastructure, packaged into the experience of going on holiday!
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now about starting a business? I think I was pretty realistic when I started – I was flexible about my approach and very open to learning. I also don’t think a lot more advice would have helped. There are certain things in starting a business that you just have to experience; no amount of advice will help you understand most of the challenges.
What’s a typical day for you working on Moneycado?
I like to start the day at home so I can focus deeply on work in the morning. I’ll usually be at my desk from 6:30am – 10:30am before taking a break and walking into the office. The afternoons are usually full of meetings – either potential vendors, partners in the travel industry, or meeting with users (my favourite!). I’m useless in the evenings so usually finished with work by 6pm.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
I’m very comfortable being self-directed. I was never particularly good at being an employee – I found it restrictive and sometimes frustrating – so having autonomy in how I conduct my day and make decisions is an enormous gift. It’s also forced me to develop very strict working patterns to keep me on track.
Any fuck ups along the way?
Plenty. We released a version of the chatbot in September last year, expecting a torrent of positive feedback. When we didn’t get it initially I panicked and we switched to an entirely new product for four weeks.
With the benefit of hindsight, the product had too little utility to get elicit genuine feedback from users, and we were not patient enough in analysing why it didn’t work. I was very glad for the support of Founders Factory at that stage. Their product experts helped us to time-limit our exploration of the new idea so that we found our way back on track much faster.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Moneycado?
There’s no singular moment where the joy of entrepreneurship has crystallised, it’s more about the feeling of satisfaction at the end of each day. When I reflect about how I spend my time I feel happy – grateful, consistently challenged, and working on a problem I care about with incredible people.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Get started! It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and pontificate, but there’s no substitute for taking your first, stumbling steps. Don’t expect anything to look polished initially, just dive in.
What do you think is next for Moneycado in the next year?
In the next year, I want to have reached the stage where people will organically say to their friends “Oh, you should check out Moneycado – it was a life saver!” when chatting about their next big holiday. If we’ve built a product good enough to elicit that reaction, everything else will follow.
What’s the dream?
To spend my time building and scaling financial products which genuinely bring people joy and to do so with people I admire.
Finally if you weren’t be doing this, what would you be doing?
If I couldn’t start another business, I’d go and re-train as a UX designer. I’ve fallen in love with the process of product design as we’ve built Moneycado.
Just for fun
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…
- Am I learning? There’s plenty of time to live in a nice flat and wear beautiful clothes later, just optimise your time to learn and explore.
- Am I keeping up? Not a healthy thought, I spend too much time comparing myself to other twenty-somethings. I wish I didn’t!
- Am I playing taking enough risk? It’s easy to sit and protect what you already have, far harder to go out and take a big, risky bet. This is the time to do it.
Three startups U 30 I admire are..
- Fountain Money. Dann and Nish are good friends, and I think they’re quietly and patiently building something which will up-end wealth management.
- Trigger Conversations. Georgie is unbelievably mission-driven about creating better conversations, I can’t see a world in which she wont succeed.
- Monzo. They’re a guiding light for us, in the way that they interact with their customers and build product.
The Twenty Mile Club is… An honest account of a messy decade!