Jan 25th 2017
By Steve O’Hear (techcrunch.com)
London-based Cleo, a startup that’s developed an AI-powered chatbot to help you manage your finances, has picked up $700,000 in funding from an impressive list of angel investors, including Skype founder Niklas Zennström.
He’s joined by Zoopla co-founder Alex Chesterman, Wonga co-founder Errol Damelin, Albion co-founder and Atomico Executive-in-Residence Jason Goodman, Atomico Partner and The Climate Corp. co-founder Siraj Khaliq, Lovefilm co-founder Simon Franks, and Moonfruit co-founders and Entrepreneur First Partners Wendy White and Joe White. I also understand the round actually closed late last year.
Noteworthy is that Zennström has invested in a personal capacity not via Atomico, the VC firm he founded and manages. And whilst that’s not unheard of — though not always publicised — it would suggest he is bullish about Cleo’s prospects. Given his and other Cleo angel investors’ ties to Atomico, however, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the VC appear in the fintech startup’s future A round, should or when it happens.
Founded by Barney Hussey-Yeo and Aleksandra Wozniak, after they teamed up at company builder Entrepreneur First, Cleo is described as a “financial assistant” powered by AI. It takes the form of a chatbot, either via the Cleo app or Facebook Messenger, and through integration with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Home.
The result is that you can chat to Cleo via text or voice to interrogate your bank account and credit card data in order to keep track of your spending and hopefully budget better. This includes things like asking for your current balance, a breakdown of how much you’ve spent that month at a particular merchant, and setting budget or spending reminders and alerts.
“We’re trying to reduce the complexity and increase the transparency of financial services for our generation,” Cleo’s CEO and millennial co-founder Barney Hussey-Yeo tells me. “Cleo’s an AI financial assistant that makes managing your money incredibly simple… using artificial intelligence and machine learning you can ask Cleo nearly anything about your finances”.
To that end, Hussey-Yeo says typical users are young professionals and graduates who are keen to easily understand where their money’s going and to start saving. “They’re used to using world class products from Facebook, Snapchat and Uber and expect more from their bank,” he says.
Meanwhile, the burgeoning startup is yet to monetize, though future plans include offering its own “faster, more flexible and cheaper financial products”. Hussey-Yeo also conceded the ‘manage your money’ space is increasingly competitive, and name-checks challenger bank Monzo for its impressive execution.
Adds the Cleo CEO: “There’s a clear arms race going on to become the financial interface for this generation. Taking the ownership and control away from banks will be amazing for the consumer but will also create oversized returns. This is Europe’s chance to build a Google or Facebook sized company”.