Spriggy was founded by Mario Hasanakos (above left) and Alex Badran (right). It’s a card and an app that gives parents the opportunity to turn their kids’ pocket money into a valuable learning experience. Complete with visual savings goals, kids learn how to balance earning, saving and spending in a fun way. It launched in November 2016, but it’s already developed a passionate following that’s spreading largely by word of mouth.
Initially, Spriggy started as a product for millennials. Meant to empower and inform, it was developed to address the widespread financial illiteracy that Mario and Alex observed while working in the institutional side of banking; an illiteracy that banks took advantage of for profit. “The way we would make the most money is when our customers didn’t know what they were buying. … there was a sense between both of us that we could purpose that education and privilege towards helping our customers be successful with money,” says Mario.
There’s a real conspiracy of silence around money, Mario discovered, which works against the average person. Unable to talk about money, they couldn’t possibly ask for help, either. So the idea was to provide financial literacy in the form of a bank account alternative. The product responded perfectly to a need, and thus seemed destined for success.
But there was a hitch. People didn’t want it.
“We had this experience where we had so many of the people we were interviewing saying, ‘this is great, this is fantastic, you guys are going to be so successful, but it’s not for me.’”
Customer’s didn’t want to leave the traditional banking model, they just wanted more transparency around it. What the founders thought was a scepticism of financial institutions, actually just turned out to be misplaced anxiety about the management of their money. When you have anxiety, you find avoidance; and in a privileged country such as Australia, people can get away with not having to think about money all that much.
“You can build the best digital experience in the world.” Mario says. “It could be out of this world awesome, [but] if apathy is an effective alternative, people will choose that every time.”
It’s all about the kids
Not wanting to give up on the idea, they started looking at kids and their parents. They discovered parents were so much more willing to change the way they handled money to give their kids the financial literacy they didn’t have. Mario and Alex found they could help drive the positive change they wanted to see about financial literacy at a much more fundamental, behavioural level by being part of the process parents go through to teach their kids about money, how it works, and how to manage it in their everyday lives.
But the question remained: how do we interest children in something as dry as finance?
“We had a discovery reasonably early on that if you wanted the privilege of a child’s attention, you had to give them something that was important to them … ’Cause if it looks like homework, if it feels at all like homework, you’ll lose the kid in an instant.”
Aside from it being fun, what kids responded to was their newfound autonomy and accountability.
“Really, the thing that the kids tell us that they’re super excited about is the independence and responsibility that the product had. It gives them an opportunity to make their own decisions, which is just so important for a child as they’re growing up.”
Listen to your customers
It’s been 18 months since the founders ditched their original idea of the millennial product to develop Spriggy. Their recently expanded team of eight is based in the Sydney CBD. But when they were just starting out, they had no previous entrepreneurial experience and found support in the H2 Ventures accelerator program. H2 gave them some funding and support along the way, and experienced mentors who could advise and guide them.
But the biggest lesson they learnt was in practice, and it was to listen. “The repeating mistake that we make over and over again is not to listen. You always are tempted to think that it’s your idea and you know better, and the truth is you almost never do. The voice of your customers is just so important. They really have everything you would ever need to know. You just have to listen. So if we’ve ever made any mistakes, we’ve wasted time because we didn’t just cut to the chase and do the things that they were asking for.”
Even though they’ve only just launched, Mario and Alex have clear ideas about where they want to take Spriggy and goals for its future application. “It’s to deepen the educational offering of the product. To encourage kids to be more entrepreneurial about the way that they earn by proactively doing chores or by setting up their own business funded by their parents … like a small lemonade stand or anything.”
They’re also excited about being able to provide families with the information and the feedback that they need in order to understand how their kids are doing with money, and then be able to use that information to help their kids out.
And Mario’s advice to first-time entrepreneurs? “Do a lot of talks. It’s a different ecosystem now than it was 18 months ago. There’s a lot more help and support out there for first-time entrepreneurs. I’m blessed. We had lots of support too. Two years before us there was even less, but these days there’s no shortage of people out there who are willing to give you that early support to get started.”