Entrepreneurs, Profiles

“It takes an army”: Co-founder of pocket money app Spriggy Alex Badran on growth, getting some perspective, and securing backing from Mike Cannon-Brookes

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Spriggy

Spriggy co-founders Mario Hasanakos and Alex Badran. Source: Supplied

Pocket money app startup Spriggy has seen a 380% increase in its customer base, quadrupled its headcount, and secured funding from Atlassian co-founder and Australian startup legend Mike Cannon-Brookes — and that’s all in the past 12 months.

Founded in 2015 by Alex Badran and Mario Hasanakos with an initial $300,000 investment, Spriggy provides a mobile app that allows parents to give their children pocket money digitally, by loading cash onto a prepaid card for the children to use.

The app also allows kids to monitor their spending, in a bid to teach them good money management skills.

The startup was named as an emerging fintech star in the KPMG Fintech and H2 Ventures Fintech 100 list even before the app was officially launched in November 2016.

In August last year Spriggy raised $2.5 million in a funding round led by Perle Ventures and Alium Capital, plus other undisclosed investors.

And last month saw another funding round closed, this time backed by Grok Ventures, the investment company of Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes. This round also saw a repeat investment from Alium Capital, and again, additional undisclosed high net-worth individuals.

Spriggy has not revealed the total value of this latest funding, but Badran tells StartupSmart the business has now raised more than $6 million, to date.

As well as securing more cash in the bank, Spriggy has seen a 380% increase in its user base over the past year. It’s onboarded around 100,000 new members in the last year, and now has approximately 135,000 people using the platform.

According to the founders, this has been achieved primarily through word-of-mouth and referrals, as well as through social media campaigns.

The focus within the business has very much been on scaling, Badran says, through reaching more families, “but also growing as a startup”.

Spriggy’s team has grown from four people this time last year to 16 staff members today, and includes “really talented people who are quite passionate about what they do”, Badran says.

Having an influential investor on board in Mike Cannon-Brookes is also a big win for Spriggy, Badran says.

“We’ve had support of investors since day nought, but having good people around us who believe in not only what we’ve achieved to date but also in where we want to take the business is really empowering,” he adds.

Although the startup has grown a lot over the past year, there’s still “a long way to go”, Badran says.

“Having people who can see us through that journey, through the highs and the lows, is really important,” he adds.

A household name

The funds from the latest capital raise will be dedicated to developing the product further and continuing to improve it, Badran says.

Fortunately, the families using the app already are “very vocal”, he says.

“It’s no secret what we could build to make their lives easier, so we’re really excited about resourcing the team a bit more to deliver on the product features that they want to see,” he adds.

Earlier this month, the team expanded Spriggy to be available to children aged six and over — previously the minimum age was eight — as a response to demand from customers.

Additional features in the pipeline include a ‘tasks and chores’ functionality, intended to “help parents teach kids lessons about earning money”, Badran says.

The co-founder is also particularly excited about a new “blended families feature”, which can bring extended or non-traditional family members into the picture.

Badran has four nieces and nephews and he says he leaned on them heavily when he was designing the app.

“I would love to be able to use the product with them,” he says.

“Right now, we don’t really cater to the diverse families that you see … there’s a very real use case,” he adds.

“Our product-market fit has been pretty well validated, but there’s so much more we could do with the product and we’re eager to continue to deliver into our customers’ expectations.”

Eventually, Badran can see the day when Spriggy will become a household name. Even now, when the founders see kids out and about using their Spriggy cards, “that’s a pretty cool feeling,” he says.

“It takes an army”

Looking back to when Spriggy launched 18 months ago, Badran says there are “heaps” of things he now knows that he wishes he’d known then.

In part, he says, they can be summed up by Hasanakos’ favourite saying: “Give it a week”.

“If something seems like it’s the end of the world today, usually it isn’t as bad as you think it is. Equally … the highs aren’t as high as you expect and the lows aren’t as low as you probably think,” Badran says.

Badran advises founders to just keep moving forward, and to try to celebrate the small wins when they come. Founders can be overly critical of themselves and focused on improving all the time, he says, which can make it difficult to look up and celebrate the good things that are happening for the business.

To manage this, Badran says, it’s important to have good people around you.

“When you have a team of very good people who are delivering cool stuff, it’s much easier to see, to appreciate, when really good things happen,” he says.

Equally, the Spriggy founders have “brilliant investors” and a network of friends and family who “support us and believe in us”, Badran says.

He advises founders to surround themselves with “people who can make you better”. And sometimes that means people who are willing to challenge you.

“It’s people knowing when to challenge you and when not to challenge you that’s really interesting,” he says.

“We have a lot of investors and advisors who challenged us at the right time,” he adds.

Sometimes, these people will notice the founders are in their comfort zone and give them a little push. At other times, however, it’s the people on the outside that recognise they need a break and “tell you to go easy on yourself”, Badran explains.

“Having good people around you who can pull you out of what you’re doing and give you a bit of perspective on something, whether that’s telling you to go a bit harder on something or to take it easy, is really useful,” he says.

“It takes an army to build a great business, it’s not just founders,” he adds.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is a reporter at StartupSmart.

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