Sydney fintech startup Pennybox is seeking to transform Australia’s $1.5 billion pocket money market with a new app that teaches kids financial literacy while helping them earn money for completing household tasks.
Pennybox was founded by former equity analyst Reji Eapen and ex-Googler Adam Naor, who developed their app with the assistance of a $25,000 Minimum Viable Product Grant from the state government’s job creation agency Jobs for NSW.
Naor spoke to Dynamic Business about his startup, including the experience of operating out of the Tyro FinTech Hub in Sydney’s CBD.
Elevator Pitch: Pennybox is a free mobile app that draws parents and their kids together for financial education. It’s an important topic, which is often neglected at school, and we want to empower kids AND their parents to learn the basics, together. Pennybox facilitates hands-on learning and enables kids to earn money for completing tasks, such as school work or jobs that their parents approve. The app was built for iOS first but we will expand into Android in the future.
Origin story: Reji worked in finance and I worked in education technology as a team lead at Google – this involved helping schools across ANZ evaluate and deploy Google technology for their classrooms. I saw firsthand that schools were not covering financial education – and decided I wanted to use technology to help address this problem at scale. Reji’s background compliments mine – he has deep experience working in the banking space and saw firsthand how many people lacked basic financial education and skills. After becoming friends in Sydney, we spoke for years about building a company before deciding to start one together. We talked about the idea for Pennybox for a long time with parents, educators, and advisers before resigning from our jobs to pursue it full time.
Addressable market: Learning how to work for and save money is important for all people, across different countries and culture, and thus the financial education we’re facilitating with our app has global relevance. We released the app in all regions from Day 1 to try and help as many kids and parents as possible. We expect our biggest markets will be the US and other English-speaking countries but we are also seeing lots of interest in emerging markets.
Ambitions: We are working hard to make Pennybox a tool that is useful for kids and parents and that can add value to them in the home. Our broader vision is to be the source of financial education for all families as they seek to teach their kids about how to think critically and holistically about money. Right now, that means earning and saving money, but we are already working on the next layer – helping kids to understand investing, smart spending, and donating.
The MVP Grant: The grant assisted us to build our MVP and conduct the necessary engineering work, user studies, and improve our beta. It took six months to develop the app fully and without the grant, we would not have the product out now.
Key wins and challenges: A critical win has been the response from users on our beta list, which over 5000 families joined – they’ve really enjoyed what we’ve built! The challenge, now that we’ve launched, is to further develop our product and figure out how to scale, which is why we are actively chatting with investors.
Revenue and marketing: We have a few ideas [about how to generate revenue], such as working with banks, but it’s too early to test our hypothesis. We are focused right now on promoting the app to families but given the importance of computers in the classroom and the need to educate kids on these topics we see schools as a natural expansion path.
Tyro FinTech Hub: The people are great and the culture of sharing and collaboration amongst the startup founders is excellent. We have leveraged the parents in the hub for user testing; we have gained new insights and partnership ideas; and the energy there keeps the spirits up when things don’t go as planned, which happens in startup life!