You can still build a startup with your allowance

4 min read

See how three social entrepreneurs created a company that tackles costly money transfers.

4 min read

What did you do with your allowance?

Race straight to the store to buy a small mountain of jelly beans? Stuff it into a ceramic pig to save up for the latest video game?

While most of us were playing Zelda, two brothers in Switzerland founded an NGO.

Transfer troubles

Here’s how it all started. Pascal and Francois Briod had an aunt in Cameroon. Eager to read her letters, they’d hover around the mailbox.

And it was these letters that inspired the brothers to take action. So they started saving up to support projects in Africa. Here’s Pascal:

We started collecting our pocket money to send over, and decided to launch an NGO to support people there.

Within a few years, it grew from piggy bank scraps to whole-hog funding.

But transfer fees started to munch away at their donations, leaving a big fat hole in their pocket.

We got frustrated by the high fees we were paying to send money to Cameroon. The small businesses we were helping suffered as a result.
Pascal Briod

Enter TawiPay. Whatty-pay? More on the name later. Here’s what happened first.

The brothers—now too old for an allowance—attended Startup Weekend with their long-time friend and economics whiz, Laurent. They had one simple aim: find a better way to send money abroad.

We realized that there were already a lot of money transfer services out there. But the money you lose is often hidden in the exchange margin which makes it difficult to find the best deal. It’s a complicated industry.
Pascal Briod

They felt the best way to help people was to unclutter the sector, and decided to launch a comparison website for money transfer services. TawiPay was off the ground.

Well, not quite.

 An MVP for transparency

The entrepreneurs wanted to offer users the option of requesting quotes from money transfer providers direct from their website. But there was one problem—they didn’t know if it would work. They needed an MVP.

Here’s Pascal again:

We wanted to be confident before investing in development, so we simply set up a typeform for the ‘get a quote’ part.

Creating the interface, applying elegant branding, and firing off the typeform to the farthest corners of the globe was quick and painless. Pascal and co. were able to speed a quote back to people automatically, thanks to a Zapier integration.

For people familiar with money transfer services, it was like wiping down a grimy window—instant transparency. Typeform helped validate TawiPay’s MVP, and they were convinced the startup would work.

The service quickly resonated with their market—people living in Europe who are supporting their families in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Kenya, to name a few. Every cent sent was precious, and TawiPay was able to grow as a result.

Move fast and name things

Before Amazon became the e-commerce mammoth it is now, it was called Cadabra. You know, as in abracadabra. People couldn’t spell it, and this was all before a certain scar-headed boy wizard made magic cool.

Jeff Bezos soon cast a hex on that, banishing it to the burning cauldron of failed brand names. And it turned out to be a pretty good decision.

So, back to…TawiPay? Really? Pascal was having second thoughts.

Throwing random keywords at Google Translate to see what sounds good in Swahili is not the recipe for success.
Pascal Briod, Founder at Monito

It was forgettable and confusing. Worst of all, people thought they were yet another money transfer site—the very thing they had resolved not to be. They were turning off potential customers. Pascal adds:

The day one of our test users said they thought we were the ‘PayPal of Taiwan’ was the day we decided we had to find a new name.

In order to avoid the failure of the original name, the new one would need to be easy to remember, share, and type into a search engine.

Ideas got chopped down to a shortlist of four. Then, the founders developed a mock-up of their website with the shortlisted names. People were asked questions after getting a quick glance of the website via UsabilityHub.

That was fine for a visual UX. But there was no way to test if the person had heard the name correctly.

Pascal was determined to find a way. He thought about it, and then it hit him—why not use Typeform to ask people what name they’d heard? He explains how:

I recorded myself saying each name and uploaded the video. Then I created a simple typeform for each name. Users were asked to listen to the 5-second video, then write down the name they heard.

You can have a go yourself here.

The results were conclusive. Half of the people who heard “Monito” typed it in correctly—far better than talibay / terybay / telepay / howepay. And just a few weeks later, Monito launched their new brand with a slick new website.

Hole sewn up, market retained.

Do good, make money

To break a piggy bank, you’ve gotta take a hammer to it.

The founders and their small team are determined to shake things up and scale fast. More recently, Monito generated new leads and added value to existing customers.

We’ve made around 650 new leads by using different typeforms. In some cases, our customers need much more than just a comparison table—decisions about money are important. We want to offer them a conversation.
Pascal Briod

Want to start a conversation with new leads of your own? Check out our lead generation guide.

Now, customers sending larger amounts of money can request free personalized advice. Each person’s unique needs and circumstances go into a typeform, and a Slack integration makes carrying on the conversation as easy as changing your name.

All this growth means they’ve probably lost sight of their original mission, right? Not in the slightest. The founders’ values haven’t changed:

  1. Focus on social impact.

  2. Be extremely data-driven.

According to Monito, around 200 million migrants across the world are sending around 660 billion US dollars to their families in other economies each year. So even a slight reduction in fees can have a huge positive impact on families worldwide.

A rapidly growing business with charitable values—Monito is proof that it can be done.

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