Montreal-based personal finance FinTech startup Mylo has rebranded to Moka and officially launched in France as part of its European expansion plans. France represents the first region Moka has expanded to outside of Canada, but the startup has plans to operate in more European markets.
CEO Philip Barrar told BetaKit France was Moka’s “gateway to Europe.”
In a recent interview, Moka founder and CEO Philip Barrar told BetaKit the company opted for the name change as part of its plans to go global. Barrar explained that Mylo has various meanings and pronunciations depending on the tongue of the speaker, whereas Moka has a more consistent pronunciation.
“As we’re heading over to Europe, the rebranding became part of the need for a new name to address the growing global community that we have, and how we’re evolving the product,” Barrar said.
Launched in July 2017, Moka operates a saving and investing app that aims to help users achieve their financial goals by rounding up purchases and investing the spare change. The software uses machine learning in conjunction with financial and transactional data to provide personalized recommendations to help customers make informed financial choices. Moka’s round-up feature also invests the spare change in personalized, diversified portfolios of low-cost exchange-traded funds.
Name changes can be hit or miss in the startup world, and can run the risk of damaging brand awareness. When asked if Barrar was concerned the company would lose brand recognition in its home country of Canada, the CEO said he believes what distinguished Mylo as a brand will also distinguish Moka.
“A lot of the things that made the Mylo product great will continue to make the Moka product great,” Barrar said. “Yes, there might be a small inherent risk, but I think what’s in store for us and in the grander scheme of the company, when we look back at this in five, 10 years, it’ll be [considered] a great beginning.”
Barrar had previously mentioned his intention to expand the company internationally. When raising a $10 million Series A round in November, the CEO told BetaKit he had been travelling to Europe to explore open banking and the types of services that are available across the pond.
Maxime Le Maître will serve as Moka’s country lead in France.
Moka was one of 12 Canadian startups chosen in 2019 to participate in a trade mission to the UK to assess opportunities around open banking. It also participated in a separate trade mission to France, which Barrar said was a good entry point for Moka into the French market.
Barrar noted that he is often asked why the Moka chose France and not the United States for the first region in its expansion. The CEO explained that he does not see a shortage of FinTech innovation in the US, adding that there are many regions with market needs that are more similar to those of Canada, such as France, where Moka can deliver value. The CEO did not disclose which markets the startup would be looking to expand to after finding product-market fit in France, although Barrar noted he was excited about all of continental Europe.
According to a report from KMPG, France was home to 17 million millennials in 2018, with millennials being Moka’s target demographic. According to a recent survey conducted by Moka with Opinion Way, two-thirds of French millennials have anxiety about achieving their goals, half struggle to save, and two-thirds feel traditional banks don’t offer investing services that cater to their needs.
“There’s a huge opportunity to tackle the French market,” Barrar told BetaKit. “Obviously, being a French-Canadian company, we were able to master that language.”
“We have a lot of French citizens that have been a core part of our team,” he added. “So for us, it was a gateway to Europe, and we’re really excited to eventually expand to all of Europe as well.”
While this is the first expansion of its product outside of Canada, Moka already had several members of the team working out of a WeWork space in France. Maxime Le Maître, who joined the Montreal office in 2018, has since relocated to France and will serve as Moka’s country lead there.
Moka is also entering the French market with two partnerships to help with data aggregation, money movement, and the wallet component of Moka’s application in Europe. The first partner is Budget Insight, a data aggregation company, and what Barrar called a French equivalent to Montreal-based Flinks. The second is Treezor, a banking platform that facilitates payment management.
In 2017, Moka notably acquired Tactex Asset Management, an incumbent asset management company, to launch its Canadian operations, and Barrar said the startup will be employing the same strategy in France.
A deal to acquire a Netherlands-based asset management firm is already in the works. Moka has yet to disclose the name of the firm as the purchase is awaiting regulatory approval. The deal is expected to give Moka offices in both Amsterdam and Paris.
Barrar said the startup is in a good position to launch internationally, as Moka’s revenue has continued to grow “aggressively” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some Canadian FinTech startups, such as Mogo and Borrowell, cut back in the earlier months of the pandemic, Moka did not have to make staff reductions.
“We’ve seen a large surge of growth through this time,” Barrar added. “[We’ve been] helping onboard users who want to start saving and investing, and it just confirms the relevance of our business model.”
In addition to the European expansion and rebrand, Moka is rolling out an upgraded rewards program called Moka Perks. The program offers users discounts and cashback for brands like Uber Eats, Apple Music, and HelloFresh. French users can register for early access to Moka and get one month free by joining the company’s waitlist.
Image courtesy Moka.