Neo Financial prepares to open innovation hub in Winnipeg

Neo Financial

With its acquisition of a new office space in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, the co-founders of FinTech startup Neo Financial have come full circle.

Before Andrew Chau and Jeff Adamson began Neo they founded SkipTheDishes. Their newly acquired space for Neo was the previous headquarters of SkipTheDishes.

“It’s great to come full circle and move back to Winnipeg,” Andrew Chau, CEO of Neo, told BetaKit.

“This was a group that helped to build the foundation of our tech community here in Winnipeg.”

Chau said he’s experienced first-hand the talent in Winnipeg, having built SkipTheDishes from five people to just over 3,000. “Winnipeg has a great community that supports entrepreneurs and tech companies. It is up and coming,” Chau said.

Neo is leasing 10,000 square feet in the building, but the space has the flexibility to grow to over 100,000 square feet.

Chau described Neo as a FinTech company that is taking on large ambitions in its plans to reimagine banking. “Winnipeg as our second headquarters is a way for us to continue to scale and grow. We’re making it another innovation hub for us with software engineers, developers, product design as well as customer success and operations too.”

The company’s immediate plans including new product offerings and strategic partnerships, Neo is expanding its team of 300 currently based in Calgary. As the startup begins to build the team in Winnipeg, Neo plans to host a series of recruitment and industry-focused events and meetups in the city.

Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, told BetaKit, “It’s a great day,” adding that Neo’s choice to lease in the city continues to build out Winnipeg’s tech sector.

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“There is a lot of power in people who were successful here choosing to come back to do it again. This was a group that helped to build the foundation of our tech community here in Winnipeg, and they’re going to come back and work as it continues to evolve.”

In the past decade, the western city’s tech community has grown substantially. It is primarily housed in the Exchange District. Winnipeg is home to over 1,300 information and communication technology companies.

Among them are the gaming firm, Ubisoft; Bold Commerce; and Bell MTS, which runs a 64,000 square foot Tier III data centre. SkipTheDishes continues to operate from Winnipeg as well. In 2015, the UK-based competitor Just Eat acquired SkipTheDishes for $110 million CAD. SkipTheDishes is an online restaurant ordering and food delivery company. Chau is no longer involved with SkipTheDishes.

“So there are some big anchor tenants we have in that sector, and we look forward to welcoming Neo as well,” Spiring said.

Since Neo began in 2019, the company has launched a Neo Mastercard, a no-fee and unlimited transaction high-interest savings account, and a cash-back network of over 3,000 community retail partners across Canada.

Through partnerships with leading financial institutions, Neo provides members with a safe and secure way to spend and save. Neo’s credit card is issued by ATB Financial and backed by the Mastercard network, and the Neo Savings account is provided by Concentra Bank, a CDIC member institution, and is eligible for CDIC deposit protection.

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Neo also joined with Hudson’s Bay in a strategic partnership to bring its two million cardholders a new, digitally integrated Hudson’s Bay Mastercard.

Supporting this growth, Neo completed a $50 million CAD Series A round that was led by Valar Ventures, a New York-based venture capital firm started by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, with co-investors including Canadian based Golden Ventures, Inovia Ventures, and Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke. It closed the round in the summer of 2020.

Chau and Adamson leveraged the knowledge they acquired running SkipTheDishes to create a similar model for Neo. At SkipTheDishes the company developed a consumer-facing product, but also worked closely with merchants; Neo has created a rewards program system that supports businesses as well as consumers.

Even as Neo scales up, it faces no lack of competition. The space includes Koho, Wealthsimple, Borrowell (all Power Financial-backed companies), Mogo, and NorthOne. As well, large Canadian tech companies like Wave and Shopify have entered the banking space.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.