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TransferWise founder invests in chatbot Cleo

The fintech magnate has taken an interest in Cleo’s chatbot tech, particularly after the latter’s recent US launch.

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Fintech unicorn TransferWise’s CEO and co-founder, Taavet Hinrikus (pictured, right), has become an investor in and advisor to the London-based Messenger money bot Cleo. He joins other early investors like Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Wonga founder Errol Damelin, and Entrepreneur First, a leading pre-seed investment programme for technical start-ups.

Speaking to TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear in late April 2018, Hinrikus confirmed that he had taken an interest in Cleo after hearing about the start-up and its CEO, Barney Hussey-Yeo, and identifying with its mission statement.

As an AI-powered financial assistant built to work inside Facebook Messenger, Cleo helps users to save flexibly each month by calculating what amount they can afford and putting it away for them.

In particular, Hinrikus cited Cleo’s appeal to the millennial generation as a big selling point, and a definite industry advantage as the app launched across the pond in March earlier this year. According to O’Hear, Cleo hit 200,000 users last month, and is seeing current growth rates of around 3,000 new users per day, over half of which are American.

Hinrkus also made comments regarding the future of digital banking, and its fight towards profitability. Banking apps like Cleo, and neobanks like Monzo and Revolut, are starting to further monetise their services by earning affiliate revenue through a third-party marketplace model, but Hinrikus believes that they are “barely scratching the surface”. He singled out providing credit to users as perhaps the most important route to focus on, if digital banks hope to become industry heavyweights.

TransferWise itself recently cemented its position in the digital banking sector, as it launched its Borderless prepaid debit card scheme last week. Borderless users can hold funds in four separate currencies all inside one account, receiving local bank account and sort code details for each currency as if they were a resident.

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