Saving for old age, for a new car, for a holiday trip, college education for the kids, etc. – everyone has good intentions, but with the implementation there is often a problem. The inventors of the Austrian start-up Monkee want to help people achieve their savings goals. Their app helps people maintain their motivation and make saving a habit again. And saving should be fun.

Monkee CEO and co-founder Martin Granig talked about his company with Innovation Origins.

The Monkee founders, L-R: Jean-Yves Bitterlich, Christian Schneider, Martin Granig  © Monkee

How did you come up with the idea of founding a start-up?

We as founders, Martin Granig and Christian Schneider, have families, so providing for our children in the future is also our private business. Also, people in general are saving less and less these days. Saving is no longer considered fashionable and is seen to be “uncool”. Spending money, on the other hand, is easier today than ever before. The balance between consumption and saving is increasingly lopsided, despite the fact that financial worries are already society’s number one stress factor. Providing for the future is no longer taken seriously or is postponed indefinitely.

Monkee wants to help people live financially healthier lives. We are convinced that a holistically healthy life means a balance between physical, mental AND financial health. Accordingly, poor financial health has a negative effect on all other areas of life. Monkee sees itself as a logical next step in the general health trend and wants to contribute to improving financial health after physical and mental health.

What makes Monkee or your product special compared to your competitors and what problems does it solve?

In addition to a modern user interface, Monkee relies on savings targets and the specially developed 2-click saving feature. Broken down to small weekly increments, that laptop or new mobile phone doesn’t cost 1,000 euros, but 10 euros per week over a certain period of time –  big psychological difference. A digital financial coach motivates you and helps you to really achieve your goals.

In contrast to the competition, Monkee relies on a sustainable change in savings and consumer behavior instead of trying to solve the problem that we save too little and spend too much money with pure automation. In the medium term, savings should be reintegrated into everyday life – without making major sacrifices. And the most important thing of all: Monkee makes saving fun!

The Monkee savings account at our partner bank is completely free for the user and can be linked to any existing checking account (in Germany and Austria). Your savings account is in your name and you can cancel your savings goals at any time and transfer your money back to your specified reference account.

What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

The founders are career changers in the FinTech industry. Therefore, as a first step we had to deal with the regulatory requirements and find suitable partners for the implementation of the banking processes. In the banking world, however, the clocks tick a little more slowly than in a start-up and it took us some time to find a partner who supported us in the implementation in this very early phase.

Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?

No, we never thought of giving up, even though there are always difficult situations to overcome. We had an interesting situation at the very beginning of our project: We tried to talk to a few experts from the financial industry about our app and almost everyone recommended that we not enter the financial sector because it is so highly regulated and difficult to handle. But we didn’t let that discourage us and instead solved one challenge after the other. We were, however, perhaps a bit naive and didn’t know exactly what was really coming our way.

© Monkee

What has made you particularly proud?

Since this summer, the Monkee App has been available for free on the App Store and the Google Play Store. Thousands of people use Monkee in the meantime and it’s growing every day. Monkee thus has a real impact on the lives of quite a few people and helps them every day to spend less money on unnecessary impulse purchases and instead save for their goals.

Monkee has already secured a large grant from the AWS (Austria Wirtschafts Service) to get a Business Angel from V/G Ventures on board. Even before the launch, Monkee secured a mid-six-figure investment. Since then, we have been able to win several prizes and awards, including the recent Digital Hero award from the Tyrolian location agency.

We are also proud of our entry into the renowned Amsterdam FinTech Accelerator Think Forward of ING, Dell, Deloitte, IBM, AWS and the Centre for Economic Policy Research – CEPR, where we work together with seven other international start-ups on the further development of the app and our mission.

What can we expect from Monkee in the coming years?

We are continuously working on the Monkee App and still have countless ideas for new features. Besides some innovations of the current free version, we are currently working on a premium version with many additional features that can help you to achieve your goals even more easily.

What is your vision for Monkee? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

Monkee’s vision is to make people financially healthier and support them holistically on their journey there. Monkee not only wants to reintegrate saving into everyday life, but also to promote a sustainable and responsible approach to money – from everyday saving to sustainable investing and more conscious consumption. Following the successful growth of our current product, we are therefore planning international expansion over the next five years, as well as the expansion of products for the holistic coverage of the “Financial Health” topic.

Interested in start-ups? Read all articles from our series here.