Yoyo on its way up: Fintech interview part 17

Yoyo, which combines payments, loyalty and marketing on a single mobile app, was the brainchild of Michael Rolph and fellow founders, Dave Nicholson and Alain Falys,  after they saw a gap in the market for a platform that offered this combination.

Rolph who has worked extensively in the payments industry  was the person that gave VocaLink’s mobile payments capability the name Zapp, for example.

A few years ago he was witnessing the mobile phone becoming the centre of people’s lives, and was surprised nobody was building an infrastructure to support payments, loyalty programmes and marketing on mobiles.

In 2013, to change this, he set up Yoyo with the two other founders, one of which, Nicholson, co-founded the world’s first peer to peer lending platform Zopa.

It was time to test the idea and the first port of call for the team was looking for potential customers.   The founders approached Imperial College in London, where they believed their idea would be attractive. This provd to be the case. “We positioned our concepts to them and they basically agreed to become our first customer,” said Rolph.

With a customer in line but no product Yoyo had to build the platform, which involved raising money. “We raised £800,000 seed round investment on the back of a PowerPoint presentation,” added Rolph.

It then created a team of developers and had its first product for market in November 2013. The Yoyo app connects to the user’s bank account and the phone, which can be used to pay for things. Through the app it also automates loyalty points, receipts and enables users to receive information on promotions

This was soon used in Imperial College’s Sir Alexander Fleming Café, where it allowed students to pay for things and automatically receive a digital stamp as part of a loyalty programme, as well as a receipt.

Rolph said: “We launched what was the Starbucks experience to a degree.”

In a short time, by January 2014, Yoyo was rolled out across the entire Imperial College estate and within 4 weeks it had about 3,500 students signed up. “At the time cash was 95% of its transactions and it wanted to get rid of cash so they employed us to help them  do this,” said Rolph.

It next went to Westminster and Greenwich universities and today Yoyo is now live at about 60% of the UK’s universities.

But it is not just live at universities but also corporate head offices.  For example at JP Morgan in Canary Wharf London about 6,500 people use Yoyo for the canteen. Its total number of users is around 1.5 million.

The university and corporate customers are mainly using the app in relation to catering, but Yoyo is also on the high street. “Using the same platform we can provider retailers with the same functionality but with their own brand name on it,” said Rolph.

Café Nero’s platform is for example powered by Yoyo. But it is not one size fits all customers with the platform enabling to offer unique experiences on top of the core platform.

Yoyo integrates into the point of sales system of its customers and, according to Rolph, all they need to do is market what customers can now get.

Yoyo currently has about 75 staff but is in the process of increasing to 90. Two thirds of the company are engineers. “We are a real technology business,” said Rolph. “We have a data science team and are applying machine learning to make recommendations.”

Yoyo is mainly in the UK but it will go where its customers are.

Yoyo makes its money through monthly service fees an also a fee is charged for payments.

Read the previous fintech interviews

Part 16 Bud, Part 15 PrevisePart 14 FinastraPart 13 InstaReMPart 12 EucapsPart 11 AimBrainPart 10 MenigaPart 9 TrueLayerPart 8 InvestCloudPart 7 ClauseMatchPart 6 Rebuilding Society, Part 5 HonchoPart 4 AkoniPart 3 WriskPart 2 CreditLadderPart 1 Taina Technology

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