Scale-ups in the spotlight

Monkee makes saving money fun, easy and exciting
Posted on June 10, 2021

One of the scale-ups in TFI’s accelerator programme, Monkee has been helping people get into the swing of saving – and maybe even swinging from the trees with excitement! Founders Martin Granig and Christian Schneider explain what makes the app so powerful.

Christian Schneider and Martin Granig of Monkee

Could you tell us a little about Monkee and how it works?
Martin: Monkee is a free mobile app available in Austria and Germany that helps people to create financial buffers and save for important purchases. Users simply open a savings account via the app and decide what to save for. Monkee breaks down those long-term goals into fun, bite-sized, weekly saving targets that get even reluctant savers into the saving routine.

What makes Monkee different from traditional saving programs is that it’s interactive. Monkee learns from your behaviour and starts sending notifications based on your goals: “Hey, how about saving four euros for your kid’s laptop?”. Click YES, and you’ve just saved four euros.

And perhaps best of all, Monkee cheers you on. You get a thumbs-up or high-five when you reach your weekly saving target. When’s the last time you got that kind of positive reinforcement from your regular savings account?

So basically, we aim to make saving money fun and offer an alternative to the ‘buy now, pay later’ offers that lure people into buying stuff they really can’t afford: our motto is ‘save now, buy later’.

How did you come up with the idea for Monkee?
Christian: We’re bombarded daily with thousands of messages and incentives to buy stuff. We’ve become a world of spenders. They idea behind Monkee was to take some of those same teasers – engaging, visual, just-one-click – and use them to make people good savers.

Martin: There are lots of other saving apps out there that make saving automatic. While very efficient, they don’t change habits because you’re not saving consciously. For our app, we wanted to find a balance between automation and some manual interaction so you at least have to click one button to connect saving money with positive emotions.

Tell us more about those incentives that you mention.

Martin: One of those is Monkee’s Future Boost function, which is like a cash-back scheme, but with a twist. Monkee has teamed up with all sorts of partner stores. If someone uses their Monkee savings to buy their groceries at German supermarket REWE, for instance, we get a commission. That’s actually how we fund Monkee. We keep a small part of that commission, and the rest goes into the user’s savings wallet, which can be spread across their total goals to save for them even faster. With Monkee, instead of cash back, you get savings back.

Christian: It’s a really good deal. Suppose you have certain weekly or monthly necessities. Since you’re going to be buying them anyway, why not make them one of your goals in Monkee and give your savings a Future Boost with every purchase.

How do you measure success and how much impact have you made so far?

Christian: That’s been a bit peculiar because of the pandemic. COVID hit shortly after we launched the app. Since then, people have been saving more simply because they can’t go out and spend like before. Even adjusted for the overall rise in saving, however, last year our users quadrupled their savings – and that’s per customer.

Martin: And then there’s something that really amazed us. At the end of every month recently, we’d been relaxing Monkee’s algorithms so people would not ‘need’ to save as much. We thought they would appreciate having a little more spending money once the economy opened up again. But to our surprise, the saving percentages kept going up. That means we’re creating a shift in mindset and saving habits, which has always been our goal. That’s huge!

So what about 2021 – any new features in the pipeline?

Martin: We’d like to introduce smart money rules so users can connect their bank account and set up a percentage of their total monthly income to be put into savings, instead of a fixed amount. That would be good for gig workers and others with unpredictable income. Another way to use those smart money rules would be to link consumption with saving, like by having the app put a certain percentage into your savings account whenever you make a purchase in a specific category (petrol stations, online shops, etc.).

Christian: And we’re looking into a solution so people can pay for stuff directly from their Monkee savings account (they currently have to transfer the funds back to their existing bank account first). Or how about being able to pay with their existing bank account and still benefit from our Future Boost offers? That would be great!

What has this journey taught you so far?

Martin: Stay true to your mission! We like to include some cute things in the app and are big fans of emojis. But then we started receiving some complaints that we weren’t taking money seriously. Of course that made us think twice – but saving can be really boring, and that’s exactly what we want to get away from. We can’t please everyone, but we think Monkee’s doing a great job at helping a lot of people become and stay financially fit. That’s what it’s all about.