ALTYOR: So, Raphaël, the first 13 years of your career were in finance, first at HSBC and then at EY. And after a year with a young company specialised in wines and spirits, you created your own start-up, Money Walkie.
The Walkie is a contactless payment method, mainly for children, offering a simple and secure way for parents to introduce their children to budget management.
The Walkie, in a nutshell, what is it? And what was the inspiration behind this project?
RAPHAËL: Well, actually, the Walkie, it was quite well summed up, it’s a very small object that comes in the form of a small pebble that can be held in the hand, which can be covered with small cases, and allows you to customise the experience as much as you want. And so, we have created a series of small cases, which range from parrots to pandas, which is a means of payment that makes it possible to make everyday purchases at any physical merchant as long as the latter is equipped with a contactless payment terminal.
And the whole thing is connected to an application that is loaded on the parent’s mobile phone, so the parent can top up their child’s little wallet from this application with their bank card or by bank transfer and track the expenses in real time. This means that every time their child is going to execute a transaction, goes to buy a chocolate bar, they will automatically receive a little notification stating what the transaction was.
In the App, you will find educational content along with small money boxes that allow children to learn to save and also an App that lets them learn about donation and that money is not only used to be spent or saved, but that it also lets you help the others.
And the beginning of the venture, actually, is pretty simple. We are parents on the team, we have several children and when our children started growing up, we wondered how to give them autonomy and how to allow them to walk around with a little bit of money in a safe way. And we looked a little bit into the market. There was no real solution. We absolutely wanted it to be something simple that would prevent them from losing, from being stolen, and that would allow them to have this money available, and that we could reload, especially, when they were not even with us.
So as we did not find a solution, we went a little bit into the invention, pure and simple, of Money Walkie, which makes it possible to solve all these problems, and which also makes it possible to raise awareness among children about learning responsible consumption and to raise their awareness about learning how to manage a budget and finances, to learn how our digital economy works a little bit.
ALTYOR: Thank you Raphaël, it was clear and we understand what’s important and interesting about this product. Money Walkie, we saw, was a partner in the last Operation “Yellow Coins”.
What role does Money Walkie play in this type of operation?
RAPHAËL: So, as I said, we had a very strong desire, to explain to the children that we could do interesting things with money this way, in particular helping others. So we tried to lean against causes and partners that are important for us.
So the first one that we thought about was of course the Hospitals Foundation, which supports hospitalised children as well as their caretakers, so by setting up projects to make their lives easier when they are hospitalised, and also to allow caretakers to stay with their children during their hospital stay.
This is a cause that is dear to us and we did two things with them. We created a small yellow case, a small yellow parrot, dedicated to the Foundation’s colour scheme. So when we sold this little case, all the profits were to go straight to the charity. And we allowed the children to make donations from the application, so these are small amounts of 1, 2, 3 € for the benefit of this charity, and, well, it allowed the children to be exposed to the views supported and upheld by the information and also to make the gesture of donation and learn generosity.
So today, we are working not only with the Foundation, we have expanded the subject a little bit, since today we have worked throughout the summer with Tara Océan, which is also a superb cause and which, as its name indicates, promotes protecting the oceans by trying to expose precisely the youngest to the way the ocean works and the risks of pollution on all living beings inhabiting these environments.
ALTYOR: We understand the value of Walkie for parents and children, but how is it received by merchants?
RAPHAËL: We have a nice little feature at Money Walkie, which is that we are certainly usable at any merchant, but we are also sold by some merchants. So we already have more than 300 distribution points in France, so these have understood the cause very well since they are the first brand ambassadors.
And the focus is mainly bookshops today, concept stores for children, who offer it. And as for the merchant who discovers the product, when a little one comes to pay at their shop, generally there is a real curiosity that sets in and this is what we indeed were trying to implement. We were trying to create a mutual exchange, a connection between the child and the merchants, that they can talk to each other about. So generally, there is a little bit of mistrust at the beginning and when the merchant sees “payment accepted” appear, it is rather laughter, smiles, a lot of questions about the product, so it goes very, very well and we had a lot of feedback from our customers who say that their children were very well received at their bakeries or grocers.
ALTYOR: So you offer your customers the ability to customise their Walkie by choosing from a range of playful cases and with a customised engraving. It creates emotional capital for the object. Is that the only goal?
RAPHAËL: Well, what we wanted was for the children to actually be able to customise these little cases and be able to wander about on adventures that were a little bit different. So yes, it was to create an emotional bond with the product, which is as nice as possible, as customisable as possible. So we aim at that. We are going to create several collections of cases each year, we will create 3 to 4 new ones each year. We’re also going to form slightly more targeted partnerships.
We’re also looking at other licensing leads that might be interesting, but really the idea is that everyone has a little something to do and that the little girl who wants to pay with a whale can do it, just as much a little boy, who prefers to pay with a panda. So everyone can find a little bit of the universe that is dear to them and that can develop this little emotional link with the product. So yes it was, it is mainly the goal, to create something playful, fun and really enjoyable, that makes you smile.
ALTYOR: You’re in your 2nd start-up experience and Money Walkie is in its 3rd year. Do you have any advice for budding start-ups?
RAPHAËL: Good question. The choice of shareholders. I think it’s one of the things that comes up very often, but it’s very, very true. Be vigilant about the right people that will support you. There is nothing more important than having shareholders you can trust, with whom you find the right balance. I think this has always been the hardest part of all my ventures, and also with the people I know, who have founded other start-ups. This is the subject we talk about very often. Allocating capital well according to the added value of each and doing so in a fair and just manner. That, in my opinion, is the most important thing. Because after all, the fight is long and the venture is difficult. So if we have this little pebble in the shoe, I think it’s very complicated to manage and develop your company tranquilly; so choose the right people.
ALTYOR: Well, that’s clear. I hope it helps some. Today we see young companies like Bookinou, for example, or Tori, who want to integrate their product into the real world. Was that a goal for Money Walkie?
RAPHAËL: We wanted a little bit of the best of both worlds, so we try to capitalise on the product as such, because we think it’s something that makes a lot of sense and to which everyone is very attached. And on the other hand, we also wanted to get the best out of this new technology by allowing a child to track their spending. So, we think that the two of them fit together pretty well. There is still a tendency not to put our children in front of screens, and a tendency that must be adapted to. But I think we also need to gradually teach them how to use screens in a more relaxed way.
So we indeed do a bit of both and we’re very happy and people are very, very, very happy to get back to a physical object in the end, and the feedback we get is pretty impressive. We have a real enthusiasm for a physical object, especially for the youngest, so I think it was a good choice for us.