London-based financial technology startup, Cleo, offers an artificial intelligence powered chatbot that helps users manage their finances. This latest round of funding brings in $2.6M. The round is led by LocalGlobe, which is a seed venture capital firm run by father and son team, Robin and Saul Klein.
In addition to investments from LocalGlobe, this round was funded by Niklas Zennström, who is the founder of Skype, as well as Jason Goodman, and Entrepreneur First.
Cleo has been around for a year and plans to hire to bring their number of staff from eight to 12 by the end of 2017. There are also plans to spend about a million dollars on marketing. So far, the chatbot has about 50,000 users that are nearly entirely converts via word of mouth. There are also plans to expand internationally with a focus on the United States, Australia, and Asia.
Cleo co-founder Barney Hussey-Yeo, a former data scientist at Wonga, told City A.M. the startup will use the cash to pursue “aggressive” scaling, including launching in the US and Australia, develop its product and grow the team.
On expansion to the often hard to crack US, he said “You want to play in the best league – it's where the competition is and we're ahead of them. We want to win the market.”
If you’re familiar with Facebook Messenger, you’ll find that Cleo is built to be a chatbot on that platform. It allows users the ability to have a conversation with the chatbot, taking the need for a bank app out of the equation. Cleo gives you insights into spending on various accounts, along with debit and credit cards. You can also break down that information by category, merchant, or transaction. You will have to give Cleo permission to acquire that information first.
Since launching, Cleo has added many other functionalities that make the chatbot even more useful. You can send money to friends on Facebook Messenger without touching your bank account, ask Cleo to set aside money into a savings account, and even find deals on credit cards, as well as having the functionality to help you change utilities and more. It can also alert you to strange happenings on your accounts or point out an alternative to a product that will cost less.
This is a huge move from typical apps that can only offer notifications and warnings, rather than in depth information and conversation abilities. It promises to be an application that could change the way people interact with their accounts, cards, and finances, in general.
The chatbot will soon be launching on other platforms, with WhatsApp being the start. This chat service and Facebook Messenger have over 2 billion users a month, which is a massive amount of users that can be reached. Cleo is also being tested for Google Home and Amazon Echo but as of the time of writing, the security is not up to snuff for this sort of device.