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Edoardo Moreni is the visionary Founder & CEO of Emma, the digital money management venture aiming to automate your financial wellbeing through AI. “Emma is your financial advocate”, explains Moreni. “Our mission is to empower millions of people to live a better and more fulfilling financial life.” Their next-generation technology promises to save you time and money, as a smart new tool for decision making and credit-score management. Users can now automatically avoid overdraft fees, cancel wasteful subscriptions, set achievable budgets and track spending. Bad money habits can be diagnosed and eliminated, while good ones encouraged. There’s a fantastic range of features built into the launch app, with ‘Emma’ acting as your virtual EA. This is a very exciting Fintech development for consumers, and it is easy to see why investors are excited about it too.
Emma has quickly attracted 100,000 users, and is growing fast. They are live now in the UK, the USA and Canada, with sights set on launching in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa next.
All of your financial dealings can be centralised through the app, meaning one simple interface can now track and manage all the complexities. The UK’s open banking initiative will make a big difference on home turf; opening the doors for innovative startups like Emma. “We think we can provide a great experience, which relies on a basic principle of caring about customer financial well being.” It is hard to be on top of your finances 24/7, but our new benevolent AI assistant can pick up the slack where we humans struggle.
“Every single generation uses measuring tools – from the abacus, to the calculator. This is the abacus of this generation – of the modern world.” A core promise is to help you manage ‘all of your money in one place’. Cryptocurrency will play an increasingly important role in the future of money, so Emma has made sure to accommodate multiple currencies from launch. Emma currently supports connections with Coinbase, Kraken, Binance, Bitfinex, Bitstamp, Bittrex and individual Bitcoin/Ethereum addresses.
Moreni describes it as, “the missing link between banks, financial products, and consumers. Emma uses state of the art technology to analyse your personal finances and give you the power to make smarter decisions with your money.”
“There are three pillars on which we want to build a strong tech culture, and to fix personal finance once for all”, explains Moreni.
Among the most promising features is the marketplace, allowing users to access pension, investment and rent repayment products, such as Wealthsimple, PensionBee and CreditLadder. It opens up the best financial products, offering automated analysis of alternatives. We can expect car or home insurance renewals, or even mortgage switching to become automated in the future, which will inevitably save consumers time and money.
The founders have a remarkable startup story. CTO Antonio Marino and CEO Edouardo Moreni bootstrapped through two years of R&D as digital nomads, building a minimum lovable product on sweat equity, with help from ‘The Family Accelerator’ in Berlin. Marino is an ex-Google engineer, which Moreni more recently completed an MEng in computer science. They managed to survive 2 years with no salary, spending one year in Berlin, seven months working in Rome and Venice, then slept on floors in London for four months, to get their visionary app ready for investors.
The Founders were able to build and distribute the product, and to attract users on their own steam, before going to investors. This allowed Emma to go straight to VC investors with their own term sheet, having prepared one on SeedLegals. The platform guides founders through the fundraising process, step-by-step, as a specialist legal assistant. Much of the process is automated so that lawyers don’t need to be involved, and critically, each element is explained in plain English. “The term sheet was so straight forward to create”, explains Moreni, and if there are any questions, SeedLegals is on hand to guide Founders, on a fixed fee basis.
Growth has principally been through word of mouth. Organic growth like this has been the secret of success for other financial innovators like Revolut and Monzo, reducing the cost of customer acquisition to near zero. “People tweet about it.” Emma was also App of the Day in the App Store in March, which indicates the quality of product they have built.
The company quickly closed a £500k seed round led by Kima Ventures, one of the first investors to back Transferwise, joined by Aglaé Ventures, another French seed fund of the Groupe Arnault, that has invested in both Netflix and Airbnb. Alongside them, several Angel investors joined the round; founders that have built and sold industry-leading companies, impressed with Emma’s vision, their entrepreneurial skill, and early-stage traction.
“SeedLegals gives you a sense of control over the transaction. It was really straight forward… But it was strange writing the term sheet for investors, as it is usually the other way around.”
The speed of transaction was fast. “We were already live as a product, and received offers within two weeks. It took 1 month to do the whole thing… from ‘here’s term sheet’ to ‘here’s the share certificate’. We were actually slowed down by international money transfers, because some of the investors are French.” Moreni explains how the exchange of funds was simple; terms sheets are signed online and crystalised. Funds are sent, and the Founders tick a box on the SeedLegals platform to confirm receipt. At this point, the platform takes over, automating the paralegal work, including issuing personalised Share Certificates, CapTable adjustments, Companies House and HMRC registrations. “It was an outstanding first-time experience.” With the legal process now so dramatically simplified, Emma’s CEO explains how,
“So far, we have avoided lawyers altogether. We haven’t felt the need for a corporate lawyer – not at all. I don’t think investors gave us any push back on the Term Sheet, so we didn’t need to negotiate. It was was a really smooth transaction.”
“Emma is going to use SeedLegals now for EMI Options”, an important part of the business plan, to incentivise key hires. They had asked an accountant to quote for executing Option Plan, but were quoted £6,000 to 10,000 to administer this. It can now be done on SeedLegals for less than £2,000. “I will keep on SeedLegals it in the future, especially for Employment Contracts. It’s so good to have everything one place”.
Professional services as an industry are clearly under threat from these powerful new digital tools. Financial Advisors, and to some extent lawyers, are in danger of extinction, as scalable digital processes, powered by Machine Learning take over. Machines are now helping us to navigate our personal finances to reach important goals, doing the legwork for us, and making sure we get bang-for-buck on essential purchases. It is only a matter of time before major purchasing decisions are delegated to apps like this. Innovators like Emma and SeedLegals are tough competitors indeed for any human to measure up against. They offer a step-change in value for customers, on ‘no-brainer’ terms. Even at this early stage, it looks like the rules of the game have already changed.