— update on 5 November 2012 —
PlayMoolah has won the grand finale of the Innotribe Startup Challenge at Innotribe@Sibos in Osaka! They were selected first among 10 startups that were pitching to a senior jury of bankers and venture capitalists.
Here are Audrey and Min with the $50,000 prize awarded by Innotribe.
Well deserved Min and Audrey, wish you luck.
— end update
— update on 1 October 2012 —
Min came back to me today with some great news, showing PlayMoolah’s progress since I wrote the original article back in June.
PlayMoolah has its first bank partnership, with OCBC. The bank will sponsor PlayMoolah for their customers, and will provide digital and retail space in all 55 branches across Singapore.
Excellent news for Min and Audrey. I wish them a continued success and, most importantly, hitting their target to educate thousands of children in Singapore. And elsewhere!
Here is an extract of their press release:
Technology start-up, PlayMoolah, is today announcing that it is working financial institution, OCBC Bank. This tie-up will see young customers from OCBC Bank’s Mighty Savers programme gaining access to PlayMoolah’s fun online platform that educates 6-12 year olds on financial literacy matters. In order to provide financial empowerment to more young people, PlayMoolah is partnering with financial institutions around the world and OCBC Bank is the first financial institution to sign up. Through this partnership alone, PlayMoolah target to educate over 50,000 children in Singapore.
— end update —
Forbes is running a “startup month” and this week is about turning an idea into a real business.
Immediately I thought about the PlayMoolah startup and its co-founders Min Xuan Lee and Audrey Tan. Playmoolah was a winner in the Innotribe Startup Challenge in Singapore earlier this year. I was inspired with what they do – a tool to help parents educate their children about the value of money – and the energy and passion of Min, so I asked her to tell her story.
Giving the floor to Min –
It was an eye-opening experience to learn how different cultures use money. Coming from Singapore to California during the height of the financial crisis, we uncovered more and more horror stories over casual conversations about debt and over-leverage, fueled by relentless, uninformed optimism. It was evident how this generation was fast becoming the most indebted generation in modern history. This sparked one simple question – what is the root cause of financial illiteracy in our world today?
Our curiosity led us onto a path of inquiry, into the homes of American families, volunteering to teach in public schools, and speaking to anyone who had done work even remotely related to the field of financial literacy. Over one year, we spoke to hundreds of researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, teachers, and parents. The problem was clear – children lack financial education, school intervention had not proven effective, and only 32% of American parents talk to their children regularly about money.
The solutions were staring in our face. First, the problem is not simply about literacy, but in following through with real action and cultivating good habits. It’s also about starting young and involving not just the child but their parents to encourage good role-modeling and healthy conversations about money. At the root of the problem, parents just don’t know where to begin. And if the problems start at home, they need to be solved at home. But why isn’t there a home-based solution to help children and parents work through money matters together?
On the other hand, children are exposed to an avalanche of mass media and games that encourage consumerism and peer comparisons of what they have, even in the virtual world. What are our kids exposed to?
While at Stanford University, we were influenced by the work of B.J. Fogg and his methods for designing persuasive technology –technology that influences behavioral change. We saw an opportunity to nip the problem in the bud and take what kids have come to love, to turn the incentives completely on their head and design good technology that inspires real-world behavioral action.
There is something powerful about an idea whose time has come. So many people rallied around the idea offering us so much encouragement and help, putting us in a position where taking no risk became the greatest risk of all. With gut indignation towards the problem, an agonizing discomfort of the status quo, and the collective wisdom of all that we met along the way, PlayMoolah (http://playmoolah.com) was born.
Kiara, age 9, sitting in to one of our brainstorm meetings
In the PlayMoolah headquarters, there is a little desk with little chairs for the kids, filled with sketch paper, color pencils and markers, lego bricks and all sort of toys for kids to join us in the design process. All our concepts go through prototyping and feedback from the kids before put into production.
We design and develop playtools that put kids in the driver seat of their own learning, empowering them with the curiosity, knowledge, skills and tools needed for financial capability. Separately, parents are provided with a dashboard where they can monitor and track their kids progress, get involved with their kids saving goals, or get ideas on family projects they can do at home. No other solution on the market today is tying important age-appropriate lessons about managing money to real life, real dollar and real impact.
There is a famous saying in the valley – ask for money and you get advice, ask for advice and you get money. Through many of these unexpected conversations, we raised our seed round from a diverse group of angel investors across US and Singapore with an alignment in intention and a great humility towards something larger than ourselves. Our first investor wrote a tongue-in-cheek description on our cheque – “Pay to the Order of Play Moolah” for “Saving the world”, definitely one for the archives.
Getting investment to save the world!
We are approaching exciting times as we partner with more schools and financial institutions to offer PlayMoolah to a greater number of kids and parents around the world. As part of the International ChildFinance Movement headquartered in Amsterdam, we also hope to catalyze quality financial education and access to reach the goal of touching the lives of 10 Million children around the world.
Fan mail from one of our awesome moolahkids!
At the end of the day, we hope to inspire a next generation of young people to develop a healthy perspective of money, and to really rethink what money is. To see money as a wealth creation tool rather than an end in itself, money should serve our own dreams, personal growth and happiness. It’s about the enhancing the quality of our experiences, the strength of our relationships, our well-being and our health, and ultimately using money as fuel to create greater value in society. That is the true essence of startups that have served as a vehicle for wealth creation – because every single time we see our Playmoolah kids saving up for their goals, or giving their allowance to charity, we couldn’t imagine trading what we’re doing for anything else in the world.
Audrey Tan, Min Xuan Lee (co-founders) with Playmoolah kids