‘Buy to earn’ fintech Hello Clever bags $4.5 million seed round
Fresh-faced fintech startup Hello Clever has completed a $4.5 million seed funding round, driving its plan to lure millennial and gen Z shoppers away from buy now, pay later (BNPL) services while pioneering the use of Australia’s new PayTo technology.
Founded in 2021 by Caroline Tran and Gavin Nguyen, Sydney-based Hello Clever bills itself as a payments and financial management platform that rewards users each time they spend with select merchants.
Unlike buy now, pay later options, which rewards instant gratification, Hello Clever’s instant cashback ‘buy to earn’ model is targeted at young budgeters who still want extra benefits when they do eventually make a purchase.
For the merchants who opt in to the system, Hello Clever claims it can deliver a stream of dedicated customers.
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Hello Clever also hosts tracking features for consumers to manage their spending, plus social media payments and QR code invoice options for businesses.
Tran, a millennial herself, tells SmartCompany it was important to create a “centralised place to really empower people to really be clever with their money”.
“Really what we’re trying to do is really democratise, and also really simplify everything in one place for our customers,” she says, without Hello Clever trying to be a bank in and of itself.
The structure of Hello Clever’s buy-to-earn model also suggests the startup may be partially shielded from rising interest rates, which significantly affect buy now, pay later providers reliant on short-term financing to fund their pay-in-four services.
That pitch was good enough for Hong Kong-based Vectr Fintech Partners, which led the seed round, and participants including CrossFund, Magnivia Ventures, and Yolo Investments — an apt name for a venture capital firm targeting millennial spenders.
“I think we’re quite lucky compared to our peers”, Tran says of the funding effort, given the dramatic downturn in venture market sentiment through mid-2022.
“But there are still VCs out there still really believe in investing into potential fintechs and potential products,” she adds.
Tran said Hello Clever will use the funding to grow its reach beyond the 30,000 users it already hosts, and the 200 merchants already signed up to Hello Clever checkout options.
“We want to grow and really adapt, and obviously educate the market more about this new payment system [for] younger audiences in Australia,” she says.
The startup also intends to hire developers and designers to bolster its product offering.
That may include features built around Australia’s new PayTo system, which allows users to pre-authorise real-time payments between bank accounts.
Days before revealing its seed funding round, Hello Clever’s system facilitated the nation’s first PayTo payment, made by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
“It is a new technology, and people don’t really know what it comprises, so you do need to incentivise them in a way to really use this payment method,” Tran says.
“It’s perfect for our business model because we’re a wholly digital platform, so it just makes sense.”