Rio Ferdinand backs money transfer app Sokin which aims to be worth £ 100bn in just FIVE years
A Rio Ferdinand-backed startup is gaining traction as it pledges to shake up the money transfer market by making it cheaper and easier to send money overseas.
Sokin got off to a flying start earlier this year, announcing an investment from the former Manchester United and England defender and has an ambitious goal of becoming a Â£ 100 billion company within five years.
After two years of planning, Sokin is now out of stealth mode and is looking to disrupt an industry that has been dominated by Wise – formerly Transferwise – and the challenger banks Monzo and Revolut.
This is Money spoke to founder Vroon Modgill about how he’s fighting established players and Rio about his involvement.
Sokin marked the investment of former footballer Rio Ferdinand
His USP? Unlimited transfers abroad with monthly fees
Sokin’s Global Currency Account charges Â£ 9.99 per month for unlimited overseas transfers in 38 currencies to over 200 countries, plus a debit card.
Its basic account includes a free IBAN account and a free payment card and allows users to receive money for free.
For comparison, money transfer giant Wise, recently listed in London, charges Â£ 3.69 per transfer. Its ‘quick and easy’ transfer costs Â£ 6.67.
âWe don’t pay for every track we download or every movie we play, but when we send money or make a payment, we’re supposed to accept variable, unspecified costs. Why? That has to change, âsays founder and CEO Vroon Modgill, who compares the subscription to Spotify.
For Modgill, who trained as an accountant before moving to Borro and the Islamic bank BLME, the project is personal.
He came up with the idea for Sokin, which means money transfer in Japanese, after hesitating over the repetitive costs and paperwork his own father faced when he sent money back to India.
The problem resonated with Ferdinand, who met Modgill through a mutual friend and committed a six-figure sum for Sokin.
âI come from a background where you have always seen and heard people transferring money and you have heard the difficulties and the stress about it, not only from them but also from the people receiving the moneyâ¦ this is not something you forget, “the former footballer says this is money.
Ferdinand plugged Sokin into his own social media profiles
Sokin marks football partnerships
For football fans, Sokin may already be a household name. Ferdinand’s attachment to the brand has undoubtedly contributed to brand recognition.
Sokin is a sponsor of his YouTube channel – which has just under 800,000 subscribers – and posts about them frequently on Instagram and Twitter.
I come from a background where you have always seen and heard people transferring money and you have heard the difficulties and the stress associated with this, not only from them but also from the people receiving the money … is not something that you forget
Rio Ferdinand – football legend
With little traditional marketing, Ferdinand’s own publicity and his connections in the football industry appear to be the main drivers of his growth.
âIt’s no secret that the Premier League is one of the most watched sports in the world.
âI don’t pretend to be a marketing expert, but I know the numbers and when people spend as much as they are getting conversions, I have to think of a way or a route to do it,â says Modgill.
The Sokin team have doubled the connection with football: they are now the official global payments partner of Arsenal, Everton, Fulham and AS Monaco.
Modgill says it is a mutually beneficial partnership: âIt works to amplify the Sokin product but at the same time I help the club reach their fans.
âA fan in Africa or Singapore can now purchase a shirt directly using our global currency account. “
“We’re not kidding”
The football connection can be a good bonus for clubs, but it’s clear that Sokin is the party that benefits the most.
Since launching in the summer, Sokin now has over 60,000 users – both paid and free – and has already broken the Â£ 100,000 mark in revenue during that time.
This rapid growth is no small feat.
‘I think we should be over 50,000 [paid subscribers] by Christmas. A lot of that is what sets us apart from the rest is the rate and speed with which we expand into new markets, âhe says.
âBy the end of this year, we will have a larger account issuance footprint than Revolut and Wise. It’s two years of planning. We are not kidding when we say we are pitching.
Suddenly, Ferdinand seems happy with his investment.
He may not be reaping the dividends yet, but he feels justified in his decision to invest in Sokin.
âHaving consumer feedback saying how simple, efficient and transparent it is has been a refreshing addition to this market.
‘One of the guys who works on my YouTube channel is using it, sending money to Africa that they love.
âI also think about the speed at which it has been deployed to different countries – it’s faster than anyone I’ve seen in this space. It really cemented the reason I got involved and invested.
He adds: âI like being involved, I like being part of a team. It’s a new experience for all of us to work like this and it’s an experience that I really enjoy.
Sokin users are charged Â£ 9.99 for unlimited money transfers to over 200 countries
VC come knocking
Sokin’s next challenge will be to convert its free users to paid users.
Its typical users are typically millennials and Gen Z, says Modgill, who took advantage of its debit card feature this summer, which is supported by Mastercard and available in 80 countries subject to and pending local requirements and regulatory.
Like Monzo and Revolut, Sokin’s card can be used for day-to-day activities as well as payments for overseas travel at no cost.
But with so many banks already offering this feature, the Sokin team will want to attract paying users for their basic money transfer offering.
Vroon Modgill started Sokin after seeing his father struggle to send money to India
“I have to go back to the roots of why I started this business, which is that my dad sends money and that is important.”
This laser focus on the largely untapped remittance market is probably the reason he claims several venture capitalists are knocking on Sokin’s door.
âThere is a lot of interest growing in us.
âWe were under the radar for two years and then all of a sudden we got out earlier this year.
âNow people are seeing a lot of partnerships happening and they are seeing the traction we’re getting,â Modgill says.
For Ferdinand, the main goal is to grow the business: âWe want to be able to provide a Sokin account to people all over the worldâ¦ so we need to make sure that Series A is at the center of our concerns at the to come up “.
The team plans to complete the cycle within the next six months.
Modgill seems more cautious when it comes to accepting VC money so easily. ‘This is something we have to think about …
“You don’t want to be the company that runs after the money, gets the check, spends the money, does another round of funding just to keep the momentum going.”
âIt’s important for us to move forward to get VCs who want to take us to a valuation of Â£ 100bn in the next five years.
‘Is it possible? Absoutely. We’re going to have a footprint that’s bigger than most banks, âModgill says.
Does that mean there are plans to expand Sokin’s offering beyond remittances like Wise and Revolut have done?
âWe will add more products, but we will not just follow trends. Many of these companies offer banking as a service one week, the next week they buy now and pay later.
âWhere’s the vision? Where is the lack of innovation? It’s very worrying, âsays Modgill.
The former footballer, who has invested in a handful of sports companies, also believes it is a common trap companies make.
âI’ve been involved in a lot of businesses where people get excited and then walk away from the real game plan that was set at the start.
âWhen you bring too much to the table, you make everything a little more complex. “
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