Why we partner with ZELF

A messenger-first digital banking platform 

Opening and using a bank account with IBAN and Mastercard within 30 seconds? We are thrilled to announce our first investment in the FinTech space and welcome Elliot and his team at ZELF to the 3VC community. ZELF is on a mission to become the world’s most inclusive, easy to use, digital banking platform through a messenger-first approach.

We are convinced by the incredible team, the large market opportunity, and deep insight and understanding of the banking sector as well as the needs of Generation Z, that we decided to partner with Elliot in this pre-Seed round alongside great and value-adding investors SeedX, Hard Yaka, Yair Goldfinger, Chris Adelsbach and Capitoria.

ZELF's recipe is simple, yet no-one else has done it before: bring financial services to where consumers spend 50% of phone-time and where more and more of the spending will happen in the future - messenger apps like Telegram, WhatsApp, and FB Messenger. This is true for Generation Z but also many of the globally 1.7bn unbanked. To put it with the words of Expensify's CEO, David Barrett: "Payments and chats are the same thing".

Open your bank account in less than 30 seconds – it is that simple

We have always been excited about the Fintech space but have not (yet) seen many companies that solve the issues of the traditional banking sector while addressing the needs of a new and very demanding generation of consumers with a sustainable business model – until we talked to Elliot about his vision for ZELF.

If you open a (free) bank account with one of the existing neobanks, you will have to go through an identification process which is tedious for you and costly for the bank. But what if you, like many others, rarely use that bank account or transact only small amounts? Well, the bank has a hard time earning back those acquisition costs.

That's why ZELF instantly issues anonymous cards without the need for identification, providing you with an IBAN and a fully working virtual Mastercard for your Google/Apple wallet within seconds. You only have to go through the identification once you’re planning to use your account for larger transactions.

Also, ZELF does not have its own app – it lives in your messenger: say or write "Show me my card" and there it is; say or write "send $10 to Chris" and off you go. It is that simple! ZELF does not want to be the second or third bank account of millennials, it wants to be the first account your kids have and then grow with them as their needs and requirements develop.

“Gen Z is the first smartphone generation. Cash is an alien concept in their world. As a parent I am excited how ZELF empowers Gen Z as consumers by seamlessly integrating with the platforms they already use and at the same time includes parents and applies technology for safe digital engagement." – Roman Scharf, Founding Partner at 3VC

Messenger-based banking is a huge market with lots of potential

According to Dealroom.co data, Fintech was by large the industry with the highest VC investments in Europe in 2018, 2019, and 2020 growing almost 100% from 2018 to 2019 and staying at a high level in 2019 of around $10bn in 2020. We think it is fair to say that Fintech is hot. On the other hand, stocks of all larger European banks have mostly moved in one direction since 2018 - downwards. It’s obvious that there is a problem that can be turned into a great opportunity. Besides, while 1.7bn people in the world do not have access to banking but – you guessed it – they own a mobile phone that has a messenger service, even if it is only an SMS.

Messenger-based banking service is the first stage of progressing towards a fully-fledged financial services provider – there will be many more innovations to come from ZELF in the future.

If it wouldn't be hard, it wouldn't be worth it

ZELF is nothing that was thought off and created overnight. Having spent many years in senior positions at large international banks, the problem was clear to Elliot for a very long time. However, it is only now that virtual cards for offline payment (Google Pay, Apple Pay) are becoming a reality and people spend more time in messenger apps than in any other app. When Elliot built the first version of ZELF in the US in 2017, it was too early as virtual cards could not yet be used seamlessly everywhere. As we got to know Elliot, his resilience became very clear to us: he will always find a creative solution to any problem and roadblock to arrive at his ultimate vision. The 500k pre-order list from people all over the world shows how large the demand for ZELF is, but also how effective and creative the team is in acquiring customers.

“The incredible demand is a strong encouragement to accelerate our growth, and we are thrilled that the investors share our vision of a contactless and cashless society. We are confident that our business model of eliminating cumbersome banking apps as well as physical plastic cards will prove to be the winning strategy.” – Elliot Goykhman, Founder & CEO of ZELF

If you get to know such an extraordinary founder who shares your vision to change the world and have an impact you would have to blame yourself for not making everything possible to join and support him on this journey. That is why we are looking forward to the ride together with Elliot, the whole ZELF team, and our co-investors.

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