In this interview, we speak to Funmi, co-founder of Todlr, a platform designed to help parents invest in their children’s future and teach their kids about money management. Funmi shares how his experience working in the growth team at Bamboo and as an employee at Magic Fund inspired her to create Todlr.
What inspired you to build Todlr, and how did you develop the idea for the app?
To be honest, it was a phase of life that I was in. A few weeks before we actually came up with the idea, I had a sense that something was coming. I even had a group chat with six of my friends that we called “ideas,” where we would drop any creative thoughts we had. I just had a gut feeling that something was on the horizon.
From that conversation, the idea for Todlr was born. It all happened very quickly. On a Thursday, we had the initial spark of an idea. By Saturday, we had come up with the name. And by Monday, we were already working on our roadmap. It’s been a whirlwind ever since, but we’re so excited to see where it takes us.
How has your professional background helped in building Todlr?
Before Bamboo, I was dabbling in various businesses because I realized that what I was studying in school (computer science) wasn’t quite piquing my interest. I wanted to explore something more exciting, like finance, growth, or business. That’s when I got the opportunity to join Bamboo and became part of the early team in December 2019, and it was a game-changer!
At Bamboo, I worked in the growth team. In my second year at Bamboo, I got introduced to the General Partner at Magic Fund. After a couple of conversations, I accepted an offer and started working at Magic. Both experiences helped me in different ways.
At Bamboo, I learned how to build a company and a product, take it to market, get users, and grow a business. At Magic, I worked with companies across the globe as Magic Fund invests globally, giving me a sense of what was going on in North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. I realized that the world is much bigger than where I’m staying or where I’ve lived my entire life. Combining both experiences led me to the idea for Todlr, which is to build a global solution. Working at Bamboo made me want to build something, and working at Magic made me realize that whatever I build has global potential. This is how both experiences led me to what I do now.
Interesting. How does Todlr work?
As a parent, you sign up and create an account. We help you teach your child all about money! It’s super easy – just input some basic info, and we’ll create a unique learning path for your little one.
This learning path has lessons, like mini money masterclasses. There are about five paths, and each path has around six lessons. Each lesson covers an important money topic, like saving, budgeting, investing, and understanding the difference between needs and wants. Plus, we have some expert finance tutors who made some cool videos, and we even have some fun games that your child can play to learn even more!
But here’s the best part – at the end of each path, you and your child get to do a real-life project together. That’s right, like setting up a lemonade stand or grocery shopping and budgeting together.
The other side of Todlr is that we also help parents make investments for their children’s future. In addition to teaching your child about money, you can create goals for their future, such as college, their first house, their first car, or whatever is important to you for your child’s future. You then begin to invest consistently towards those goals with the help of your family members and loved ones.
What Todlr is doing is tackling two important parts of our financial lives: providing resources and training for the next generation, so they have resources to pursue their dreams and passions, and at the same time, equipping them with the right amount of financial education and literacy.
How does the team ensure parents feel comfortable and safe about the product, particularly the investment product? Also, why did we pick the US market?
The US was an attractive market for several reasons. First and foremost, when we decided to create Todlr, we recognized that it was addressing a universal problem—a problem that exists globally, regardless of language or location. The driving thesis behind Todlr is that parents want the best for their children, and that desire is reflected in their aspirations for better education and housing. Given the global nature of the problem, we asked ourselves which market would be the best first step for Todlr to take. After careful consideration, we concluded that the US was the ideal choice.
For starters, parents in the US already invest heavily in their children’s education, with the average family setting aside $300 per month—or $3,600 per year—for this purpose. This demonstrated behaviour provided a strong foundation on which we could build a better user experience. Additionally, the US has a clearer regulatory framework, which made it easier for us to comply with regulations and ensure that we were operating within the bounds of the law. This is in contrast to other markets, such as Nigeria and other parts of West Africa, where the regulations are less clear, and businesses run the risk of being sanctioned or penalized.
Finally, the US market was simply the largest and most diverse, making it an ideal place to test and refine our product. If we could succeed in the US, we knew we could replicate our success in other parts of the world, tailoring our solution to meet the specific needs of different regions.
Regarding security and safety, we’ve taken several steps to ensure that parents feel comfortable using our platform. On the investment side, we’ve partnered with registered investment advisors and brokerage firms to ensure that our investment products are SEC-regulated and that we meet all necessary legal requirements.
We are able to offer parents expertly managed investment portfolios. These portfolios range from conservative to balanced to even aggressive. They are uniquely curated with stocks, bonds, and ETFs to match the parent’s financial situation, risk profile, investment timeline, and goal. So parents are able to start investing safely without any investment experience.
Additionally, we offer customer support within the app, ensuring that parents can easily access help whenever they need it. We also provide a lot of education and resources to help parents and children learn about money management, which helps build trust over time. By taking these steps, we’re confident that we’re providing a secure, reliable platform that parents can trust with their children’s future.
With the US as your primary market, is it possible for users outside the US to access the product?
The learning product is designed to have a global appeal. Therefore, it can be accessed and utilized in any (English-speaking) country across the world. However, it’s worth noting that certain aspects of the product are currently not localized. For example, if you are a Nigerian kid or reside in any other part of the world, the information presented might be in dollars. Additionally, if we discuss credit with you, it will be specific to the US credit or banking structure, which varies across regions.
Despite the current focus on the US market in our marketing efforts, it’s essential to recognize that money is fundamentally a global concept. As such, concepts such as saving and budgeting are applicable and relevant regardless of your location. Therefore, you can still consume and benefit from the product regardless of where you are in the world.
Although our marketing and localization efforts are US-focused at present, we recognize the global nature of finance and strive to make the product more adaptable and relevant to different regions in the future.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you faced in launching? And how have you overcome them?
Honestly, the first challenge we faced was related to fundraising. We needed capital to start, and we were fortunate enough to receive a lot of interest from investors who were willing to provide us with funding. However, we turned down their offers because we believed we had enough resources to start building and didn’t want to fall into the trap of raising too much too quickly. We planned to build first and then come back for more funding later on. Unfortunately, shortly after we made that decision, the entire venture capital industry experienced a major downturn. Suddenly, the tone of the conversations we had with investors changed.
Fundraising became significantly more challenging for us, but we managed to navigate through it with the help of our network. We were fortunate to have existing investors who were willing to provide us with more capital, and they even introduced us to other investors in their network. We also ensured that we were lean and efficient in executing our plans.
The second challenge was building a network, which was inherently difficult due to our backgrounds and the fact that we were building a product for a global market. At the start, we didn’t have any connections to parents in the US, which was the market we were targeting. This made it challenging to conduct user research and gather feedback. We realized that we needed to be creative in solving this problem. We started reaching out to people on social media, and we could reach out to over 120 individuals in just one week. Although not everyone responded, we were able to establish relationships with a number of people, which helped us build our network.
When building a business, having a strong network is crucial, whether it’s for fundraising or launching your product. We put in extra effort to build relationships with people in different parts of the US, and we established partnerships with communities that gave us access to parents. This allowed us to gather feedback and test our product with our target market. Despite the challenges, we were able to overcome them by being resourceful and persistent.
What advice would you give a parent looking to invest in their child’s future but doesn’t even have an idea where to start?
When it comes to your children’s financial future, time is your greatest asset. Parents are often surprised by the cost of college, but investing in your child’s education when they are born is much easier than waiting until they are 14 or 15 years old. So, my advice is to start investing now. Don’t wait. Start small, with as little as $50 or $100 a month.
I also recommend involving your community in the process. Family members such as uncles, aunts, grandparents, and godparents can provide invaluable support. Many gifts that children receive, such as toy cars and action figures, lose their appeal after a few months or years. However, investments in their education or travel experiences will last a lifetime.
Finally, I suggest using Todlr to invest in your child’s future. With Todlr, you can start investing as soon as your child is born with just $1. Todlr makes it easy to involve your loved ones and family members in the investment process, and all the tips I’ve mentioned are available on the platform. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start investing in your child’s future. Start now and give your child the best possible chance for financial success.