Lucas Moraes, Olivia's app cofounder
Lucas Moraes, Olivia's cofounder. Photo: Olivia/Courtesy

Olivia, free financial assistant, arrives in Brazil

After gaining 500,000 users in the US and Ireland, a startup founded by Brazilians arrives in Latin America

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Olivia, the finance app with a free financial assistant powered by artificial intelligence, arrived in Brazil on January 15th. The waiting list of 30,000 Brazilians, opened in August last year, still during the testing period of the tool, is now zeroed out, and the application is available to everyone at Apple and Google stores.

Founded in 2016 in the United States by the Brazilians Lucas Moraes and Cristiano Oliveira, the startup has been operating there since 2017 and also in Ireland, through a partnership with the largest pension fund in the country, since 2018. In total, Olivia has already been used by half a million people.

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According to Lucas Moraes, Brazil has been part of the startups’ plans for at least two years. “We came to Brazil in 2018 for some meetings, which culminated in a round of investments and also solid partners. Still in mid-2019 we started to structure our operation in the country”, he said.

The round to which Moraes refers was officially announced along with the startup’s arrival on the 15th: an investment of BRL 25 million ($5.8 million), led by the investment portfolio of the neobank BV, a new brand of Banco Votorantim, whose shareholders are Banco do Brasil and Votorantim SA, accompanied by MSW Capital through the BR Startups fund, which had already invested BRL 1.5 million in the company in 2019. The Brazilian broker XP also invested in a minority stake in the startup.

Along with the investment came Olivia’s partnership and integration with the BV bank card app in early 2019, and then the XP app, which helped to “tropicalize” the startup’s technology.

Lucas Moraes Olivia's app cofounder
Photo: Olivia/Courtesy.

Olivia had to learn about the high interest rates in the country and the installments available on the credit card, for example. It took months of feedback until we got to this version (officially released)

Lucas moraes, cofounder of olivia.

This pre-launch period was also instrumental in integrating Olivia with the country’s banks and fintechs. A somewhat difficult and time-consuming process, as Brazil does not yet have an open banking system in place.

Currently, customers of banks Itaú, Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal, Nubank are able to connect to the platform, in addition to Alelo, CrediCard, Sodexo, Ticket, Itaucard and American Express cards issued by Bradesco. In the coming months, one of the priorities of the Olivia team in Brazil is to increase this list, integrating at least one new bank, fintech or entity to the application every week.

Olivia communicates via chat with the user. Photo: Olivia/Courtesy.

How the Olivia app works

When the person opens the app for the first time, Olivia asks for permission to access the person’s financial transactions. Like GuiaBolso, another Brazilian financial organization application, this happens through data scraping technology.

“And we only have access to the visualization of the data. We cannot do any type transaction and we do not identify anyone personally. We do not ask for any data such as CPF (an identification number similar to the one issued by the IRS in the United States) or address. The person only needs to enter a name, which can even be a nickname, which is the way Olivia is going to address the user “, explains Moraes.

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Over time, Olivia gets to know the user’s habits and begins to assist him through personalized financial recommendations. Using artificial, the app recommends the best ways of spending money and stretching salary.

Olivia’s plans for Brazil in the coming months

In addition to making the user base grow more and more, investing in marketing and integrating new banks into the app, Olivia wants to find new partners that can help it make a difference in the user’s life. And the startup knows that it can make more difference in the life of the Brazilian user than it already does in the life of the American.

“There is an aggravating factor: almost a decade lost due to the crisis, with high unemployment rates, etc. The Brazilian needs immediate, necessary help, which comes in the wake of a major crisis”, emphasizes Moraes.

The startup also wants to seek partners that help Brazilians to consume in a more conscious and financially healthy way. “Our focus is not on financial services, but on consumption. We imagine that we can help people if we have a partnership with travel agencies, for example,” says Moraes.

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Olivia’s idea is a little more sophisticated than simply offering products and services. “We want to suggest affordable travel packages, for example, as the user’s vacation date approaches”, says Moraes. He says that in the US, where the app “has already learned a lot”, Olivia is able to do price research in supermarkets close to the user and suggest those with the best prices.

Also in the US, where the majority of users live from salary to salary, failing to save in long-term, Olivia is being effective on increasing the user’s ability to save some money. When starting to use the service, the average American usually does not save even 1% of the family income. Two months later, this proportion is already over 5%.