On a spring morning in Central Park, two girls from Europe – one a developer, the other a professional model – went on a walk to fulfill their childhood Gossip Girl-New York City fantasies. On the walk, they had a talk about their mutual “brokeness” – lack of money. Katrin Kaurov, CEO and Cofounder of Frich, and Aleksandra Medina, CPO and Cofounder of Frich, were both students at NYU Abu Dhabi. They discussed how they were spending too much money, and brainstormed ways to stay on their budgets.
Six months later, Katrin and Aleksandra’s startup, Frich, has just wrapped up their first round of pre-seed funding from VCs and angel investors. Their app has almost five thousand downloads and is dominating the NYU campus. “It’s insane to think back,” Katrin exclaims, “you don’t really realize because on a daily basis you’re just trying to get to the next milestone. It’s really interviews like this when you look back and you’re like, ‘we’ve done quite a lot!’”
When I went to interview Katrin and Aleksandra at a WeWork on Broadway, I immediately noticed the unique relationship between them. Being long-time friends and now cofounders, Katrin and Aleksandra have been spending “26 hours a day” together, according to Aleksandra. The pair of entrepreneurs met in Abu Dhabi. Katrin was studying Digital Communication in Media at NYU, and later earned a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Harvard University. Aleksandra was an Interactive Media major, and a PR and Social Media Executive at a Marketing firm. While Katrin had experience in the startup world from her first startup, ModelClub (a social app for models and influencers), Aleksandra had the development and UI/UX skills. They realized that they have the complementary tools to actually solve their “brokeness” problem, so in January of 2021, Frich was born.
Frich makes money social. As their slogan indicates, Frich’s whole idea is to hold users accountable and gamify personal finance. Frich is an app where college students and young professionals can sign up, invite friends to join, and send saving challenges to each other. The app allows users to set personal goals in six social spending streams: cabs, online shopping, ordering in, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. Within each stream, the user can create goals with their friends and see each other’s progress. “For example, I love coffee,” explains Aleksandra, “…I would [create a challenge], name it ‘drink free WeWork coffee’, set a timeline, and send it to Katrin.” Their progress is shown in percentages to each other, not monetary value, as there can be peer pressure associated with spending habits. The winner of the challenge gets rewards like coupons and gift cards, and the money they save from the challenge goes into a “digital piggy bank”, where it’s locked away for a long-term goal like Spring vacation in the Bahamas. Frich partners with Plaid to automatically upload your transactions onto the app, so you don’t have to do it manually. They also use Sila Money to pool the money from your bank account to the Frich app.
What differentiates Frich from other personal finance apps is the accountability system, which was actually inspired by fitness apps. “[Fitness apps] worked so so well for us,” Katrin explains, “and there is a very very strong element of gamification, …that’s what made the fitness industry cool again.” Katrin and Aleksandra believe that just like how people are becoming more open to sharing their fitness journeys on social media, Gen Zs are ready to become more open with their financial health. Compared to the personal finance apps on the market right now – most of which target Milleniels – Frich is cooler, more fun, and more effective.
Frich is still a very young company. Founding Frich in January 2021, Katrin and Aleksandra only started working on the startup full-time in May. The Frich app was launched in July of 2021. With Katrin and Aleksandra both finishing school, the summer was a very busy time for the pair. They took Frich through NYU’s plethora of entrepreneurial resources, including the Entrepreneurial Institute’s Startup Sprint, Summer Launchpad, and NYU vs. Yale Pitchoff. “I think NYU’s accelerators gave us a lot of exposure that really helped us a lot with fundraising,” Katrin describes, “we got connected with so many great VCs. …I can’t recommend that enough.” Frich was also scouted by Mastercard and joined the Falls Fintech Accelerator, one of the top Fintech accelerators in the world. “Day one of that accelerator was horrifying,” recalls Katrin, “everyone else besides us had like ten plus years of finance background, we were just there like, we had no idea what they were talking about.” Despite the challenge, the rigorous 12-week program did award Katrin and Aleksandra with deep knowledge in the Fintech industry and a partnership with Mastercard to launch their own Frich debit card in early 2022.
Now, Frich has just wrapped up their pre-seed round backed by angel investors, various grants, and big-name investor Financial Venture Studio, who famously backed Digit ($3.5B valuation) and Pillar (acquired by Acorns). Katrin and Aleksandra will use the funding to expand to different New York and Boston campuses. They will also explore new verticals like partnering with crypto platforms and stock brokerages to provide students with growing assets as rewards. “Through all the customer interviews we realized that people don’t realize how small habits add up,” Katrin says, “…having a coffee every morning adds up to thousands of dollars a year, which when you invest can grow into so much more.” Frich’s appeal to Gen Z has a tremendous value proposition, it can be leveraged into partnerships with Fintech corporations and even allow Frich to become an AUM firm down the road.
The Frich journey wasn’t exactly a smooth ride for Katrin and Aleksandra. “I think we’re still recovering from the intensity [of starting a startup],” says Katrin, and Aleksandra adds: “I still don’t really know how we pulled it off actually.” Katrin came to Frich from a fashion industry background, and Aleksandra straight from school, so both were adjusting to the nitty-gritty reality of startup life. “Something we didn’t think about was launching,” remembers Katrin, “…with App store it took them a couple of weeks to approve us, and every time it would be something tiny.” Aleksandra gives an example: “[I remember] when I feel like I really lost my shit was when Apple came back and was like, ‘I don’t like the spelling of this notification, please rephrase it.’ And they would take a week to review it again.” They made mistakes like announcing specific launch dates. When the date came and the app wasn’t ready, investors were panicking and calling them demanding answers. “[We’re] learning from our mistakes for sure,” Aleksandra concludes.
Mistakes are unavoidable for new founders, but Katrin and Aleksandra are making good progress through them. Frich now has almost ten employees, with Simona (Head of Marketing), Pablo (Head of Growth), and Siraj (Head of Security) being the key full-time employees. Frich is looking for talent to expand its marketing department, especially a TikTok Manager, but also PR interns. Growth and Business Development is also an area of focus for Frich. “Something we’re very excited about is the building wealth part,” Katrin says, “…we’re interested in exploring the social aspects of investing with friends.” Frich envisions a future where investing has a very low barrier to entry for Gen Z and more importantly, is fun. It will be a future where Gen Zs can compete in investing challenges casually with their friends, and gift stocks to each other. “Our larger mission really is still making money social,” Katrin concludes, “…money plays a massive role in our life, …there are so many emotions around money, but it’s weird that we’re not having transparent conversations. I really hope Frich can change that for young people.”
Frich’s gorilla marketing campaigns are dominating the NYU campus right now. If you walk past Bobst on a Tuesday afternoon, you will probably see a Frich stand handing out free Kung Fu Tea or donuts. So next time, instead of waiting in that atrociously long line at the Starbucks across from Stern, stop by a Frich stand and download the app for a free coffee – it’ll be your first step towards getting F-rich.