Yoyo app scores $5 mln seed funds

London-based mobile payment and loyalty app Yoyo has closed $5 million in seed funding. Imperial Innovations Plc led the round with participation from investors that included Firestartr and Telefonica Group.


Yoyo, a London-based mobile payment and loyalty app, has raised US$5m in seed funding, one of Europe’s largest seed funding rounds this year. Founded less than a year ago, the startup has also announced it is rolling out at the University of Westminster and University of Greenwich, which together serve over 50,000 students, visitors and faculty members across London.
The investment was led by technology commercialisation and investment group, Imperial Innovations Plc, with co-investments from Firestartr, a new digital venture platform, and Telefonica Group . Notable angel investors brought into the round by Firestartr include Barry Smith, co-founder of Skyscanner; Mathias Entenmann, former MD of PayPal Europe and Paypal International; and John Chaplin, former EVP at Visa Europe.
Founded in 2013 by Alain Falys (Founder of OB10, ex Visa), Dave Nicholson (Founder of Zopa, ex Egg) and Michael Rolph (ex PayPal, Barclaycard and First Data), Yoyo aims to create a better customer experience using an app which simplifies and speeds up in-store transactions by combining payment and loyalty via one easy scan.
The app, which was released earlier this year, is already handling over 30,000 transactions per month across 32 food and drinks outlets at Imperial College London. In addition to the University of Greenwich and University of Westminster, Yoyo plans to announce further partnerships with universities and high-street retailers Yoyo over the coming months.
Users download Yoyo on the App Store or Google Play, and attach a funding method to top-up their account. Yoyo integrates into the retailer’s till system and uses a unique QR-code for each transaction, which is scanned at the point of sale using a scanner. Users collect loyalty points automatically in the app and can receive offers and promotions from their favourite retailers direct into their app. It removes the need for both cash and loyalty stamp cards.
For retailers, Yoyo provides a marketing platform that enables digital customer engagement in-store. The platform gives retailers a set of tools which enable them to better target their customers with relevant rewards, offers and incentives.
The funding will be used to fuel Yoyo’s ambitious growth plans over the next 12 months, cementing its position as the leading and most-used mobile payment and loyalty app in the UK, before expanding into the US and European markets. Yoyo will also use the funds to continue to grow its partnership programme with Point of Sale software vendors and leading catering companies. The company is looking to raise a Series A later in the year.
Earlier this year, Yoyo participated in Pitch @ Palace, an initiative run by The Duke Of York in support of early-stage entrepreneurship. The app collected two out of three awards, including ’Best Pitch’ and ‘Most Innovative Idea’.
Jon Edington, investment director, Imperial Innovations, said “We have supported Yoyo since its formation and we’re delighted to see the progress it has made so far at Imperial College London. Yoyo has the potential to address a large international market and we are keen to support its experienced management team through the company’s expansion.”
Chipper Boulas, partner at Firestartr, said: ”The experienced team at Yoyo have been able to do something that many others have tried, yet failed – link online commerce with physical bricks and mortar stores. We strongly believe that by combining talented entrepreneurs with massive markets and an elegantly disruptive approach, you create a recipe for success. Yoyo absolutely fits that bill and Firestartr is proud to be supporting the company since its inception.”
Alain Falys, co-founder and CEO at Yoyo, said: “Yoyo’s fast early traction demonstrates that mobile payment combined with loyalty means value for retailers and convenience over cash or cards for consumers. We’re delighted to close this substantial seed funding round from investors who add huge value. However, to fulfil our global ambitions we will raise a very significant Series A round of funding later this year.”
Feilim Mackle, sales and services director at Telefonica UK, said: “This multi-million pound investment is reflective of Yoyo’s potential, which is exactly what Telefónica is looking to support through Wayra, our tech accelerator. Having already invested in the business, we will continue to support them in their early stages of growth.”
Barry Palmer, spokesperson at The University of Greenwich, said: “The University of Greenwich is thrilled to be part of the launch of the Yoyo mobile payment and loyalty app. The app will enhance the choice of payment methods available to students and staff in university cafes and encourage them make use of rewards earned through loyalty.”
About Yoyo
Yoyo is creating a better customer experience via an app that simplifies payment & loyalty transactions. Founded in 2013 by a unique and highly experienced team of entrepreneurs, Alain Falys (founder OB10, ex Visa), Dave Nicholson (founder of Zopa, ex Egg) and Michael Rolph (ex PayPal, Barclaycard and First Data).
About Firestartr.co
Firestartr is the new digital venture platform which syndicates investments with sector relevant investors & provides meaningful introductions to accelerate the success of European start-ups, from seed to series A and beyond.
About Imperial Innovations
Imperial Innovations creates, builds and invests in pioneering technologies developed from the academic research of the UK’s four leading Universities. The Group supports scientists and entrepreneurs in the commercialisation of their ideas and intellectual property by leading the formation of new companies, providing facilities in the early stages, providing investment and encouraging co-investment to accelerate development, providing operational expertise and recruiting high-calibre management teams. It also runs an Incubator in London that is the initial home for many of its technology spin-outs.
Originally formed as the Technology Transfer office for Imperial College – a role it still carries out today, Innovations also invests in opportunities arising from intellectual property developed at, or associated with, Cambridge University, Oxford University and University College London. These are the top four research intensive universities in Europe with a research income of over £1.3 billion per annum.
Innovations invests in the most promising opportunities from whichever technology sector they arise, but has built particular expertise in the key sectors of: therapeutics, medtech, engineering and materials, and ICT.
Since listing in 2006, Innovations has invested a total of £160.9 million across its portfolio companies, which have raised collectively investment of over £750.0 million. Innovations’ largest holding is in Circassia Pharmaceuticals, which listed on the London Stock Exchange main market in March 2014 with a market capitalisation of £581.0 million.

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