Many have tried, but no European company has become as successful as Venmo so far. Venmo is a great way to pay back your friends in a few taps without having to pay any fee. But its main issue is that it only works in the U.S. Stealth startup Cookies wants to do just like Venmo, but in Europe.
Cookies is also all about paying your friends without any fee. The company promises a speedy onboarding experience and a great design. The app will let you send and request money in seconds so that you spend less time fighting with your bank account.
“The payment field in Europe is kind of broken,” co-founder Lamine Cheloufi told me. “And if you take a look at dating apps, you have Tinder and then you have some apps that people are not using. In the payment space, you don’t have this kind of phenomenon.”
The app isn’t available yet, but the company will soon launch a beta phase to iron out the last bugs before a public launch during the first quarter of 2016. At first, Cookies will be available in Germany. But the company plans to launch in other European countries shortly after its launch.
Many have tried to create a Venmo equivalent in Europe, such as Lydia or Pumpkin in France. But it’s harder to crack the code of the European market as bank transfers are free — all you need is an IBAN code and time on hands.
In my experience, I have tried to make all my friends switch to apps like Lydia. But most of them didn’t see the point.
It all comes down to friction. Many people don’t want to install yet another app and create yet another account given that they already have a bank app on their phones.
If Cookies can make peer-to-peer payments an order of magnitude easier and more viral, it has a chance to stand out from the competition. And it turns out Cookies already has a promising founding team.
The two founders Garry Krugljakow and Lamine Chelouﬁ met when they were working for Number26, a German fintech startup that has made some waves for the past year. I’ve covered Number26 many times on TechCrunch already, calling it the best banking experience in Europe.
Cookies won’t be a direct Number26 competitor — it doesn’t try to invent the bank of the future like Number26. But many former Number26 employees are now working for Cookies. On the team page, you can spot product designers, web engineers and mobile engineers who were all working for Number26.
While it’s not enough to call it an exodus, it’s safe to say that Cookies’ backstory is directly tied to Number26. There are already 25 people working for Cookies.
The German startup recently raised $1.6 million (€1.5 million) from Holtzbrinck Ventures and business angels, such as studiVZ founders Ehssan Dariani and Dennis Bemmann, current and former Wunderlist executives Benedikt Lehnert, Steen Kiedel and Chad Fowler, and Auxmoney CEO Raffael Johnen.
When it comes to product, I have yet to see it in action, but the company gave me a few hints already. Compared to other e-wallet apps, there is no balance. When you receive a payment in Cookies, your money is transferred directly to your bank account.
“We’re not a classical e-wallet. Most companies, such as Venmo are based on an e-wallet model,” Cheloufi said. “In Venmo, if I transfer money to you, it’s going to be parked somewhere. Then you have to transfer it to your bank account. From our side, we make a classical bank-to-bank transaction.”
Trust is also an important component of a payment app. In Cookies, everybody has a profile picture. If you redeem a payment for example, you see a screen with the sender’s face.
Finally, the app supports group payments. This feature is particularly important when you want to split the costs with more than one person.
Everything about Cookies looks intriguing. The founders are tackling an important challenge, but it looks like they are willing to go all in by hiring dozens of people from day one and making sure they don’t do the same mistake as other peer-to-peer payment startups in Europe. It’s going to be a long process, but somebody has to build a ubiquitous Venmo for Europe — and it could be Cookies.