Stay up to date on upcoming events, deadlines, news, and more by signing up for our newsletters!
This blog post was written by student author Koko Xu (Courant '25) based on an interview with Aleksandra Medina (Abu Dhabi '21) and Katrin Kaurov (Abu Dhabi '19), co-founders of Frich. It was originally posted in the Koko Spotlights blog on Jan. 2, 2022.
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," or lack of money.
Katrin Kaurov and Aleksandra Medina 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 now wrapped up its first round of pre-seed funding from VCs and angel investors. The app has almost 5,000 downloads and is dominating the NYU campus.
“It’s insane to think back,” Katrin said. "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 (co-founder and CEO) and Aleksandra (co-founder and CPO) at a WeWork on Broadway, I immediately noticed the unique relationship between them. Being long-time friends and now co-founders, the duo has been spending “26 hours a day” together, Aleksandra says.
The pair of entrepreneurs met in Abu Dhabi. Katrin was studying Digital Communication in Media 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 had the complementary tools to actually solve their “brokeness” problem.
And so, in January of 2021, Frich was born.
Frich makes money social, is the startup's slogan, with the mission being to gamify personal finance and hold users accountable to making smart financial choices. On the app, college students and young professionals can sign up, invite friends to join, and send saving challenges to one another. Frich 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, so I would [create a challenge], name it ‘Drink Free WeWork Coffee,' set a timeline, and send it to Katrin," Aleksandra said.
Each users' progress is shown in percentages to others, not monetary value, as there can be peer pressure associated with spending habits. The winner of each challenge earns rewards such as coupons and gift cards, and the money saved goes into a “digital piggy bank," where it’s locked away for a long-term goal such as spring vacation in the Bahamas. Frich partners with Plaid to automatically upload users' transactions onto the app, so they don’t have to do it manually. It also uses Sila Money to pool the money from the users' 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, and there is a very strong element of gamification…that’s made the fitness industry cool again," Katrin said.
Katrin and Aleksandra say they believe that Gen Zs are ready to become more open with their financial health, similarly to how they are becoming more open to sharing their fitness journeys on social media. Compared to the personal finance apps on the market right now – most of which target Millennials – Frich is cooler, more fun, and more effective.
Frich is still a very young company. After founding the startup in January 2021, Katrin and Aleksandra only started working full-time on it in May of that year. The Frich app later launched the following July.
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 entrepreneurship resources, including the Entrepreneurial Institute’s Startup Sprint, Summer Launchpad, and NYU-Yale Pitchoff.
“I think NYU’s accelerators gave us a lot of exposure that really helped us a lot with fundraising,” Katrin said. "We got connected with so many great VCs [and] I can’t recommend that enough.”
Frich was also scouted by Mastercard and joined the Falls Fintech Accelerator, one of the top accelerators of its kind worldwide.
“Day 1 of that accelerator was horrifying,” Katrin said. "Everyone else besides us had like 10-plus years of finance background, we were just there with 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.
Recently, Frich wrapped up its pre-seed round backed by angel investors, various grants, and the big-name investor Financial Venture Studio, which 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 also plan to explore new verticals such as partnering with crypto platforms and stock brokerages to provide students with growing assets as rewards.
“Through all the customer interviews we did, we discovered that people don’t realize how small habits add up,” Katrin said. "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 that 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, though.
“I think we’re still recovering from the intensity [of starting a startup],” Katrin said.
Aleksandra added: “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,” Katrin said. "With the App store, it took them a couple of weeks to approve us, and every time it would be something tiny.”
Aleksandra recalled a specific pain point: “[I remember] when I felt like I really lost my s*** was when Apple came back and said, 'We don’t like the spelling of this notification, please rephrase it.’ And they would take a week to review it again.”
The founders say they've made mistakes, such as announcing specific launch dates before the app was ready, that have helped them to learn along the way. While mistakes are unavoidable for new founders, Katrin and Aleksandra are making good progress through them.
Frich now has almost 10 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 with a TikTok manager and PR interns. Growth & Business Development is also an area of focus for the startup.
“Something we’re very excited about is the building wealth part,” Katrin said. "We’re interested in exploring the social aspects of investing with friends.”
Katrin and Aleksandra envision a future where investing has a very low barrier to entry for Gen Z and is, most importantly, 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 said. "Money plays a massive role in our lives, [and] 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 guerrilla marketing campaigns are dominating the NYU campus right now. If you walk past Bobst Library on a Tuesday afternoon, you will probably see members of the startup's team 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 the Frich stand and download the app for a free coffee – it’ll be your first step towards getting F-rich.