Interview with Giuseppe Caltabiano, CEO at Prize-Linked Saving App: EverUp

Everup is a prize-linked saving startup, which we have launched in beta in the UK. We turn saving from a delayed gratification into an instant gratification by embedding free to play instant games and lotteries into a money account. Customer funds are safeguarded and are not used to play. Customers only use the virtual coins we award them: the more they save and perform actions such as signing up, opening an account, signing in, levelling up, inviting their friends to join, the more virtual coins they receive to play our games, the higher their chances of winning our tax-free cash prizes.

By offering our own version of the lottery and instant-win games that are both free to play and offer a chance at winning real money, EverUp offers you an incentive to save money and have fun while doing it, instead of spending on trivial expenses or, indeed, real gambling.

We are tapping into behavioural economics and the mass popularity of lottery games to redirect lottery spending towards personal savings. Unlike the actual lottery, in our model money is never lost, as it is not used to play. We offer a no-loss lottery.

Our mission at EverUp is to make savings – and generally good financial behaviour – fun and rewarding. We are on a mission to make saving fun and get everyone to save. We also have a financial inclusion purpose. Financially vulnerable individuals represent a disproportionate amount of lottery participants and many end up losing the money they put at risk. We want to create a suite of money and saving products that feels similar to the traditional games that people play but has the added benefit of helping this audience to boost their savings.

Academic research has found that the thrill associated with winning a prize can encourage many low- and moderate-income, non-saving households who are unbanked to take the first important step to open accounts with a financial institution. We need to educate people on financial literacy, and we also need to create new ways to engage people with their finances, so that we can change their financial behaviour.
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How did you come up with the idea for the company?

Giuseppe and Egi are long-time friends. We know each other since 2006. We come from different industries. Giuseppe spent 20 years working in the financial services industry, while Egi spent the same amount of time in the lottery and gaming industry. We wanted to create something together that combined our different skills to help people in their daily lives.

When talking about money, we were frustrated by our experience in our respective industries. The financial services industry gives people automated or complicated tools to save, but none of them speak to your emotions or address humans’ desire to receive instant gratification. Meanwhile, the lottery and the gambling industries drain your money, rarely giving anything in return.

We realised that one reason why people don’t save enough or waste money in gambling is that saving is boring and requires self-control. Also, the decision to save requires logical and effortful thinking, and therefore it does not come naturally. We wanted to change that and make saving a fun thing to do. That is where EverUp comes in.

We found that there is an extensive body of academic research on the positive impact on the society of a prize-linked saving scheme. Research says that a prize-linked saving scheme is one way to increase financial inclusion given its effectiveness with low and moderate-income households. Considering that financially vulnerable individuals represent a disproportionate number of lottery participants who end up losing the money they put at risk, a savings product that feels similar to traditional games has the potential to boost savings in this segment of the population. A prize-linked saving scheme is about building positive saving habits.

We want to tap into behavioural economics and the widespread popularity of lottery games to redirect lottery spending towards personal savings. Unlike the actual lottery, at EverUp your money is never lost, as it is not used to play.

Academic research has demonstrated that there is a strong substitution effect between a prize-linked saving scheme and lottery or even gambling. Wherever a prize-linked saving scheme has been tested, there is strong evidence of a reduction in gambling and a parallel increase of the same magnitude in savings. A prize-linked saving scheme retains the short-term gratification of the lottery to attract non-savers but helps to turn them into savers.

The thrill associated with winning a prize can induce many low- and moderate-income non-saving households who are unbanked to take the first important step to opening a bank account. We believe financial institutions need to change the way they serve lower-income customers, and we believe that EverUp is the way to crack the code on financial inclusion.


How has it been launching a company during the pandemic?

The pandemic has forced us to work remotely. Building remotely a team and working remotely means to rethink the way we work together and communicate, all the processes, the tools we use to collaborate and manage our projects. We have transformed this challenge into an opportunity. Indeed, since the very beginning, we are building a fully distributed company, with our team located in different countries across the world.

We look for talent everywhere in the world and our team is a multicultural and diverse one. This is our strength, and we want to keep building on it. Since the beginning, we are therefore building a company culture based on excellence and diversity. Irrespective of where they are located, we look for people that share our mission and beliefs, are a fit from a cultural perspective and have the skill set we need.

Company culture is more than just the premises and nice workplace benefits such as free snacks, table tennis, etc. It is about how we work together and collaborate, how we communicate to each other and connect with each other, how we share experiences as we build EverUp, how we build trust and mutual respect among ourselves, how we always have our back and we care for each other, how each of us intimately thinks that customer comes first for the true customer-centric company we want to build, where everything starts and ends with the customer in mind.

The last point about building a customer-centric company is foundational for us. Indeed, our most important commitment is that we want to build EverUp together with our customers. We want to involve them by listening to their feedback, their ideas and anything we can do to create a better experience, provide them with higher value and ultimately build a better EverUp. We aspire to be a radically transparent company, as we seek to build a community that loves our products and that we can involve in the development of EverUp.

To achieve this, each of us in the team need to live up to our core values. Ultimately it is our responsibility as Founders to build an inclusive culture since the very beginning and make sure that everyone in the team has a sense of purpose and belonging. In this way, our team members become themselves company advocates and can deeply and always embed the company’s values, when we build our proposition or when we talk to our customers.

What can we hope to see from EverUp in the future?

Over time we envision building a full-scale financial hub where our customers can manage all types of financial transactions – from savings to take out personal loans, while being rewarded for solidifying good financial behaviour through a novel prize-linked suite of money, savings and borrowing products. We want to rethink savings and borrowing from the ground up to create fairer and better products, and nudge changes in people’s financial behaviour by using a mix of behavioural interventions and financial incentives. We want to apply our prize-linked framework across a suite of personal finance products to reward our customers for improving their financial health.

In the fullness of time, our vision is for EverUp to become a financial behaviour change and financial wellness platform, whose purpose is to help people managing their financial health by saving more, borrowing responsibly and repaying their debt faster, transitioning borrowers to savers and in doing so boosting their happiness and improving their retirement outlook.

Ultimately, we think of EverUp as being in the Happiness business: we aspire to change the way people think about and use money, so that they can be happier with their savings and with their spending and live a financially healthier and sounder life. Ultimately, we want to change human behaviour, by taking our irrational behaviours and framing them for good, instead of allowing them to inflict self-harm.