‘I was in disbelief’ Man recalls realising he’d lost life savings after ‘wild goose chase’

Entrepreneur Holly Tucker recalls ‘risking it all’

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Whilst in university, Mr Ezeike and his co-founders first broke ground on what would become the number one fintech app for influencers in the UK, XPO. However, early on in the process, they realised eight months of work, time and money had all been for nothing when their app developer disappeared with their life savings.

Sharing the incredible story of how XPO was brought to life during an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Mr Ezeike recalled that horrifying moment.

The founding pair, Mr Ezeike and Tomi Aiyeola met at university where they had both realised the shortcomings of traditional banking when it came to modern day careers like content creators.

Determined to fill the gap in the market, the pair took to Twitter in search of a develop that could bring their idea to life, and with an influx of CVs using coding languages they didn’t understand, one developer stood out from the pack.

Mr Ezeike explained: “We had someone basically come to us saying he liked the idea and dumbed it all down for us so it made sense.

“And of course we’re not stupid, we weren’t going to pay someone all of our money upfront.

“We had a contract with him saying we were going to pay him monthly instalments and when we get investment for the idea we’ll pay the lump sum of whatever was left that we owed.”

Thinking they had themselves protected from any potential fraud with their contract, the pair worked with the developer for around eight months who would share updates that made it seem like he had been doing just what they had asked.

“Then one day I messaged him and he didn’t respond.

“On WhatsApp I couldn’t see his display picture, there was only one tick going through. He had taken us on a wild goose chase. We had no trading base, no nothing.”

Mr Ezeike explained how it felt when he realised what had happened: “It was just disbelief because I was thinking, ‘There’s no way I could get scammed. I’ve taken all the precautions needed because I didn’t pay him up front.’

“Then your pride sets in, like maybe it was the wrong number, maybe he doesn’t have internet. You sit there for days hoping that something will happen but as the days go on you realise this was definitely a scam.

“You also question if the scam even makes sense because the person has literally spent eight months with you. By then they had taken between £12,000 and £13,000, is that really enough for an eight month scam?

“At the time, firstly it was like, ‘Wow we’ve pooled all of our savings into this’ and then also all of the time we had wasted’.

“We could’ve started XPO a year earlier, imagine what that could’ve looked like. I had poured so much time and my savings at the time, I was uni student so I didn’t have much.

“I was pouring all my earnings into it and then it was starting not even from square one but from square zero because at the end of the day I didn’t even know how to cope.”

He added that moving forward, the founders didn’t seek any legal retribution as they didn’t even know where the developer actually lived, and without money for lawyers they were wary of losing any more time.

Mr Ezeike said that if he had the opportunity to try it all again, he would take a much greater interest in the development of the app.

“For what he built in eight months, which was basically nothing, I would’ve known very quickly that it should not take eight months. But I didn’t have the knowledge and if I’m being honest with myself I didn’t want the knowledge.

“I had this notion of, ‘You’re a developer, go develop it over there and then come back and I’ll sell it.’ I think that’s a huge issue. I wasn’t trying to learn it myself.”

As university students, it was difficult to recover both financially and mentally from this disastrous setback, but determined to not be taken advantage of again, Mr Ezeike taught himself how to code on the course website Udemy and created a dummy version of the app.

Relying on his job leading an innovation team at Barclays, and with Mr Aiyeola getting a second job to support the business, the pair were eventually able to find a real developer and investors soon followed.

Despite the setback at the start, the XPO-App has been ranked as the number one app for its niche content creator audience and has secured £1million in funding.

Mr Ezeike, who is a former England sprinter, had first-hand experience with creating content as he aimed to inspire others in the sporting world when he was younger.

However, once he started receiving offers for paid sponsorships he quickly recognised a hole in the banking industry.

He explained: “What’s unfortunate is that traditional banks don’t see creator income as income at all. It’s most likely looked at as a simple bank transfer, and if they don’t see consistency every time, they’re like, ‘Hey, this is definitely not income.’ So what this means is that I could be working with some of the best and most known brands globally, but the way in which the money comes in, doesn’t translate to a ‘steady income’ in the bank’s eyes.”

He noted that this problem is becoming increasingly dire as the generation of digital nomads prefer the gig economy over traditional employment, meaning they are missing out on necessities such as a credit score mortgages and credit cards.

He added: “People forget that being a content creator is a proper job, and behind the job is a human being that needs access to these everyday financial services.

“As a result of that, another focus for us is to continue to develop our commercial partnerships with financial institutions such as Monzo and Barclays. We’re also looking to collaborate with credit bureaus like Equifax too.”

Mr Ezeike explained that while they have achieved their original goal despite the scam, the experience has had an impact on the way that XPO operates, in that everything is held to incredibly high security standards.

“We’re dealing with people’s finances here so one wrong spelling can mess up everything, we make sure it’s tested rigorously a number of times,” he commented.

Sharing his exciting plans for the future of XPO, Mr Ezeike noted that by the end of next year they aim to get 20 percent of the UK influencer market on their platform and the data that comes with it.

“By default, we’re collecting a large amount of data for a generation doing a new kind of job so it’s exciting to think that banks and credit score companies can actually tap into this intelligence, start building an informed picture of tomorrow’s influencers and help them get the financial services that they deserve.”

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