A banking and telecommunication services app aimed at making relocation easier for international students, skilled workers and migrants has raised $1.6 million in seed funding, as Sydney-based Mist looks to formally onboard its first cohort of users in January.
Key local participants in the raise include Investible, Allectus Capital, Archangel Ventures, Seedspace and The Hunter Angels.
Mist was initially set up in early 2022 by its CEO John Crutchley, who was previously the manager of migration and international banking at ANZ (ASX: ANZ) in the UK before moving to Australia in 2018 to head up international banking at the now defunct Volt Bank.
"The process of moving to a new country to study is stressful and complicated. As the international student market continues to grow rapidly, Mist is developing our application to ensure a smooth relocation by solving many of the pre-departure issues around verification, payments, and communications," says Crutchley.
"This funding will enable us to launch our services through our partnerships with education agents, institutions, and accommodation providers and cater to the dynamic needs of students worldwide, helping them 'move, settle and live' in their new country," he says.
Around 12 months ago Crutchley was joined by co-founder Dave Malcolm, the co-founder of Marley Spoon Australia and Dinnerly, who was enamoured with the idea of an application that would simplify the relocation process in Australia and worldwide by offering payment solutions, local accounts and SIM provisioning.
"International students and migrants currently have to arrive in-country and go to a branch to open a bank account, and while that works, we believe that’s a suboptimal experience that doesn’t facilitate cross-border payments, or paying for your visa and university education in advance," says Malcolm, Mist's chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief operating officer (COO).
"The main thing here is about the convenience of being able to verify themselves pre-departure for these many hard-to-do things in a single place.
"We've partnered with FrankieOne and they do all the KYC (know your customer) verifications, the idea being that the international student or skilled migrant can verify once and then have access to many things. That will fulfill them for telco and health coverage," he says, clarifying that overseas health cover and international student identity cards are also in the works for integration next year.
Malcolm says the app is currently in closed beta and is live in the app store on both iOS and Android, with onboarding being undertaken by Global Study Partners, an international education aggregator. Mist currently has eight staff.
"We are onboarding our first cohort of international students properly in January. We’ve got a bunch of test users on there, so we will iterate on that and take any learnings, and are aiming to launch later next year," he says, noting the app will start off just with the banking and telco services before adding extras over time.
"The idea of the app is that it’s partner-agnostic, but we’re working very closely so we can plug in whoever we want into the API (application programming interface) orchestration layer, but we're working initially with Wise, and locally with Novatti (ASX: NOV) and Visa - those are our banking partners.
"Then on the telco side we’re working with what’s referred to as a market extender called Xtreme Communications, and they offer SIM plans with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. The advantage for us going with them is we can run across three networks, and they’ll be our launch partners."
Investible investment principal Jayden Basha describes Crutchley and Malcolm as experienced startup operators whose collective expertise and industry knowledge will set Mist up for success.
"Their offering is poised to tackle the rapidly growing international education sector in Australia, with student migration now exceeding pre-COVID levels. Mist will become synonymous with the relocation process for students studying abroad," says Basha.
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