NUS alumna helped start firm to teach financial literacy

Ms Audrey Joy Tan co-founded Playmoolah with a friend in 2010.
Ms Audrey Joy Tan co-founded Playmoolah with a friend in 2010.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE -The 2008 global financial crisis' impact on the lives of her American colleagues and classmates convinced Ms Audrey Joy Tan of the importance of financial education.

"One of my peers had to take on his parents' debt," said the 34-year-old co-founder of financial literacy start-up Playmoolah.

She was working in Silicon Valley between 2008 and 2009 as part of a National University of Singapore (NUS) work-study programme.

"I noticed there wasn't a culture of saving among my classmates and colleagues," she added.

It also occurred to her that even in Singapore, young people like her were not taught to go beyond saving or budgeting at school.

So the student decided to help people manage their money better instead of becoming a Christian missionary as she had intended.

After returning to Singapore following a year of working at live video app firm Qik and studying at Stanford University, Ms Tan, who majored in communications and new media, co-founded Playmoolah with a friend in 2010. They were then in their fourth year at NUS.

Their first few projects involved games for children and young people that taught the principles of financial management. "The idea was to help young people thrust into their first job who had to learn to manage their pay cheque for the first time," Ms Tan said.

Over the next 10 years, the firm expanded to include coaching and workshops about money. It has since helped over 100,000 children and young people cultivate financial and emotional resilience.

Last Friday (Nov 5), Ms Tan was among 17 people to get the NUS Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Beyond her role as "chief dreams architect" at Playmoolah, Ms Tan splits her time between the start-up and helping social entrepreneurs.

Her latest venture Circles of Angels - co-founded in 2019 - is an open source platform focusing on making funding accessible for impact and social enterprises.

This helps to plug a gap, said Ms Tan, where many good businesses do not get access to funding they need because they lack access to stakeholders. "And even after receiving funding, there was a problem of tracking the actual impact these businesses have," she added.

In collaboration with blockchain firm Atix Labs and smart contract platform RSK, the firm built a platform to allow investors to track the impact of businesses they invest in.