One-time Treasury economist Ben Gleisner recently raised $8 million for CoGo, an app that promises to tally the environmental impact of your spending choices.
At that point - August 20 - he said he hoped to announce a partnership with a major UK bank shortly.
Now, unfashionably on-time for a startup, Gleisner has confirmed a deal with NatWest, which boasts around 16 million customers.
The initial trial is small, but NatWest is pushing it hard in PR - CoGo a splash of publicity in the Daily Telegraph over the weekend - indicating it has big plans for the Kiwi app.
NatWest is to become the first major UK bank to tell its customers the carbon footprint of their spending, the Telegraph reported.
In what it called a "UK banking first", the banking group which has 16 million customers across all of its brands, will trial a new app that will tell its personal banking customers the emissions impact of their shopping choices.
Around 500 customers will take part in the initial trial and, if successful, the initiative could be rolled out to millions more.
The consumers will connect their bank account to the app and, using a system developed by CoGo, it will automatically calculate a real-time carbon footprint, based on the individual's spending.
NatWest said it will update with every spend showing the climate impact of everything "from morning coffee to lights out".
They will also be given tips on how to reduce their carbon footprint, including lowering meat intake and switching to renewable energy providers. Part of CoGo's business model is to take a cut of the action if someone uses its service to switch power companies or, say, buy a new EV.
Gleisner told the Herald this morning, "NatWest is the first UK bank to partner with CoGo, but we are in conversations with all the major UK banks - so watch this space for future partnerships.
"Expect to see a number of other UK banks partnering with us in 2021".
The initial pilot is focused on NatWest promoting the current CoGo app, "but there are major opportunities associated with integrating aspects of our features into the NatWest mobile banking apps. That is where the true scale and impact can be had," the founder says.
"This exciting new partnership will deliver personalised carbon footprints to NatWest customers and nudge them towards actions and suggested businesses to drive to a sustainable lifestyle. [But] Natwest is just the start."
Next up is a push into Australia, where Gleisner is hoping for a similar "first-mover" bank partner.
CoGo's carbon footprint calculator is due to launch in New Zealand in a few weeks, with Westpac as the app's technical partner, but Gleisner is aiming to work with all the major banks.
A trial has begun with internal testers at Westpac, with an eye on a mid-October launch.
Right now, the local version serves as a directory to around 3000 ethical businesses, such as those that sell organic products, have a carbon-neutral footprint or pay the living wage. It's served that function for around seven years, initially as "Conscious Consumer".
Earlier, the founder described the $8m raise as cumulative. He plans his next major push for funding in around six months. The 20-strong company has a private equity valuation of $20m.
CoGo's largest single shareholder is Greater Wellington Regional Councillor David Lee (also an investor in Aureon and PledgeMe), followed by AngelHQ, Icehouse Ventures, Sir Stephen Tindall's ubiquitous K1W1 and NZ Growth Capital Partners (the Crown agency formerly known as NZVIF).
A welter of smaller backers (CoGo has 101 shareholders) includes Richard Collier-Keywood (former Global Managing Partner, PwC), Kate Hyndman (founder, FNZ), Andrew Thorburn (ex CEO, National Australia Bank) and BrewDog CEO James Watt.
Why start in the UK?
Gleisner says he chose the UK to launch the carbon-footprint feature primarily because of the open banking rules there, but also because there was a reasonable size market of Brits who were sympathetic to environmental causes. Around 20,000 businesses have been accredited for the app in the UK.
The start of the year saw the CEO based in the UK, and he planned to stay there a while longer. But in March, with the pandemic beginning to shut down the world, Gleisner made the decision to bring his family back to New Zealand. They made it to Wellington just days before the level 4 lockdown. The company continues to have an office in London.
Under the bonnet
If you want to sign up for GoCo's carbon-footprint feature once it comes out, you'll have to give the app access to your bank data. You can choose whether to give it access to just your credit card statement, or some or all of your bank account statements.
If that give you the heebeejeebees about security or privacy, Gleisner points out the app has "read-only" access. It can't withdraw your money or move it around. Everything is encrypted - with a UK bank carrying out penetration-testing right now - and data is anonymised.
A user's carbon footprint is assessed using data from Motu. For example, if you bought a $100 airline ticket, the thinktank ascribes that with a 4kg of carbon emissions per $1 cost, or 400kg.
Trips to the supermarket will not be broken down per item but (after filling in a quiz at registration), someone who is vegan will get a 40 per cent discount over a carnivore, for example.
Gleisner's five-year goal is to have 100 million users and a $1 billion valuation.
For now, he's juggling more modest sums. Companies can't pay to advertise to CoGo users, and listings are free - but a company can pay to "enhance" its listing to a more eye-grabbing form. The founder says he could break-even with 50,000 users and 10 companies paying for enhanced listings, which would yield 10c per user per month.
Down the track, he also sees CoGo receiving a bounty if a member uses it to select a new bank, insurance company or electric vehicle, using green criteria collated by the app.
Ahead of the NatWest partnership, CoGo launched its Real-Time Carbon Footprint Tracker in the UK version of its app in May - developed in partnership with CoGo's existing data science team and climate expert Professor Mike Berners-Lee - a leader in carbon footprinting at Lancaster University (and the brother of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who essentially invented the internet as we know it today when he developed the technology behind the World Wide Web).
The calculator is underpinned by carbon footprinting data from Leeds University that is also used by the UK Government and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in their calculators. The tracker quantifies and presents an individual's real-time climate impact into a CoGo score based on their spending data.