When I wrote “it’s game on” after Mondo became the last of the four British challenger banks to secure a banking license earlier this month, I didn’t think competitor Starling Bank would take my words quite so literally. But that’s just happened in the form of a domain name prank following Mondo’s announcement that it has changed its name to Monzo after a trademark dispute forced the young company to rebrand.
As Monzo co-founder and co-CEO Tom Blomfield (who previously founded GoCardless) was unveiling the new name yesterday evening at an event held at the startup’s London office and live streamed on YouTube, little would he of known that somebody at rival Starling Bank had registered the domain name “getmonzo.co.uk” — a domain unfortunately similar to the startup’s existing “getmondo.co.uk”.
A visit to the “getmonzo.co.uk” address reveals a message from Starling Bank founder and CEO Anne Boden congratulating Monzo on its rebrand and promoting the startup’s own wares, including the slogan: “Anything’s possible”.
What most visitors won’t be aware of is that the latter is a bit of an in-joke between Monzo’s Blomfield and Starling’s Boden, since Starling Bank itself was forced to change its name from BankPossible and the two challenger bank founders have history.
Blomfield previously teamed up with Boden to help start Starling before “tensions” led him to venture out on his own, taking three of Starling’s team with him, according to a report in the FT. One of those is also Mondo co-founder and CCO/Head of Product Jason Bates.
“When we heard the rumour [of the new name], we checked whether the trade mark was registered and found that it was at preregistration,” explains Boden. “We then checked the domain and found that a few Monzo Bank domains had not been registered. We were quite surprised. It was too good to be true and we couldn’t resist having some fun”.
And fun the Starling team had, with lots of self-congratulatory re-tweets appearing as fintech industry watchers and Monzo users, who were actually asked to crowdsource the new name, began to notice the prank. “Fans of Monzo and Starling joined in. It’s a great community doing something exciting,” adds Boden.
As for what will happen to the getmonzo.co.uk domain next, I’m told Starling Bank plan to auction it off for charity and match the resulting donation. Stay classy.