Interview – Topia

This post is a bit different to my normal posts- I spoke to Logan who is working on a FIRE app called “Topia”. This is only my personal option & I haven’t been paid or otherwise sponsored to publish this etc. I’ve had a preview of the app- and it looks really polished, anyway- instead of me talking about it, over to Logan:

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Logan, I’m originally from Scotland (& play the bagpipes 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿) but I currently live in London. I’m big on my outdoor activities, usually, if you can’t find me I’m most likely out kitesurfing on the south coast of England or on a tennis court somewhere!

From a career standpoint, my background is a combination of business and finance. I studied business at university, I then went on to work at an early stage start-up before having a stint at an investment bank as an analyst.

Why do you want to FIRE?

For me, it has always been about flexibility and choice. I never had much of an ambition to RE, but the concept of working (or doing anything) because I wanted to as opposed to having to resonated massively with me. I first stumbled across FI at my previous job. I was pretty unhappy with my work-life balance and one evening I came across Mr Money moustache, and that was it, I was hooked on the FI concept.

What did you find was missing from the FIRE community?

When I first stumbled across FIRE, I was immediately hooked. Why wouldn’t you want to be financially independent and have the option to retire early? So, a few years into my own FIRE journey, I started realising that despite there being this booming FIRE community, and a whole host of FIRE content & resources (blogs, podcasts, forums, FB groups, course meetups, a documentary!) there was a huge number of people who STILL really struggled to truly understand FIRE and struggled to make a start. Slowly it became increasingly clear to me, there isn’t a tool out there which is truly helping people understand and pursue FIRE

Topia Logo

What was the process of developing Topia?

As with all things, it started out as just an idea but slowly and surely it started gaining momentum. The first major milestone was doing some posts on the online FIRE communities asking for people to jump on some feedback calls to see what they found hard about FIRE in the early days and how they thought a tool could help them. I then mocked up some basic app prototypes with some potential features and then again took people from the community through them to see what they thought. Once it became clear that a mobile app that replaced the need for a spreadsheet and automated a lot of the tracking/monitoring added a lot of value I decided to take the plunge and start developing the app. I try and speak to as many people as possible each week from the community, either through feedback calls or posting in communities. It’s this feedback and input from the community which has driven what features we integrated into the app.

Topia Screenshot

How many people have been involved in it’s development?

We’re a team of 4 at the moment; myself, Siebe who’s are developers and then JP & Darren who specialise in the UX and UI of the product. We’ve also got a couple of advisors who help us navigate the startup world.

How come it’s free/how will you continue to fund it’s development?

The reason I created Topia was always to build a tool to help more people understand and pursue FI. So it never felt right to start layering on charges for people to use Topia. But in order for Topia to be sustainable, we do need to generate revenue from somewhere. So after a bit of head-scratching we’ve come up with what we think is a win-win formula to give Topia a sustainable revenue stream without incurring our users any additional costings:

Next year we will give Topia users the ability to start investing in ETFs through the Topia app. So instead of leaving the app to invest via other investment platforms such as HL, Vanguard or AJbell. You will be able to access a range of ETFs via the Topia app (all of which will be low-cost and globally diversified)

How does this translate to Topia making money? Whenever you make an investment you have to pay 2 core fees, one is the platform fee and one is the fund fee. So if you invest in Vanguard fund via AJBell, you would pay AJBell a fee for providing the platform to enable you to invest and vanguard a fee for producing the fund. So Instead of AJBell/Vanguard/Hargreaves Lansdown receiving the platform fee, Topia would.

The reason its a win-win situation is It’s a cost you inevitably have to pay to someone, just instead of paying it to Ajbell it goes to Topia

There’s a video here where I dig in to this in more detail

Where did the name Topia come from?

It’s a play on U-Topia, the idea being once you achieve FI you unlock the ability to live a fulfilled life on your terms hopefully brining you a step closer to a more ‘prefect’ world

Why shouldn’t I just use another spreadsheet/app?

Some people love Excel Spreadsheets and really enjoy building out their FI journey on excel and for those people, I wouldn’t recommend Topia. But the majority of people do not enjoy spending hours on excel, crunching numbers and building out a monster excel sheet to track their FI journey. And for those people, Topia should be a no brainer. I mentioned earlier, what really kickstarted me to start Topia was seeing how many people struggled to get started on their FI journey, one of the biggest barriers preventing people from getting started was not wanting to build an excel spreadsheet and/or not understanding the numbers behind FI.

Topia also automates a fair amount of things that can’t really be automated on excel. Most notably, you can connect your investment/loan accounts and Topia will then automatically update your net worth in real-time and your timeline to FI. In excel, you have to manually go into your spreadsheet each month and update those fields. For instance, if you invested an extra £200 today, in excel you would have to load up your spreadsheet and add this in. In Topia, if you had connected your investment account, the app would update straight away showing you the impact that £200 has had on your time to FI.

As far as I am aware, there is no other FI app out there.

How can I download/use it?

At the moment Topia has launched on ios only, so if you have an iPhone you can download Topia here

For Android-ers, you can download Topia here and join the waitlist then once we launch you’ll be automatically notified.

Conclusion (by SouthWalesFI)

It looks really interesting- and seems to have hit a really good balance between easy to use but having enough features to make it really useful. I’m certainly looking forward to the Android version- and whilst I still have spreadsheets, it looks like something that will do some of the heavier analysis & provide some nice graphs etc. It also looks like something I could share with my partner who doesn’t have such an interest in FIRE etc. I’m a bit unsure about the funding coming from an ETF but I guess that will continue to be refined in time. It’s free, so why not try it out?


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