The year was 2012. Alvin Singh, an experienced software engineer, had just changed jobs and was looking to get his personal finances together.
As his financial lives got more complex over the years, the time and effort taken to gather the information for a tax return increased exponentially, so he also wanted a simpler way to do his own taxes.
Banking applications weren’t up to the task and dealing with spreadsheets was just really painful.
So with some start-up experience already under his belt, Alvin started Pocketbook in August 2012. His friend of 18 years, Bosco Tan, who also had marketing and enterprise strategy experience of his own, joined him at the Sydney-based start-up that October.
How exactly does this Pocketbook app work?
It takes roughly 60 seconds to sign up on the app, and it first pulls and syncs your spending information from all the banks and institutions. All this information is taken and put together into a simple dashboard on the health of your finances.
Pocketbook categorises all your transactions automatically and makes it much easier to keep track of how much you are spending on things such as your home, groceries and your car.
You can set up budgets for your spending which is automatically tracked and even get Pocketbook to manage your bills – alerting you if you miss a bill and tell you when they will be due. That means fewer late payment penalties to deal with, right?
“The whole idea of Pocketbook is that it works in the background for you, always keeping you on top of your spending. So you don’t have to do anything – everything is automatic and you can adjust it to suit your own lifestyle… almost like a Fitbit for your finances,” Bosco explained to Anthill.
Of course, as with all things to do with money, security is taken seriously at Pocketbook.
These guys use the same security technology as the big banks and all communications are encrypted on both ends using a 2048bit SSL certificate. They have also partnered with CloudFare, one the best in its industry, to keep threats and viruses out.
Determined to make it simple, and keep it simple
“We have built it for the average Joe or Jane, designed to not only be simple but automatic too. If it’s not simple, we don’t build it – that right there is our mantra,” Bosco said.
Of course, taking something as complex as personal finances and distilling it down to fit in one’s pocket, into a form which people can understand and relate to, is no walk in the park.
“We have had to be very selective and smart in the way we present information and concepts. This is why we prototype everything we do. Sometimes we will prototype a feature that will never make it into the final product because we can’t get it simple or intuitive enough,” Bosco revealed.
Furthermore, there are other budgeting and personal finance apps out there, but Bosco pointed out that their approach to the problem is what sets them apart from the rest.
“We wanted to build something that didn’t feel like a chore. Many products out there rely a lot on manual entry and feel more like an accounting product. We realised very early on that this isn’t what people were after. They wanted something so simple and automatic but still with a lot of power underneath,” he explained.
As you read this, well over 50,000 people are using Pocketbook and it has managed to maintain an impressive 4.5 star rating across the iTunes and Android stores.
And to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship, Pocketbook has also recently partnered with the Aussie student portal, Zookal to create a scholarship for student entrepreneurs.