Just how complex, or complicated, are our lives? Just look at your finances. Typically, these consist of bills, bank accounts, credit cards, loans, insurance, expense accounts, loyalty cards, frequent flier miles, etc. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t reached out for some help dealing with all these?
The founders of Pocketbook think every Australian could use some smart tools. Bosco Tan and Alvin Singh set out to create what Americans, for one, already have: Mint.com, a service that aggregates a variety of financial accounts on a single screen. Mint.com, founded in 2006, is now part of Intuit, the online tax-preparation software giant.
“You wouldn’t believe the amount of people we’ve spoken that have been waiting for something exactly like this for years. It saves people time, gives them piece of mind and puts them back in control,” Tan told Anthill in an interview. “Our customers have told us that the biggest value Pocketbook gives them is the real-time peace of mind that their spending is in order – they’re achieving their budget and managing their money. There is no other tool that gives a full picture of your spending as it happens, and does it in such a ridiculously simple way.”
What users want?
Having said that, Tan says the biggest thing that “keeps us up at night is whether or not users will want the product as we intuitively think.” So, his team has been doing everything we can to “build iteratively and solicit user feedback at every turn.” It has spoken to housewives, young professionals, accountants and financial planners, bankers and individuals of different financial situations to understand the biggest pains.
The Sydney startup has signed up with leading several banks and financial institutions such as Commonwealth Bank, ANZ bank, National Australia Bank and ING Direct, and expects to keep adding many more. While that has been and continues to be a task in itself, Pocketbook’s greater challenge is on how to monetize the service.
It is a challenge Mint.com overcame by simply getting acquired by a larger related company. But Pocketbook sees many options.
“We want to keep the product free for individuals,” Tan asserts. “We believe there are opportunities to make money by making relevant recommendations to users.”
Tan cites two examples for the possibilities that exist. “If we see a customer has been charged a foreign transaction fee for booking some accommodation in Japan with a credit card, we can suggest another card that doesn’t have this fee,” he said. Pocketbook can “actually help the consumer optimise their spending across their lives, and get paid by providers,” he added.
In the second case, Pocketbook could provide complementary services for an individual’s financial planner or accountant, who want to see a single view of a customer’s finances.
Priming for investors
Pocketbook has been bootstrapped so far, but Tan says he has started to speak to investors about the opportunities to bring “some much-needed expertise and connections on board.”
“We’re very focussed right now to achieve the milestones we’ve set ourselves around traction, using all manner of growth hacking we’ve read about, learnt from others and figured out ourselves. Speaking to investors, these are the exact things they’d like to see,” Tan said as Pocketbook prepared to deal with a recent welcome surge in memberships – thanks, perhaps, to New Year resolutions by many to straighten out their finances.