A new app called Pocketbook promises to make money management “ridiculously simple”. It does this by aggregating each user’s bank accounts, credit cards and loans, and providing a single view of their money.
The Sydney-based business was founded in August last year by Bosco Tan and Alvin Singh, who have known each other since 1995 when they met as schoolboys.
Tan talks to StartupSmart about why he left his former start-up, how Pocketbook stands out in the market, and what it’s like working out of a garage.
You guys met when you were in Year 7. How did you decide to go into business together?
We did our high school and university education together, and have always bounced around ideas for businesses.
To this day, we share the same social circle and have always been each other’s sounding boards when it came to our individual ventures over the years.
Pocketbook was initially developed by Alvin, and I was instantly passionate about the idea when he described the project. The timing was right, so we got out of full-time jobs and here we are.
You were involved in Gamer Institute before Pocketbook. Why the shift in focus?
Like all things in the start-up world, opportunity, execution and timing go hand-in-hand.
For me personally, the timing for Pocketbook is ideal; the market needs it today. So that is why it’s become my core focus.
Why did you decide to launch Pocketbook? Why do consumers need this?
Pocketbook came out of us trying to simplify the process of doing our taxes. As our financial lives got more complex over the years, the time and effort taken to gather the information for a tax return has increased exponentially.
Especially when there are multiple bank accounts across multiple banks, and various sources of investment incomes. From talking to consumers early, this is a pretty time-consuming problem for a lot of people.
Today, however, Pocketbook does more than that.
Consumers 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.
Pocketbook will ultimately bring in data not just of the monetary transaction, but also rewards information, investments, bills and invoices.
All in the space of literally minutes of signup, giving consumers infinitely more value than the individual parts organised in manual ways.
One of the first things we want to launch next to illustrate this is integration with Woolworths Everyday Rewards and Flybuys.
The integration will allow individuals to see where they earned points and also where they potentially missed earning points.
How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?
We have bootstrapped the business and have worked very leanly. Between us, we have all the necessary skills to build product, get customer feedback and commercialise it.
We’re working out of a garage, and cooking ourselves to keep fixed cost down. The biggest cost for us is probably monthly service provider costs, such as hosting and CloudFlare security.
How many staff do you have?
The business is just Alvin and me at the moment. I joined in October 2012 and we have really upped our efforts in acquiring early customers. We’re currently looking for interns to help us. If you’re interested, please email [email protected].
How do you promote the business?
We’re promoting the business in some common ways such as via blogs and social media – engaging in discussion around personal finance and savings.
Early signs are the problem we’re addressing is a universal problem for people of all walks of life, so these channels have been very successful to date.
For instance, with people setting New Year’s resolutions around finance, we’ve already seen a signup spike these last few weeks of the new year.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
Maximising revenue is not a core focus we’re pushing for this financial year.
While we’re working with partners to understand what’s possible revenue-wise, our primary focus is on making an unbelievably great product for our current and future users.
The goal in 2013 is customer acquisition, and rounding out a really simple and useful product for all our customers.
You work out of a garage. What’s that like?
Working from home is actually very good, particularly when there is such a driven team.
We’ve got a whiteboard to plan and we’re very disciplined about start time (9am every day, although finishing time varies and is usually closer to midnight).
The place has become a hot desk for other start-up founders too from time to time. So much that we’ve started calling it Silicon Creek (making reference to Wolli Creek – the suburb of Sydney where we’re based).
What’s the biggest risk you face?
The biggest thing that keeps us up at night is whether or not users will want the product as we intuitively think. So we’re doing everything we can to build iteratively and solicit user feedback at every turn.
We’ve researched and have spoken to housewives, young professionals, accountants and financial planners, bankers and individuals of different financial situations to understand the biggest pains, and are actively trying to solve this with the simplest user experience possible.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
So far, we’ve been quite happy with everything we’ve done and probably wouldn’t do too many things different upon reflection.
However, with all start-ups, there’s always this lack of satisfaction with the pace we’re working at.
Front and centre everyday is the question of how we can grow faster and work faster to give our customers the things they’re asking for.
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