Fee-fighting app expands into savings, money management

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Truebill, whose namesake app helps consumers obtain automatic refunds for unwanted subscriptions and bank fees, is launching an automated savings feature that it says is a new twist on the idea.

“A lot of automated savings apps try to guess what they can take safely from your checking account and put into your savings account,” said Haroon Mokhtarzada, Truebill's CEO. “We don’t think that’s control, and we think that’s scary.”

Truebill is designed to give consumers more oversight of the process. Customers can set several different savings goals, deciding how much they want to set aside, the frequency and the time period. They can also build in safeguards such as a minimum level for their checking account, under which the app would pause any withdrawals.

Users of automated savings apps often complain about having money drained out of their account just when they need funds for something important, and it can take several days to get that money back, Mokhtarzada said.

“We didn’t want to play that game,” he said. “We think people have an idea of what they want to put away, and can adjust their spending habits accordingly. So what we’re trying to do is make it super easy and give people more control, more visibility.”

When users are just getting started, the app will prioritize the the “rainy day fund” goal.

“Sometimes life catches you and you need extra money,” Mokhtarzada said. “Once they have that, they can save up for a car, a wedding, a vacation, things are discretionary.”

To offer an FDIC-insured savings account, Truebill has partnered with NBKC. It works with the data aggregator Plaid to provide access to other accounts. Everything else is built in house.

Over time, Truebill plans to offer users increasing control over their finances, bills and subscriptions. The company is working on what it calls the next generation of bill pay. It hopes to launch it by the end of the year.

In addition to the Smart Savings feature, Truebill is also offering the ability to automatically claim credits for telecom customers when outages occur, bill negotiation to get the best possible rate on cellphone, cable, TV and internet bills on users’ behalf, and a dashboard for tracking all of a user’s recurring bills and subscriptions in one place.

The company also announced new funding on Tuesday. It has raised $5 million in Series A funding from investors that include Cota Capital, Social Capital, Day One Ventures, David Marcus (head of blockchain at Facebook and former president of PayPal), Neil Blumenthal (co-founder of Warby Parker), Dave Gilboa (co-founder of Warby Parker), Jawed Karim (co-founder of YouTube), Troy Carter (partner at Cross Culture VC), Marc Katz (co-founder of Custom Ink), and Hiten Shah (co-founder of CrazyEgg).

Fintech family

Mokhtarzada has only relatively recently taken the role of CEO, succeeding his brother, Yahya, who became the company's chief revenue officer.

This changing of the guard happened in part because when Truebill launched, Haroon was still working at another company, though he was a founder and Truebill’s chairman. He joined Truebill full time as chief product officer at the end of last year. Their other brother, Idris, also works at the company.

“After several months of being here, it became clear to both Yahya and myself that our different strengths and talents were better suited for this kind of role change,” Haroon explained. “I took the CEO role and he took the chief revenue officer role. We want to do what’s best for the company and we felt this was the right match.”

The three brothers previously founded a business that helped people create free websites, called Webs, in 2001. It grew to 50 million users. They sold it to Vistaprint in 2011 for $117 million.

“We did it last time and it worked out pretty well, so we thought why not do it again?” Mokhtarzada said.

The siblings have always been close, so their skills don’t overlap that much, he said.

“Yahya is great at marketing and business development, I’m good at product and managerial stuff, Idris is great at technology. If we were all good at the same thing, it wouldn’t work out. But we complement each other's skill sets.”

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