Joust upgrades its app for gig-economy workers

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Joust has relaunched its digital banking app for freelancers and the self-employed, upgrading features based on early adopters' usage habits.

The product comes with a bank account, a merchant account and a way to get quick credit. Behind it is a network of community banks using software from StoneCastle Partners that gather the deposits the app brings in.

Joust says it has just under 4,000 users. CEO Lamine Zarrad, who is a former Marine and a former examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said the company has intentionally restrained its growth while it improves its know-your-customer systems and makes sure that all its processes are automated.

The first change the Austin, Tex., company made to its app was to upgrade the invoicing feature. Before, it only let users create bills that were so simple, Zarrad said, they looked like Venmo payment requests.

“What customers told us in our beta the past 12 months is that they wanted a degree of sophistication when it comes to invoicing,” Zarrad said. “They wanted an ability to customize them by adding their own logos and making them look like they're their own invoices.”

Onboarding has been streamlined for Joust customers, too. “We were dealing with a group of people who are used to the simplicity of, say, downloading an Uber app,” Zarrad said.

The team looked at where people were dropping off in the previous sign-up process. They found that the Social Security number was a stumbling block, so they added information about how that information is protected and managed. Even with the added explainers, onboarding takes less than three minutes, the company says.

The Joust app dashboard has also been upgraded.

“When we launched Joust, unlike a lot of fintech startups, we didn't just focus on building a better mousetrap,” Zarrad said. “We released a holistic product from day one. But it was still very utilitarian because we didn't know which features were going to be popular, which ones were not going to be used. So we threw everything together into the app to test it.”

The company discovered that some features matter more than others, so those were included in the dashboard, a one-page view of the user’s finances.

Joust has been refining the risk models for its PayArmor feature, which gives gig workers an advance on work for which they have been contracted to perform. Today, only about 20% of Joust customers qualify.

It is also working to create a web app.

“Mobile-only is great for freelancers,” Zarrad observed. “But traditionalist and mom-and-pop shops need to be able to sit down at their laptop, link their QuickBooks and then deal with their finances."

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Digital banking Mobile banking Gig economy Fintech