The New New Bankers
Here’s something that’ll resonate if you’ve tried to communicate with your bank lately: “Banks make money by keeping customers confused.” That’s how Josh Reich, cofounder of Simple, explained his company to the New York Times. “There’s no incentives to make the experience better,” he added.
Today the Times writes about how Mr. Reich and his cofounder Shamir Karkal want to provide an alternative, in the form of a stripped down, perfectly clear alternative–one completely without sob-inducing hidden fees.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
It's Who You Know
Let’s take a trip with the Ghost of Christmas Future. The year is 2016, and George Bailey, a former banker, now a part-time consultant, is looking for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for a co-op in the super-hot neighborhood of Bedford Falls (BeFa). He has never missed a loan payment and has zero credit card debt. He submits his information to the online-only PotterBank.com, but halfway through the application process, the website asks for his Facebook login. Then his Twitter. Then LinkedIn. The cartoon loan officer avatar begins to frown as the algorithm discovers Mr. Bailey’s taxi-driving buddy Ernie was once turned down by PotterBank for a loan; then it starts browsing his daughter Zuzu’s photo album, “Saturday Nite!” And what was this tweet from a few years back: “FML, about to jump off a goddamn bridge”?
Waiting for Beta
Betabeat just received a note from the personal finance startup formerly known as BankSimple. The first signup was in February 2010, the company says, and it’s first come, first serve. That means people who signed up recently will have to wait until summer to get their invites. “We have begun sending out invites, currently a few dozen at a time, and then we will escalate from there,” Simple says. “If that seems a bit slow, it is deliberate. To get ready for a wider release, we are beginning with the core features of spending and depositing, and looking to our first customers for feedback before releasing the full product.”
Dollar Dollar Bills Ya'll
After much anticipation (at least around the Betabeat offices!), BankSimple is finally accepting its first users. And it couldn’t come at a more opportune time for the innovative financial startup, which works with chartered banks to offer a better, more transparent experience for customers in managing their money.
In a blog post today, CEO Joshua Reich said the service is still invite-only, but pointed out that its the first time non-employees get to test drive the system.
On the heels of Occupy Wall Street’s criticism of big banks and an email from MoveOn.org urging folks to “Close Your Bank Account,” consumers have been fleeing traditional banks for credit unions. ABC News reports that 650,000 people switched to credit unions since Bank of America announced its (since-cancelled) plans to institute a $5 debit card purchase fee. After “Bank Transfer Day” on Nov. 5, 54 percent of credit unions reported an increase in share growth.
It’s easy to see consumers looking for an alternative turning to BankSimple instead, although it will be under a different name.
Betabeat has a new internet bank to dote on now that BankSimple has abandoned us for the City of Roses. Movenbank is a New York-based personal banking service that uses near field communication–the same technology as Google Wallet–to remove the cards and the wallet from banking transactions and replace them with your phone. Founder Brett King, an Aussie based in New York and London, rode the success of his book, Bank 2.0, and his experience with his boutique consultancy firm User Strategy, to start up a bank with ”No paper. No plastic. No hidden fees.” The bank is launching its first product, a Mint-esque personal finance profile based on social data, on October 1 and plans to roll out the financial services over the summer.
BankSimple, the startup formerly based in New York and doted on by Betabeat and the New York Observer, has posted a video preview of their website and personal finance management tools
blah blah blah who cares go back to Portland after delays in the launch that was projected for spring of this year.
Feelings of Abandonment
An early collage of the BankSimple team, looking very Brooklyn. Or very Portland.
BankSimple, the Brooklyn-based personal finance start-up that was supposed to have launched already, surprised us with the announcement today that it’s moving its headquarters to Portland, OR, a city which this reporter knows a smidgeon about, having lived and worked as a business reporter there. In addition to some mobile app development shops, this makes BankSimple, funded to the tune of $13 million and boasting early Twitter employee Alex Payne as a co-founder, easily one of the most high-profile start-ups based in Rip City.
BankSimple announced a $10 million raise, partnerships with Visa, The Bancorp Bank and CBW Bank, as well as a Providence-based Andera, a B2B software company that will power its online account opening process. “We at @ShastaVC are absolutely STOKED to announce our investment in @BankSimple. Making people’s banking lives easier,” tweeted VC Jacob Mullins. But he had the wrong tense. The personal finance start-upwas aiming for a spring beta launch, but has yet to communicate with the more than 50,000 users who signed up for the beta or, as far as we know, release any cards beyond a small test batch.
Craig Shapiro, former president of GOOD magazine and current CEO of the socially-conscious Collaborative Fund, has a place to leave his shoes in New York now. Collaborative is invested in multiple start-ups in the city, including Kickstarter, BankSimple, and SkillShare, and its New York connection is getting stronger–SkillShare founder Mike Karnjanaprakorn recently announced he’d been brought on as a venture adviser. Collaborative is on the verge of hiring its second New York employee, a junior scout sort of position, which Mr. Shapiro says he’ll announce in about two weeks.
There’s some history there, too–Mr. Shapiro learned much of what he knows about start-up investing from Josh Kushner of Thrive Capital. He also invested in New York-based Give Real (alongside early Facebook investor Eduardo Saverin) which attempted peer-to-peer ecommerce on social platforms; it flopped, much to Mr. Shapiro’s dismay.
“I really loved that idea,” he said wistfully over tea at an open-air cafe on Prince St., where Betabeat met with him yesterday morning, where he riffed, at our request, on design, investing and changing the world.
Venmo isn’t a big enough player in mobile payments to merit trash talk from incumbent money-mongers Visa and PayPal the way Google has, but the New York and Philly-based company is making moves. It used to take up to two weeks to transfer money from Venmo to your bank account. Now it takes 24 hours, the result of working directly with banks. But is it Visa, PayPal or Google Venmo has to worry about? Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are gradually rolling out a network within which seamless person-to-person payments can be done from a cell phone; ex-Twitter founded start-ups BankSimple and Square have their eyes on this feature as well.