This is a new one for Feature Friday which is our guest post series. Our entrepreneur today saved up a bunch of money, left his full-time job, took on a technical co-founder, and is now launching a fintech startup company. The crazy thing is that his former boss knew about his plan from the beginning and actually encouraged him to do it.
Update 2020: With these fintech founders getting a $5.3B exit from Visa, it’s no surprise that there is opportunity in FinTech. It looks like Exact Finance is not around anymore however since I could not find it in a Google Search. It’s still helpful to read the below post and perhaps even more helpful since the guest poster had the funds to support him even if his business didn’t work out. Here is how he minimized risk when starting his company.
What is your business?
My business is Exact Finance. We are a 100% free, Mint.com alternative to managing your finances. Users can access and manage all their financial accounts with one login, see future balances and projections, and get real-time, tax-optimized recommendations on exactly what to do with their money. We are currently accepting beta sign-up requests and will be launching a closed beta late summer.
What did you do before your fintech startup?
I left my full-time corporate job in April of this year. I was working for an insurance company in Boston, MA. Our company provided white-labeled underwriting services for many of the major insurance companies you see every day. It was an awesome place to work and I attribute everything I learned about technology to my time there. With that being said, I still thought about Exact Finance every day and was able to move the idea along while still employed. It wasn’t until I was ready to take on a technical co-founder that I left to do Exact Finance full-time.
Who were some influencers in your decision to be an entrepreneur?
Bill Hunter – my old boss at Bank of America, encouraged me to go this path almost from the moment I met him. I joke that he just wanted to get rid of me, but I can’t thank him enough for pushing me in this direction.
How did you prepare to take the leap and found your startup both financially and in your business?
I basically saved every dollar I made for a little over a year. I wanted to have enough money in the bank to give me a runway of 2 years before needing money. For me, this was about $80,000 which will allow me to do this full-time, spend some money on advertising, technology, and continue to pay bills at home.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from this is to delay business expenses as long as you possibly can. Don’t buy domain names, don’t buy ad words, don’t buy business cards or company swag, until you find product/market fit. I spent money on things that I can’t even use anymore, and as someone that’s pretty frugal, I really regret it. These things will change over and over again – keep your money until you’ve been satisfied with the direction you’re going for at least a year.
Were you already making money on the side before you decided to quit your job?
I currently have no income coming in from the business (we are in the alpha stage of our product now). This is why it was important to save money for a year before making the leap.
Who else works on your business with you? Did you hire anyone to help? When did you decide to bring that person on and how did you find them?
I work with my two co-founders – Jeff and Peter Cole. Jeff and I worked together at Bank of America so we already know each other’s work style and have each other’s trust. Peter is Jeff’s son, super smart, Bates grad. I’m incredibly lucky to be working with both of them. I always knew I wanted to work with Jeff again, it was really about finding the right idea we could both get excited about, and timing. The timing part is the hardest.
Can you share any financial details about your fintech startup?
No money coming in yet. We intend to offer the product for free – I believe financial advice should be free. We’ll make money on the back-end if we find a product or service that one of our users can benefit from. For example, we provide advice and guidance around saving for a down payment on a house. When that user is ready to make a purchase, we’ll help them find a mortgage product that is right for them and the mortgage company will pay us for the lead. As a consumer myself, I’m totally outraged by companies that sell or share a user’s personal information without permission, or offer products and services that just don’t make sense. It’s my promise to myself and to our users that we’ll never do this.
What was your worst day so far as an entrepreneur and what was your best day? What happened on those days?
The worst day was definitely when I came across a handful of patents that prevented us from going down a path I wanted to go with the visual design of the product. It’s amazing how many companies have protection with vague, and ambiguous claims. Although I understand the courts are moving away from this. Nevertheless, it was still by far one of the worst days and had me questioning a lot of things about the future of the company. After sleeping it off, we went back to the drawing board and actually came up with a design that’s better. Keep pushing! The best day was probably my first day working full-time on my own product. It was so liberating! Previously, I would work at my corporate job all day, come home, eat dinner, then start working on Exact Finance until I went to bed. I felt I couldn’t get things done fast enough. I realized on my first day that I had made the right decision.
What is one small “trick” or piece of advice that you have learned about reaching customers or making sales?
Well I am definitely still learning but one thing that worked for me early on was to test various messaging and content. I ran Facebook ads, each highlighting different features of my product. For short money you’ll quickly see which ads are getting clicks and likes and which ones aren’t. This can help you narrow down what product features to prioritize first and which ones to throw out or keep on the backlog.
Give us two truths and a lie about yourself so we can get to know you better personally!
I’m a motorcycle enthusiast, totally dislike pizza, and life-long finance geek!
Great story and I’m really excited for their product to come out. Best of luck with the launch!
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