Where does the unbundling end?
We live in times when there’s an app for everything.
You can go, for example, to Product Hunt and see for yourself. Just in yesterday’s update, you can see many products, addressing the tiniest aspects of your life: an app to follow your progress at the gym, an app to uninstall other apps, a database of Youtube channels, and many, many others.
Things get crazy when you understand that there’s an app for something you would’ve never thought you need an app for. Like “Abacus” that adds or subtracts (as it is supposed to, actually), or “Bleep” to bleep out all the foul words you or anyone else says, or maybe “Hold On” that counts how long can you hold the button pressed. Not just any button, but a button that is inside the app itself. If you’re curious about that topic — you can read the full article about “surprising” apps here.
FinTech world is not an exception here. We have products, services and apps for almost everything. There’s a service that lets you create a virtual card for every new transaction, a cash planning tool for startups, or my favourite — a service that allows you to invest your spare change. And I haven’t even started counting tools that let you transfer money to a friend, live Venmo, Verse, Lydia, etc. Yes, you can find an app for any financial purpose. If you don’t know about it yet — then maybe you weren’t looking too hard.
Back in the days, you used to have one app for all that stuff, and it was your banking app. Ok, maybe “back in the days” is not a very good term here, as we still have these apps on our smartphones. But people started to realise that these platforms aren’t working very well — trying to sell you things you don’t need to buy, or just hiding the most low-profitable features there where you can’t find it. And then the modern entrepreneurial culture tells us that to start a successful business, you need to find a very narrow audience with a very significant pain, and start addressing this particular pain.
But then what happens is that you suddenly have something like ten apps on your phone, and it’s just for your finances. Not long ago I attended a FinTech meetup, where someone in the crowd asked one of the speakers:
– Where does the unbundling end?
This question bothers me a lot. We got used to a thought that apps that combine multiple features inside are not good. But is it so? This concept comes from a speculation that old banking apps are bad, just like the banks itself. But maybe there is room for a new kind of a banking app, that just wouldn’t suck? When we first discussed this with my partners — we came up with an idea of alternative banking app that later was built and called “Sense”, made in partnership with Alfa-Bank. At some point, we even explored multi-banking opportunities within Sense, and that’s when we realised what kind of product we wanted to build. That’s when we started “Combine”.
I’ll skip the part of our journey where we were selected to participate in one of the world’s best startup accelerators, how I pitched the product from the stage at 4YFN conference, or how we were selected as one of the 15 startups for VISA’s Everywhere Initiative in Europe. You may have heard from me already. We have now closed the first round of investments, raising €200k with €1M post-money valuation from business angels, and now that it’s not just us who believe in our product — I think it’s important to talk about the future of Combine.
Right now our app can combine multiple bank accounts showing you all your finances and all your transactions in one place. It can also give you a forecast of how your expenses would look like in another country or city if you’re planning to move. With the most recent update, it also tracks your regular payments and subscription, letting you know if you’re being charged twice, for example. We’re now looking for a partner, who could help us implement transfers between accounts of our users.
Recent news and my visit to Money2020 Europe made me realise that suddenly we aren’t alone on this journey. ING has Yolt. BBVA is launching Denizen Financial. Monzo is planning to serve 1B customers in a couple of years. Revolut is adding cryptocurrencies to their list of services. I wonder why only the latter is not a bank, while others chose the way to become a bank first and do the rest later. Nevertheless, it’s going to be an exciting challenge.
We’re going along that path already, but we want to make it in our way. Our wallet is not going to be an ordinary e-wallet. Our users will not have a “Combine” account. For us it’s just hard to understand, why would you need to put money somewhere to later transfer it to a friend of yours. Why would you need a wallet to put other wallets (full of cards of different banks) in it? Or, should I say, why would you need a special wallet that you share with a friend — can’t you just give him the money? When you had only cash, it was easy. Now with all the electronic methods of payment — life’s not that easy. We’re going to try and change that.
We are creating an ultimate financial application, the only one you’ll ever need on your smartphone. And yes, we believe that smartphones are here to stay, at least for about few years. We are creating an app that will be able to connect to all the financial products (or “feeds”) that matter to you, giving you an option to transfer between all your accounts. And it won’t matter what you mean when you say money: be it euros, dollars, airline miles, World of Warcraft gold, or bitcoin.
Of course, we will add some other services to the app (and we already did!) to help our users manage their finances better. We’re not planning to create a huge financial marketplace, but if our users would want to have more options – nothing can stop us from doing so. We even created a public Trello board for feature requests; if our users would like to see something in the app – they can ask and vote for a particular feature. The only barrier there is that for the sake of our users’ happiness we don’t want to become a “Fintech Yellow Pages”, so we’ll try to stay picky on adding other services to the app.
We are happy to connect both with the small startups like ourselves, and with the larger companies if they see they could profit from such partnership. But still, the focus is on the users’ happiness, so we’ll start from something our users need but don’t have. We will create the first alternative banking application that lets you control your regular and crypto- currencies in the same app. Watch, transfer and who knows what else.
And then we will go for the rest of the financial assets a person can have. Maybe the ones he or she doesn’t really count as an asset yet. We’re going to fix that. This vision will not be easy to bring to life, but we’re looking into possible solutions already. It may involve getting a license as a financial institution — a thing we didn’t want before. But if it’s indispensable — we’ll probably have to go that way.
To obtain a firm stance in the market, we’ll need additional funds. I will be working hard to raise as little as possible so that we don’t turn into a bubble. We’re aiming to close the round by the 15th of December. If you’re reading this and would like to know more details about our business (our numbers, our goals) — please, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will be back with an updated post in a month or so.
Thank you for reading and have a great day!