your personal finance manager
Mike Bertrand, CEO of MoneyStream talks to us about this new free service that helps organize and manage your personal finances. MoneyStream links, coordinates and consolidates the fragmented tasks associated with banking, bill paying, record keeping, payment scheduling and cash flow management into a single, easy-to-use product.
Can you explain in a few words the idea behind this online money management service and how it all started?
A few years ago I took on the daunting task of organizing my money. I had one son in college and another preparing for high school. I was beginning to consider how I’d handle upcoming issues with my aging parents, in addition to my own long-term care. To top things off, professionally, I knew I’d be starting another company soon.
I had a lot of financial balls in the air and assumed (incorrectly) that I could quickly get everything in order.
As I began to juggle, I was astonished by how hard it was to get everything into a single, simplified view. I signed up for every personal finance and organization tool I could find, only to be disappointed when they addressed only part of the problem. Most provided some basic functionality so they could either get my data or lock me into some proprietary payment network, while still failing to solve my problems.
Although I had a deep technology and finance background with lots of time on my hands, organizing my money was not possible – not without a large, ongoing time investment or expensive professional help.
I don’t know a lot of families with that kind of excess time or cash.
That was the inspiration for MoneyStream. When I saw how everyday Americans were put at a disadvantage and how only a handful of financial experts worldwide could level the playing field, I decided to act.
Can you convince the reader to start using MoneyStream in one sentence?
MoneyStream puts families in control of their money by linking to all bank accounts, credit card accounts, and biller accounts to provide the necessary data (statements, bill payment details, payment instructions, history) and then presents this in an easy to use calendar interface that allows the customer to actively see where their money went, where it’s going tomorrow, and handles it based on their instructions.
What differs MoneyStream from other similar expense tracking tools on the market?
MoneyStream gives consumers one point of control over their money, like they have never had before. The service does this in a way that combines and innovates on the simple point solutions that exist today into an integrated platform, so that our customers can simply and easily: a) get a snapshot of their expenses (what Mint has done), b) plan their cash-flow (what no one does today), c) pay-bills in a flexible and consumer-centric manner, not rigidly bank-centric, and d) get alerts and advice so that they have more control over the money.
The personal financial tools in the marketplace today either put the customer to work for them or they are point solutions that provide part of the solution (ie., track spending, set budget, bill payment transaction, etc.). Many of these tools were created just to make sure you pay your bills, to make your billers and credit card companies happy. We believe that is the wrong model. MoneyStream is a service that does the work for customers based on their instructions versus putting the customer to work.
Has MoneyStream got the feedback and growth you expected since its launch?
MoneyStream is currently in a soft launch period – which means we are bringing a small number of customers into the service at a time to closely manage our service and have the time to incorporate customer feedback in a timely manner. We are very pleased with the warm reception we are getting from customers today and are laser focused on building out our capacity for growth.
What's the biggest milestone you had to overcome as a company?
What we are doing is technically challenging and requires finding the right domain expertise. The company has assembled a group of top-notch engineers and designers from high ranking engineering schools and leading financial technology companies such as Intuit, Bill.com, Symantec, and Financial Institutions. Their in- depth experience spans the areas of mobile banking and payments (10M users across 1,100 banks and credit unions), back end banking and payment systems and military trained cryptography in production operations.
If you were to start again, what might you do differently?
Given that the personal financial management market is a crowded one, I would keep the service in a private beta/stealth mode longer. What we are doing is innovative and unique in this space. There are players that are larger who have more resources. Given the right talent and focus could move faster than we can. However, we do not have many of the corporate challenges that existing incumbents face which either slow them down or limit their ability to truly work outside of the box on a solution such as this. Because of this potential threat, it’s important keep in a first mover advantage position.
What is the coolest feature of MoneyStream in your opinion?
The intelligence behind the system allows us to wow customers the more they engage. The first place they see this is in the calendar (all my stuff in one place) during the first 5 minutes. Usually, the email or text reminder / approval of a bill blows people away.
What is your advice for other entrepreneurs?
As an early stage start-up, you are always starved for resources. Building an advisory board early on is very important. Focus on finding individuals that have experience in the industry and type of business you are building as well as key functional areas that you have not yet hired for. They can help supplement the knowledge base but also open up doors quickly for you. Having a sounding board is also crucial to test your decisions and to get you thinking beyond the details of the day to day.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
The potential to truly change how families and consumers think about their money and how they will manage it going forward is the most exciting part of this business. We are fundamentally changing how people will manage their daily financial lives and how financial service providers will interact with their clients.
Pie in the sky, whose advice would you like to get?
Ask me in 6 months. We’re doing some things we can’t announce yet with some pretty incredible people.
About Mike Bertrand