Pocketbook hits #2 Finance App on Australian App store

by Mike88Jul 17, 2013

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Pocketbook-web

Pocketbook-web

I met Bosco Tan at Peter Coopers Sydstart last year. At the time he looked like he was in for a long hard road to get users to give up access to their bank accounts and to get any support from the banks.

Well persistence pays, because it looks like they are really getting some traction. The Pocketbook web and Iphone app is Australia’s equivalent of Mint.com (which doesn’t work outside the USA), it allows you to sync all of your different bank accounts, credit cards and then automagically reviews your transactions and automatically catergorises most of them and tracks recurring bills and payments and puts these into a budget and bill schedule so you get a reminder when it due.
Pocketbook gives you one view of all of your accounts which is pretty handy.

I found the whole signup routine very slick, it was clear a lot of User Interface effort has been put into ensuring users could get logged in and their accounts setup very quickly.

I asked founders Bosco Tan and Alvin Singh a few questions about the journey so far.
Bosco Tan & Alvin Singh

Bosco Tan & Alvin Singh

What been the hardest thing?

The absolute hardest thing and the thing that we continually focus on is building something that people want and care about. Everything we do is focused on that.
Finance is not a ‘sexy’ topic for the average person and so we try to build something the cuts through the status quo and delights our users. Every feature, every item that goes into Pocketbook is critiqued and we are the biggest critics of ourselves. More often than not features are sidelined because it doesn’t fit in with the vision we have for Pocketbook.

What surprised you?

What continues to surprise us is the diversity of users that email us and tell us how they are using Pocketbook. And it’s across the whole spectrum. We have CEOs of ASX listed companies, 65 year old retirees, high school students, stay at home mums to young professionals contact us. We are constantly talking to our users which help us guide our compass – it’s one of the more important things we do.

Can you tell us how many users or at least a growth factor?

We’ve had a huge response from the Australian community. We’re growing at over 10% month on month.

Have you got any good startup war stories?

Thats a timely question because we just launched our iPhone app and we had a couple of sleepless nights.
Pocketbook Iphone App

Pocketbook Iphone App

It’s always hard to estimate demand of something when your not sure how people will take to it and how they will use it. So when we launched our iPhone we immediately hit the top 10 apps in finance and continued the climb to number 2 – beating apps such as Paypal, all the banking apps from CBA, Westpac etc., Kaching. This had a huge impact on server traffic and that morning we watched our server hitting max usage for a few hours.
Immediately we went into red-alert because we wanted everyone trying Pocketbook app for the first time to have a delightful experience and not have to experience slow response times. Luckily we are with a great hosting provider and can scale at will – adding extra CPUs and RAM to our servers. In a couple of hours we had scaled up and were humming along.
Lesson – have your finger on the scale button as needed and be ready for it.

Are you at the point where you need to think about scaling and architecture issues?

Yep – war story! Alvin was a senior architect at News Ltd in his corporate life so he has experience working on systems handling hundreds of millions of records and a huge amount of traffic. So all those learnings have been built into Pocketbook.

What mistakes have you made?

We don’t feel like we’ve made many big mistakes to date. It’s been pretty smooth.

We debate a lot – pros and cons about features, what platforms to be on, which banks to support etc. We let our users guide us a lot of the time. We get about 50-80 bits of email on a daily basis with great feedback and suggestions, we created a voting page for banks our users want added – https://getpocketbook.com/addmybank, and finally it’s always great to run into our users at events and take feedback in person.

What have you really done well?

We think we’ve done well to capture usability. Alvin and I are pretty average consumers – we hate having to do accounting and we both value our spare time – these things we suspect are pretty universal for most Australians. With this, we designed the product for people just like us. The web interface is for quick planning on the couch or the kitchen table, and the mobile app is for on the run – those couple of minutes at the supermarket or that morning train ride to work.

What we found was that most current personal finance products out there fall into two camps – they’re either for the sophisticated amateur accountant, or they require too much manual entry. So we set out to be different, if you know how to check your friend’s status updates on Facebook or if you know how to check your balance on internet banking, you should be able to budget with Pocketbook.

Whats your next big milestones?

We got a few exciting things coming up. From a product perspective, we just launched our mobile app on iPhone to an amazing response . We’re working on the next big request – an app for Android. It’s tax season, and we’re working on something to simply the process of doing tax returns – in fact, that’s where the product originated. Some info here – https://getpocketbook.com/features/tax-returns-2013

 

Aside from product, we’re closing our round of funding so we can move even faster. We’re also competing in the finals of the SWIFT Innotribe 2013 Startup Competition in Dubai this September. SWIFT is a financial messaging cooperative between 15,000+ banks globally. Think “SWIFT Code” whenever you transfer money overseas. So this is recognition at the highest level in our sector. Of the 9 companies competing, we are one of 3 representing Asia-Pac and the only company from Australia. You can read more here: http://innotribe.com/2013-grand-finale/

 

 

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About The Author
Mike88
Mike88
Mike Nicholls Australian Inventor + Entrepreneur working with a small team of engineers building prototypes from Inventions including two medical devices. Publishes Startup88.com and has assessed/reviewed +500 inventions and +200 startups in the last 3 years. Mentors Sydney Startups via Incubate and other incubators and helps members of the Australian Startup Community via the Startup88.com website with free publicity and advertising. Experience in numerous industries including Digital Publishing, Cloud Computing, Apps, Hardware, Aviation, Real Estate & Finance and Health/Medical Devices.
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