deep dive on fintech startup product
This is the first of a series of fintech startup product reviews. Every week I look at a number of fintech newsletters and will pick a company that I learned to do a deep dive on its product. To start, we will look at Truebill.
What is Truebill
Truebill is a app in the personal financial wellness area. It helps customers save money by analyzing unwanted subscription and helping customers lower existing bills. Other features include setting budgets and creating reports on spending.
How it works
Truebill uses Plaid to connect customers’ bank and credit card accounts. Then will run analysis to generate the following:
- Dashboard with snapshot of your financial standing
- Function to start a budget
- Function to lower existing bills
- Suggestions on ways to save
- Upcoming recurring charges
- Reports on spending
The snapshot shows how much you have in the bank against upcoming credit card bills. Budget is created based on income and spending per month, and tracks how your current month is going against the budget. In the lower existing bill feature, Truebill will try to negotiate a lower rate with your biller on your behalf. It seems Truebill is using longer term contract, like 2 years, as a negotiating leverage.
Suggestions on ways to save helps customers find cheaper options. In my test run, Truebill found that I might be able to find cheaper auto insurance and lower utility provider.
- Ways to save seems to be on point.
- Lower existing bill feature
Ways to save: The auto insurance and utility bill Truebill found for me seems to be the right direction. Ideally, Truebill should look at what I am paying, and look at the average from its data model to determine whether what I am paying is high or not. And if high, suggest ways to help save. However, it’s not clear if that’s what’s happening here. For one, I am not sure Truebill has enough info on me to figure out what I should be paying on auto insurance.
Lower existing bill: It’s nice to have someone negotiate on my behalf and I like the fact that they didn’t make it into a premium feature, but one where I am only charged if able to find savings.
- Don’t see the value of premium account yet.
- Ways to save experience needs to be improved as Truebill is missing a big opportunity
Premium account: Currently, the premium account has the following features:
These features doesn’t seem to offer enough value to justify the suggested $7 a month subscription fee (though the fee is adjustable). I will give solid example of what I mean below.
Ways to save: I was excited to try out the “ways to save” feature as I think it’s one of the main attraction of the Truebill app. After using it, I was disappointed. As mentioned above, Truebill found 2 savings for me, auto insurance & utility.
For utility, Truebill just asked me to sign up for Acadia, another utility company. I had no idea whether Truebill searched all the available options, and found that Acadia provides the best option or most saving for me. Actually if Truebill did do all that, the app doesn’t seem to have showed or communicated that.
It seems more like Truebill just have a partnership with Acadia, and is getting paid if I sign up. I had no idea how much saving I could get nor why I should make the switch from my current utility provider. It does seem good that Acadia is using green, such as solar farm. However, Truebill failed to explain the connection of green energy to my utility saving. I had no idea whether by using the solar farm from Acadia will cost me more or will actually help with the saving?
The experience for auto insurance is not better. After a seemingly static page that says my insurance may be high, I was taken to a page to select from multiple insurance provider. How do I know who I should pick from?
And if I clicked on an insurance provider, I am just taken to the quick quote page for the insurance, where I am asked to enter all my info. Then, the specialist from the insurance company will call me to discuss. I know behind the scene, Truebill is paid when I clicked on the insurance company, but this user journey is just bad user experience. As an user, I am expecting Truebill to help me find savings on auto insurance, not direct me to a page where I am selecting from a list of insurance companies that I had no clue which one to choose, and then looped into some sales cycle. Worse, if I want to shop around, I would have to give info multiple times. Not many people will have the time to go through that.
Besides the subpar user experience, Truebill is missing a big opportunity here: capture customer’s data to enable Truebill to offer better products and services. First, to create true customer value for its “save feature”, Truebill can gather user’s info, then fetch quotes from all the auto insurance companies on its site. Once Truebill has gotten the responses, only offer the customer best competitive quotes, like one based on price, and another one based on coverage premium. With this type of service, I , as a customer, would feel Truebill has really helped me to find “savings”.
And more importantly, with this process, Truebill gets user data that can be used to offer more customized services and offerings. This is a big opportunity as data is KING in today’s digital age. For example, after Truebill is able to find saving for customers’ auto insurance, Truebill can offer functions only available in the premium model that automatically scans for savings or promotions from auto insurance companies that can apply to customers’ profile. Then automatically applies the savings for the customers. It’s possible that the savings will more than pay for the premium service. This is what I mean by features that offer enough value to justify the subscription fee.
As a fintech entrepreneur, I know how hard it is in the trenches and I am amazed by Truebill’s accomplishment. But as a product person, I had to pick out what I see, and I admit I had high expectations coming in. Because consolidating all of our bank and credit statement into once place is certainly not anything new. Mint started to do so in 2006, 14 years ago. The important part is what can we do to create real value for customers, and I had hoped to see more value add features with Truebill.
Truebill just successfully completed its series C funding with $17 million led by famous VCs, so there is clearly something that I am missing. Hope those with more knowledge can shed some insights.
Full disclaimer: I have never seen Truebill’s roadmap, and hence can only base my analysis on my experience with current version of the app.