How a spreadsheet born in a Sydney living room became a fintech with 300,000 users

Pocketbook. (Source: Pocketbook)
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It was only in 2012 that Pocketbook founders Bosco Tan and Alvin Singh had enough of not knowing where their money was going, and decided they could only fix the problem themselves.

“Pocketbook started out as a spreadsheet,” Singh told Business Insider.

“I was trying to make my money go further — and not knowing where I actually stood financially in terms of money coming in and money going out meant that that was extremely difficult even to start out.”

Singh said that he had a main bank, an everyday credit card and an occasional credit card for online purchases, which made it that much harder to form a high level of view of his finances. And soon found that he wasn’t the only one with the problem.

“That’s the problem we set out to solve a few years ago with Pocketbook and it’s still a core part of what we solve today,” he said.

“People just don’t know where their spending is going and how to begin saving or saving that much more. We help them to that.”

That spreadsheet was then developed into an app in Singh’s living room, and launched commercially on October 2012.

Fast forward almost five years and the software now has 300,000 users.

“We are consistently rated top 10 in the Apple App Store alongside the Big Four banking apps and other global apps such as Paypal and American Express,” Singh said, adding Pocketbook has maintained an average rating of 4.5 stars throughout its life.

The software now keeps track of categories of spending. Earlier this year, the company released statistics on the gym subscription habits of Australians – finding a high proportion sign up in January and February then abandon their memberships by July.

The app also lets users know how much they can “safely spend” in the coming period, after analysing the person’s income and expenditure history.

Pocketbook’s Alvin Singh and Bosco Tan. (Source: supplied)

“We give people the tools and information in an easy to understand and bite-sized way so they can make informed choices about how they live, spend and save,” said Tan, who is also currently chief operating officer.

In what the company claims is Australia’s first fintech-to-fintech merger, payment tech startup ZipMoney acquired Pocketbook for $7.5 million in September last year. But Pocketbook is still running as an app in its own right and was last week named a finalist for the first FinTech Australia industry awards, which will be handed out on Wednesday night.

“It is a brilliant and well-established personal financial money management tool that empowers people to make the best financial decisions. It is also completely free,” said ZipMoney chief executive Larry Diamond at the time.

Like FinTech Australia, Tan welcomed the open data initiatives that will open up customer information from the big banks to small fintechs.

“We believe a strong data sharing ecosystem will put Australia at the forefront of innovation. It is important for Australian innovators that as a nation, we follow fast on the regulatory landscape worldwide.”

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