After Google bought the social-navigation app Waze for $US1.1 billion last June, it’s co-founder Uri Levine decided that he wasn’t done trying to solve big problems.
Today, Levine and his co-founders — Yoav Zurel, David Weisz, and Eyal Halahmi — launched FeeX, a startup that tackles the hidden fees that financial services dupe people into paying.
Like Waze uses crowd-sourcing to help users avoid traffic jams, FeeX will work with crowdsourced info to help users compare retirement plans, mortgages, life insurance options, and more (though it’s launching with retirement capabilities). The service is free for now, though the company plans to roll out premium features that it will charge for eventually.
Dubbed the “Robin Hood Of Fees,” FeeX will analyse a users financial data to help them understand how much they’re losing in hidden fees and, if it’s a lot, find better, cheaper plan alternatives. Levine became interested in fighting outrageous hidden fees after he discovered that his bank charged him a mysterious $US250 annual fee. When he called it out, the bank waved the fee, because that charge was essentially trimmable fat. Right now, Americans spend about $US600 billion a year on hidden or obscure financial fees.
Before the company launched, Levine mentored two of the company’s co-founders, including FeeX’s CEO, Yoav Zurel, at an Israeli entrepreneurship program. Zurel told Business Insider that after Levine asked him to search for more hidden fees like his own, he realised that his own parents would lose about a third of their retirement savings to fees they didn’t understand. They didn’t know how much they were paying, so they were paying way, way too much.
“Both of my parents are highly educated and well-aware of their expenses — They have been working very hard to have a great retirement,” he says. “And then there were all these fees they didn’t even know about. That’s what made me emotionally attached to this problem.”
The FeeX team believes that by fostering awareness and transparency, it will push people to choose better services. This, in turn, will motivate financial providers to offer plans with lower fees.
FeeX is 28-year-old Zurel’s first company, and he says that it’s exciting to work with Levine, who’s reentered the startup world even after Waze’s enormous Google sale.
“He can’t ignore big problems — he must take action,” Zurel says. “It’s very inspiring.”