Money mas­ters

Ot­tawa fin­tech startup banks on bold ap­proach to pen­e­trate Euro­pean mar­ket with fi­nan­cial man­age­ment app.

Ottawa Business Journal - - Front Page - BY ADAM FEIBEL adam@obj.ca

An Ot­tawa fin­tech startup wants to gain an edge on its com­peti­tors with a bold and chal­leng­ing strat­egy – start by op­er­at­ing glob­ally in or­der to reach un­der­served mar­kets.

Cur­rently a divi­sion of Ot­tawa ac­count data ag­gre­ga­tion firm Salt Edge, Fen­tury has de­vel­oped a per­sonal fi­nance ad­viser app that “makes you un­der­stand your money and pre­pare your fu­ture plan­ning,” ex­plains Lisa Terz­i­man, who co-founded the firm in 2015 with Dmitrii Bar­ba­sura.

The soft­ware-as-a-ser­vice app con­nects all users’ fi­nan­cial ac­counts and helps them build bud­gets, plan bill pay­ments and han­dle other money man­age­ment tasks. The firm is also work­ing on a fea­ture that would make specif­i­cally tai­lored sug­ges­tions based on a user’s par­tic­u­lar habits. For ex­am­ple, it might rec­om­mend some­one cut back on that daily latte at the cof­fee shop to help save for a new car.

“We all keep up with money be­cause we want to do some­thing,” says Ms. Terz­i­man. “We want to get out of debt, save for an awe­some va­ca­tion, buy some re­ally cool thing or what­ever. If you re­ally want to achieve your goal and you don’t want to spend a lot of time on your money … then you should use Fen­tury – be­cause in one minute you’ll know every­thing about your money.”

The startup ex­ists along­side wellestab­lished com­peti­tors like Mint, a leader in the field that of­fers sim­i­lar per­sonal fi­nance ser­vices. Two years after launch­ing, that com­pany was ac­quired by In­tuit for $170 mil­lion in 2009 and re­ported hav­ing 20 mil­lion users this year.

Fen­tury says one of the big­gest dif­fer­ences is its ap­proach.

While many ex­ist­ing per­sonal fi­nance apps are free to use, with the com­pa­nies mak­ing money through lead gen­er­a­tion or by sell­ing non-iden­ti­fy­ing data on things like spend­ing habits, Fen­tury has done the op­po­site: the com­pany will gen­er­ate rev­enue di­rectly from sub­scrip­tions ($5 a month or $50 for the year, after a 30-day trial), rather than by in­di­rect means.

“Ei­ther it’s free and you part­ner with third-party com­pa­nies who you’ll sell the data so that you can mon­e­tize, or you go with a sub­scrip­tion and make sure the data stays pri­vate,” says Ms. Terz­i­man. “We chose the sec­ond one be­cause we be­lieve that fi­nances should stay per­sonal.”

The com­pany also em­pha­sizes a global pres­ence above all. While many apps are avail­able only in Canada and the United States, Ms. Terz­i­man

Fen­tury co-founders Lisa Terz­i­man and Dmitrii Bar­ba­sura.

says there’s a de­mand for such an app world­wide that isn’t be­ing met.

Fen­tury is cur­rently com­pat­i­ble with 2,500 banks in at least 50 coun­tries. The com­pany has be­gun fo­cus­ing on Ger­man-speak­ing coun­tries – Ger­many, Aus­tria and Switzer­land in par­tic­u­lar – where there seems to be un­ful­filled de­mand and the firm thinks it can make ma­jor gains, she says.

The com­pany’s 11 em­ploy­ees are split into two of­fices: the main head­quar­ters in Ot­tawa, led by Mr. Bar­ba­sura, and a Euro­pean of­fice in Moldova, led by Ms. Terz­i­man. Bas­ing their mar­ket­ing team in Europe opens a door to what the firm sees as a lu­cra­tive over­seas mar­ket, she says.

Broad­en­ing their reach has been no easy task, says Ms. Terz­i­man.

“It’s re­ally hard to achieve, and we worked like hell to get to it,” she says. “I’d say we prob­a­bly have the big­gest con­nec­tion (to banks) so far.”

Fen­tury landed an ini­tial $500,000 seed round in late 2014, and will be seek­ing an­other $1.5 mil­lion in its next round of pri­vate eq­uity fi­nanc­ing. The firm projects 100,000 users in 2017 for monthly re­cur­ring rev­enues of $250,000, and ex­pects to triple its user base the fol­low­ing year.

Ms. Terz­i­man says that aside from see­ing Fen­tury as a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity, she also sees it as a chance to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives, adding she would have loved to have had ac­cess to an app like it ear­lier in her life.

“We don’t want to be just a usual per­sonal fi­nance man­ager,” she says. “We ac­tu­ally want to change the fi­nan­cial be­hav­iour of peo­ple and re­ally help them to get bet­ter with their money.”

PHOTO COURTESY FEN­TURY

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