Stumptown Startups Blog

'Simple' wants to help you simplify your finances

'Simple' wants to help you simplify your finances

A Portland startup hopes you’ll make the switch from your current big bank to its financial service.

Simple sells itself as a new, straightforward way to manage your money with no overdraft fees or surprise charges.

“Large banks really make money by keeping customers confused,” says co-founder Josh Reich, who started Simple after getting fed up with his own banking service in 2009. “I had to be sort of on top of my money and figure out where these fees came from.  It just seemed really bizarre and unnatural to me.”

Reich and his co-founder began building Simple in 2009 while working out of his basement in Brooklyn.  By July of 2012, Simple began serving customers out of a Northwest Portland office.  It currently has about 50 employees and is looking to grow.

“If a customer has a question, it's a few feet over to speak to the engineer who built that feature,” Reich said.

The company offers customer service via online and on the phone only.  Since it’s not technically a bank (it partners with Delaware-based The Bancorp Bank, which is FDIC insured), there is no physical bank branch. Reich says people are used to chatting online and that face-to-face interaction isn’t really necessary. 

But without a bank teller, it’s more difficult to make a cash deposit. You would have to use a money order. As for depositing checks, you can take a picture of a check with your cell phone, or use one of the many free ATMs.

Tracking your spending

Perhaps the best selling point of Simple is how you can track your finances in a unique way.  Instead of showing an ‘available balance,’ it provides you with a ‘safe-to-spend’ amount.

“How much money can you spend today without hurting yourself tomorrow,” Reich explained.  “It’s including pending transactions, upcoming bills and also your financial goals.”

You can also search your transactions by typing in simple phrases. Reich showed me by typing in, “Dinner last year in New York,” and four transactions popped up.

Still need an invite

You can’t switch banks just yet as Simple tries to manage its growth. Right now you have to request an invite and may find yourself on a waiting list for a couple months. Simple currently serves about 20,000 customers around the country but has high hopes for the future.

“The sky’s the limit,” Reich said.