Waze Co-Founder Says New Startup Is the 'Robin Hood of Wall Street Fees'
Uri Levine's frustration with traffic led him to start Waze, the crowdsourced navigation app that sold to Google last year for $1.1 billion.
Now he's harnessing his frustration with Wall Street fees in a new venture called FeeX, which calls itself "the Robin Hood of fees" because it strives to put money back into the hands of investors and consumers.
The idea for FeeX was sparked after the 2008 financial crisis, said the Israeli entrepreneur. "I found out at the beginning of 2009 that not only had I lost 20 percent on the market, in addition they charged me 1.5 percent annual fees for losing money."
At the time, he had asked his friends who were none the wiser about how much they were paying in fees. "This is maybe the best kept secret in the world. It's $600 billion of financial fees in the U.S. every year that no one knows that they are paying."
Here's how it works: FeeX searches fees by analyzing crowdsourced financial data of its users through Yodlee, a provider of online banking services that track customer transactions while keeping them anonymous.
"When you connect … your investment or IRA or retirement or 401(k) account to the FeeX platform, basically what we're doing is that we're analyzing all the fees that you are paying and we tell you how much fees you're paying in dollars not percentages," Levine said. "And how much it's going to accumulate over the next 30 years or 10 years or whatever" the investor's time horizon is.
FeeX then offers users alternative investment choices that have lower fees. "The basic service to let you know how much fees you're paying and here are the comparable funds is a free service." Levine also said those alternatives funds are "completely objective and we make them based on the fees" and performance.
So how does FeeX make money? He said, "We make money by creating [a] new fee structure that's not available today. For example, grouping people together and getting them a volume discount. That is a subscription service."
Levine said he understands possible privacy concerns because users need to provide their account numbers and passwords. "If we were to ask you to upload it manually that'd be a nightmare, and you'll never do that." He said the user information required is similar to other online money-managing services.
Financial firms don't have to participate for FeeX to work, he said. "I'm not sure they're going to like our service."
In making his case of the platform, the FeeX chairman paraphrased Albert Einstein. "One percent a year sounds small, right? But when you take into consideration the compound effect of that, Einstein used to say that compound interest is the eighth force of the universe."
"Those that are understanding that are earning it, and those that don't are paying it. And we, most of the people, are simply paying it," Levine concluded.