Learn This Fintech Entrepreneur's 4-Step Process for Building a Better App
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Please explain Clarity Money in a nutshell.
My name is Adam Dell, I'm the founder and CEO of Clarity Money, a free personal financial management app that uses data to give you a crystal-clear view into your real financial choices and an ability to take action to change the course of your financial life. Clarity Money was acquired by Goldman Sachs in April 2018 and is now part of the Marcus by Goldman Sachs® family.
Did you have a personal experience that led to its development? What was your “aha moment”?
I had been a customer of Mint for some time and thought there was a better way to go about personal financial management. Mint provides a dashboard about the past, but I wanted to build a button for the future. As more and more people were making profound economic decisions on their phones, I wanted to explore a way we could use data science to analyze spending habits and present consumers with simple, actionable insights.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to their personal finances?
More often than not, people avoid their finances, and this ladders back to the complicated relationship people have with their bank and a system that is stacked against them. Many times, banks aren’t straightforward with their customers and have hidden charges, fees and a lack of transparency that creates a cycle of mistrust. In turn, consumers are scared to find out where they stand financially because it’s overwhelming or they worry they won’t be able to take steps to make things better. However, it’s important to have a complete picture of your financial universe to stay empowered.
Are there any simple "quick fixes" that most people can make that will have a positive impact on their finances?
There are a lot of things that seem more daunting than they actually are, and by spending just a matter of minutes on a few actions, people can see an immediate impact on their finances. I would, of course, recommend downloading a personal financial management app like Clarity Money but there are additional quick actions people can take.
Another simple thing is to review your credit score, which is an essential benchmark for your financial health. I would also suggest checking in on retirement plans offered through your company to see if there is a 401K matching program.
There are millions of apps available. How were you able to break through the crowd and get yours recognized by Goldman Sachs?
We started to get some attention from institutional types and ended up with a few offers on the table. At the time we had no intention of selling. But we found we had a lot in common with Goldman Sachs. Like us, they're focused on building something that truly has the customers' best interest in mind.
What advice do you have for fledgling app developers that you wish someone told you when you were starting out?
My advice would be to start with the customer first and be relentless about it. Build to optimize their experience above all else. At the end of the day, nothing else really matters. If you are meticulously focused on creating something that provides true value to your customers and a great experience for them to engage with, then you will eventually find your way.
What is your leadership style?
My job is to set a vision and keep a high standard for myself and everyone on my team. My expectations should never be higher than what they set for themselves. Each day I look forward to running towards the hill, ready to solve the problem. And I look for people who have similar mental makeup.
Beyond that, I focus on building a star team, not necessarily star players. When determining each person’s role, I focus on tasks a person can do that allow them to be the best they can be. I firmly believe the way you get the best out of people is to figure out what is at the core of their personal and professional goals and make sure that the task in front of them matches that.
Do you have a mantra or quote that keeps you motivated?
We use mantras and quotes that change each day on the top panel of the Clarity Money app. Truthfully, it's one of the parts of the app I love the most. On a personal level, my general philosophy is to take action, get feedback, iterate and repeat. In my opinion, that cycle is how you can make progress and innovate.