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Why these founders are building a fintech company even though it’s ‘a pain in the ass’

Savings app Rize uses behavioral economics and simple design to get millennials excited about personal finance.

A better system for saving. (Photo by Flickr user Tax Credits, used under a Creative Commons license)

It’s not at all easy to take complex financial and regulatory information and compress it into a streamlined, simple piece of technology that normal people will want to use. But, nonetheless, Justin Howell and Kirk Voltz are devoted to doing just this.

The cofounders of Rize, a web app that “helps millennials automatically save for goals they care about,” are motivated by the promise of impact. “We absolutely have the opportunity to make a difference,” Voltz told Technical.ly.

Why? Because millennials aren’t saving. But as any financial advisor who has ever walked the internet will tell you, they should be. And not just for retirement, but for vacations and future houses and all kinds of other things. This is where Rize comes in — it’s “like a 401K but for everything else in your life that’s not retirement,” Howell said.

Howell and Voltz first started working together in early 2015. Howell had this thought — 401Ks are great because they force to saver to put aside money from a paycheck before spending any. Why doesn’t this exist for other things? he wondered.

So Howell, who had been working in private equity but was “tired of making rich people richer,” took his finance training and educational background in behavioral economics and teamed up with Voltz (the design guy) to figure out how to build a platform that encourages people to save.

Rize allows users to set specific savings goals and dollar amounts to go toward them at each pay period ($20 for an upcoming trip, for example; or $5 for that expensive pair of shoes). The designated amount of money is automatically transferred to these savings accounts when a paycheck hits the user’s bank account. Users can, of course, adjust and move money back if necessary, but it’s intentionally not easy to do so. Having a very real-feeling separation between money for today and money for tomorrow, Howell and Voltz have found, is super important.

Rize in a nutshell. (Courtesy photo)

Rize, in a nutshell. (Courtesy photo)

After years of work, Rize just launched into public beta. Because of Rize’s focus on simplicity and intuitive design, good user feedback is a key component to their process — users who want to be a part of this can sign up now.

And Howell and Voltz are also testing something else — their business model. Unlike other savings apps in the space, Rize doesn’t (for now) charge a monthly fee for their service. Instead, it operates on a “pay what you like” model. Why? Well, Howell said, it’s “a way to test if this is a problem we’re solving.” In other words, Voltz adds, its a way to keep the company honest. “If we can’t create something you value then we’re doing something wrong,” he said.

And so far so good — the company has found that more than 90 percent of people are willing to pay an average of $2.67 to use the service. Whether it will work in the long term is something only time will tell.

Ready to get saving? Give Rize a try. The small Clarendon, Va.-based team will take care of all the hard stuff and do their utmost to make your experience simple. And yes, even after all this time it remains “a pain in the ass” (Howell said) to compress complex information into the simple app. But it’s their pain in the ass.

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