Montreal-based startup WhoPaid.It has created an online platform that keeps track of small debts among friends while offering secure payment options.
According to CEO Quinn Roukema the motivation for the startup was simple. While sharing tabs on everything from road trips, dinner and beers, Roukema and his cofounders realized that there must be better way to track who owes what with an easy, secure and fast mobile payments solution.
“Any social activity that I embark on involves spending money together and it always ends in these tricky, awkward moments over who’s to pay what,” said the 23-year-old. “Since we’re all so social and technology is right around the corner there should be a way to make this easier.”
Roukema created a primitive version of WhoPaid.It while studying in Amsterdam. It was a “very, very basic” Dutch app which became a hit among roommates, fellow students, and his lacrosse teammates. Upon moving to Montreal he was back to square one though, relying on excel spreadsheets to calculate debts with new roommates.
“And that’s when I started thinking, why don’t we build something for North America to solve this?” he said.
Roukema hooked up with cofounders Jiri Bindels, Marek Zaluski and Olivier Melcher, brought on a trio of experienced advisors and even recruited student partners from universities across Montreal.
WhoPaid.It launched an “alpha” version of the product to 200 people in late 2012 and received glowing reviews from those limited users. Over the next two months the team worked towards launching a public beta version at last week’s Montreal NewTech meet up, finishing the touch ups literally an hour before going on stage.
The iOS and Android versions should be complete in a matter of weeks as well as possible gamification aspects. “Users can be crowned a ‘big spender’ if you’re paying your bills on time and making sure your balance is positive,” said the CEO.
Roukema see’s the product’s payback feature as its driving force, allowing people to pay their micro debts within 30 seconds without resorting to cash or an email money transfer. He see’s the startup as becoming Canada’s first peer-to-peer micro debt market place, where large groups of social circles can easily solve debt issues through the upcoming app.
One of the team’s advisors is a former founding team member at Montreal-based Beyond The Rack, the online shopping giant that has served over 9 million people in North America. Avery Abramovitch has since launched his own startup, Makefly, but took a keen interest in WhoPaid.It.
He’s been sharing his expertise on user acquisition strategies and product development. Not only has the team been taking a smart, iterative approach and have constantly improved the product, but they’re also focusing on a group-pay space that has proven successful in Europe already.
“Everybody’s jumping on it, it has an inherent virility to it all and [the team] has witnessed that and they’re bringing it here to a market which is new and fresh,” said Abramovitch. “Based on what happened at Beyond The Rack there’s no reason why that same impact couldn’t be replicated in Canada if done right.”