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Truebill: Saving consumers from the subscription tsunami

Unwanted subscription charges pose a new challenge to personal financial management. Today Truebill, the app that cures this disease, joins forces with Rocket Companies for $1.275 billion.

By Kent Bennett 12.20.21

Truebill, an app that immediately saved me hundreds of dollars on subscriptions I wasn’t even aware I was paying for, is being acquired by Rocket Companies for $1.275 billion. We led their Series B a little over a year ago at a fraction of that price. So, what the hell just happened?

Not just another personal finance app

In 2020, when Alexandra Sukin, my superstar colleague, told me about the Baltimore-based mobile-first personal financial management app, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. The app store is littered with solutions promising to help with personal finances—and the grandmomma, Mint.com, is still free!

But at her insistence, I tried the app. Like all truly great products, Truebill—led by brothers and co-founders Haroon, Idris, and Yahya Mokhtarzada— offered a jaw-dropping value proposition to address a raging consumer pain point. In the years since Mint.com’s heyday, the number of recurring tolls many of us paid had grown from a phone or cable bill, to dozens of monthly, quarterly, and annual charges for almost any good or service on the planet. We all feel it.

Truebill offered a jaw-dropping value proposition.

Truebill leveraged newly available banking APIs to tame this subscription circus. On day one, members saw all of their subscriptions in one place, and almost always discovered they were still paying for a few things they weren’t using.

As an aside - when did I sign up for Orange Theory???

Truebill often saved users more that day than the service would cost in a lifetime. An added novelty, typical of this “think different” team, Truebill actually allowed members to choose to pay what they thought the app was worth. This established trust and led to increased retention.

Truebill’s ambitions went well past the “gateway drug” of taming subscriptions - the app offered a full suite of personal financial management and budgeting tools. Users would go deeper and deeper over time leading to the rare and coveted consumer retention “smile”.

Hiding in a VC blindspot

Despite Truebill’s best-in-class performance and product metrics that would have commanded record valuations in another sector, there wasn’t exactly a feeding frenzy for investment when we knocked on their door. Personal financial management as a sector had been labeled “been-there” as Mint.com was thought to have supremacy, and even worse, it was a “noisy” category with dozens of quasi-competitive logos. The same bias that had me roll my eyes before I tried the app had Truebill in a VC blindspot. Not to mention a startup in Baltimore founded by three brothers wasn’t exactly Silicon Valley catnip.

But the competitive noise withered under scrutiny. There was no other product close to this. And the “been-there” “noisy” sector? Wasn’t that often true before a clear winner came along?

The founders and team were clearly excellent. They had built incredible systems for measuring and managing the business. Systems that were essential a year later to thriving in the transition to iOS 14 that cut so many consumer startups down.

Ultimately my only hesitation was that I had never met the founders in real life. They were Zoom cartoons to me. Eight months into COVID I hadn’t yet invested without meeting a team in person. But product and team love won the day despite the virtual courtship. We invested and haven’t had a minute of regret…

Unsubscribed too quickly!

Until now. (Just a little!)

This acquisition is a fantastic outcome for Truebill and a compelling combination. But I learned so much spending only a year with these world-class consumer product gurus, I can’t help but feel a bit sad that the lesson ends today. Extraordinary consumer product teams like this don’t come around often - in the years ahead as Truebill works to improve financial health for millions of consumers, I’ll find as many excuses as I can to stay subscribed to this amazing team.

Thank you Truebill!