Power Pitch

Digital guard dog for finances

Digital guard dog for finances
Digital guard dog for finances

A new app promises to turn your smartphone into a digital watchdog for personal finances. While it hunts for credit-card fraud in real time, it also searches the web for ways to save you cash while you shop. It's called BillGuard, and the app's creator, Yaron Samid, says, "BillGuard's mission is to empower people to better control, protect and do more with their money."

Watch Samid pitch his start-up to Alicia Syrett, board member of the New York Angels, Stephanie Palmeri, principal at SoftTech VC, and David Wu, general partner at Maveron. Will the panel be in or out on his big idea? Watch the video to find out.

A simple method that works

Samid said he came up with the idea four years ago when his wife became the victim of credit fraud. A Google search of the fraudulent charge revealed thousands of other victims complaining about the same thing. The incident drove Samid to bring together data scientists, mathematicians and security experts to start BillGuard.

The technology that powers the app can monitor and analyze millions of its users' credit card transactions to search for patterns of fraud and when it detects questionable charges the app can alert users in real time.

According to Samid, BillGuard has 1.2 million users, and 3,000 are signing on every day.

While the basic app is free, consumers can upgrade to a comprehensive identity protection service for a monthly fee. The service includes features such as monitoring the user's three credit reports for suspicious activity, alerts if the user's personal info is found on sites where compromised data is sold, and access to telephone agents who will walk the user through the process of fraud resolution.

BillGuard’s “Smart Savings” alert feature displaying a coupon
Source: BillGuard

Staying ahead of the curve

Other financial apps in this space include Mint, Credit Karma and Lifelock. However, Samid says the services BillGuard offers makes it one of a kind. Beyond fraud alerts, the app delivers savings alerts, a feature that searches the web for money-saving coupons that match the user's unique spending patterns. "For example," the founder said, "If you shop at Old Navy regularly and BillGuard finds an Old Navy coupon online, it can push it to your phone for redemption at the store."

During the Power Pitch segment, Wu asked what percentage of BillGuard customers subscribe to the upgraded service.

"Half of our registered users are active. These are key performance indicators we're actually particularly proud of. The average BillGuard user opens up the app five times a week, so that's almost daily. And we have three months in over 40 percent retention. So we've succeeded in building a habit-forming application, which is very conducive for upselling premium comprehensive solutions to our base," Samid said.

Palmeri then asked how BillGuard attracts consumers that have never experienced fraud.

"About 10 percent of Americans will get hit by some sort of card fraud in a given year. That's 90 percent of users who won't get a lot of value from a fraud alert. But what they will get value from are things such as gray charge notifications where there are deceptive and misleading subscriptions or charges on your bills that you don't notice," Samid responded.

BillGuard is available in the Android and Apple app stores. It launched in April 2010 and has raised $16.5 million in funding. Key investors include venture capitalist and hedge fund manager Peter Thiel, as well as Google's Eric Schmidt. Samid said the company is not yet profitable and is focusing on growth and value for its users.

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