Juntos Finanzas

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Juntos Finanzas

Mountain View, United StatesUnited States
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We make transformative SMS personal finance tools that help cash-based households track their spending and save towards goals.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our company started with the stories of night shift janitors who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, who shared with us how hard it was to make any progress towards their own financial aspirations. Mainstream personal financial management (PFM) products like Mint.com are unable to serve families like this if they don't use online banking or transact with plastic. As a result the industry has largely abandoned huge markets of people who are often trying the hardest to manage their family's finances, week by week: In the U.S., 106M adults are still “cash-preferred.” 26% of U.S. households (and 47% of all Hispanic households in the U.S.) are un- or underbanked. Outside of the U.S., in developing nations, the World Bank estimates that 64% of adults are unbanked.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We make transformative mobile personal finance tools that help cash-based households track their spending and save towards goals. We’re like a text-message Mint.com that doesn’t require any bank accounts, credit cards, or computers. Imagine you are leaving the supermarket. Simply text “34.27 COMIDA” to Juntos to log that you just spent that money on comida (food). Text in to see your running totals anytime. At the end of the month we can also send you, by email or mail, a full visual report of how you spent your money. Our second product is like an SMS "Weight Watchers" program for saving. Week by week, users receive cycles of content and check-ins that revolve around behavior change and getting money set aside towards specific savings goals. Harnessing the power of habit formation and behavioral design, Juntos' products transform users' feelings about their money, which changes their financial management behaviors.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Juntos partners with financial institutions. Illustrative example: a bank partner gives its existing or potential customers the Juntos phone number to sign up for our savings program. As their customers begin using our tools, they begin to form and deepen a regular savings habit as they work toward a concrete goal. Harnessing the power of behavioral research, our SMS program motivates the creation of new savings habits, making it easier for users to save. The messages are designed to encourage users to build their savings in small amounts on a regular basis. Many users tell us that this is the first saving success they have ever experienced, and that they feel like Juntos cares about them and wants to help them succeed. As a result, not only do end-users build new savings behaviors that they didn't have before, but the bank experiences success: new account creation and/or a lift in savings deposits. Another example of our products in context: an MFI partner connects its loan clients with Juntos to sign up for our small business tracking program. As their clients learn to regularly track and report income and expenses through the Juntos SMS based tracking system, loan officers receive greater insight into the cash flows, margins, and sales cycles of their clients. The clients receive powerful business training, which has been shown to increase repayment rates and the MFI receives better data. The introduction of SMS technology to this data collection & analysis, which is typically collected in-person by a loan officer, can also decrease HR costs for the MFI.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The personal financial management (PFM) industry, led by exemplars like Intuit and Mint.com, helps millions of people budget, reduce their debt, and save. Mainstream solutions, however, rely on computer software, online banking, and (credit or debit) card transactions. If you largely use cash to transact, mainstream products are unable to serve you; all they can show is a black hole where your money was. Our tools are designed for cash-based households. They don’t require computers, bank accounts, or credit cards: all you need is a simple mobile phone. Startups like Frogtek and InVenture design PFM tools for small vendors/merchants in developing markets, but our products are uniquely centered around behavioral design to drive successful usage of financial institutions' products.
Team

Founding Story

Juntos began as a class project: my team worked with night shift janitors on campus to prototype tools that would help immigrants with their personal finances. It was a great project, but when the academic quarter ended everyone went their own way. An entire year went by, yet something about that project remained unresolved for me - it always stayed in the back of my mind. I reached out to the janitors again. When they arrived, one of them, Karina, told me she had used the tools we had created to track her money over the year, and had saved over $2,000. Seeing her face and what that meant to her, the changed sense of self that she felt, I knew in my core that I had to work on it more - that there was something here that was deeply important and meaningful. That was the moment that launched us into developing the products that eventually evolved into what we do today.
About You
Organization:
Juntos Finanzas
About You
First Name

Ben

Last Name

Knelman

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Juntos Finanzas

Organization Country

, CA, Mountain View, Santa Clara County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, XX

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Winner of the 2012 Core Innovation Challenge, for the financial service industry's "best new product for the underbanked," as voted by the largest group of underbanked executives ever assembled in the U.S.

1st Place, Stanford BASES Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

2012 Echoing Green Semifinalist

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Innovation
How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Quality.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

When we began meeting with the immigrant workers we wanted to design for, what we heard again and again were stories of failure, feelings of powerlessness, and the sense that no matter how hard they tried, saving was impossible. Our company's goal is to create tools that change the story that people have about their money, and change the story that people have about themselves. We want our products to empower people to feel confidence and momentum in their financial decisions and aspirations - a confidence that drives true behavior change, asset building and financial inclusion for our users.

Which barrier(s) to financial inclusion does your solution seek to address? (select all applicable)

Physical and other accessibility obstacles that prevent communities from reaching financial services, The lack of affordable financial products tailored to the needs of underserved and excluded communities,, Other (Please describe below).

If you selected 'other' above, please specify which other barriers to financial inclusion you solution seeks to address:

Sustained Behavior Change

For which underserved or excluded communities will your solution create access to valuable, affordable, secure and comprehensive financial services?

Our products are designed for cash-based households, initially for first-generation Latino immigrants in the U.S. (over half of whom are un or underbanked), and ultimately for the financially underserved all across the world.

Could your solution work in other geographies or regions? If so, where?

Because the Juntos solution is based on technology already widely used and available around the world (simple SMS messages, from all kinds of phones), it is readily ported to a variety of developing world contexts as well as to underbanked populations in the developed world.

If your solution is dramatically successful, how will things be different in 10 years?

The personal financial management industry, currently created for and serving the population who needs it least, will be reoriented to those who need it most, turning a simple cell phone into a powerful ally towards successful, confident financial management for those who struggle daily to stretch limited finances. Our products will drive personal empowerment and transformative behavior change that changes savings rates and drives the relevance and success of micro-savings products around the world in ways the industry today can't imagine. The interests of formal financial institutions and the underbanked will be more closely aligned because our products will have bridged gaps existing today, by driving financial inclusion for savings products, PFM tools, and responsible credit.

What will have had to have changed to make this happen?

Cell phone ownership and SMS usage will need to increase in some parts of the world. The end user will need to be educated about the solution and believe it can positively impact his/her success in financial management and savings. Financial service providers need to believe that habit change can make the underbanked population a more attractive customer base for their current and future products.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Over 1,000 households have successfully used our products. Our savings results are matching or exceeding many federally funded programs where similarly-low-income families are paid matching funds if they save. 74% of our successful savers say they have NEVER saved prior to Juntos. Even by putting very small sums aside each week, users have been able to buy their first cars, have money ready for Christmas presents, and visit family in Mexico.

Our tools inspire new confidence and control: as one user of our tracking tool, Angela S. told us, ""this is the 1st week when I don't feel anxiety in my stomach as I lay in bed because I can't figure out how the money has disappeared."" As people unlock their own ability to achieve their financial goals, it changes not only their own stories, but those of their family and community as well.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

Driving financial inclusion for 1 million people across 3 continents by catalyzing, through our tools, successful engagement and usage of other financial services like micro-savings accounts and responsible loans.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Our greatest challenge is new user adoption. For our customer, Juntos doesn’t represent a new brand, it’s a new product category: Personal Financial Management tools are almost unknown by our core user, and as a result it can be difficult to convey the value proposition of our tools. Especially when potential users believe "it’s impossible for someone like me to save." This is both the challenge and the opportunity we face.

Our current strategy to address this challenge is to turn to word of mouth and partner channels for distribution. Distribution through partnerships with financial institutions introduces challenges of partner adoption. Demonstration pilots and proof points of our value proposition to financial service providers will be important to lowering those entry hurdles.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Compellingly demonstrate value proposition of our products to financial institutions through initial partnerships

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Collect data from demonstration pilots with 3 U.S. based MFIs

Task 2

Achieve active user base of 5000 people

Task 3

Hire additional engineer

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Serve 15,000 users in at least 2 countries

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Launch international pilot of at least 1000 users

Task 2

Raise next investment round to scale the team to execute both in the U.S. and in Latin America

Task 3

Demonstrate a repeatable subscription model with US financial institutions that also suggests portability to intl. markets

Sustainability
Tell us about your partnerships

Most of our partnerships are paid customer relationships - we partner with financial institutions who pay to use our technology with their clients (the end users). Depository institutions can use our savings tool to drive more engagement and deposits into the savings (or micro-savings or mobile banking) accounts that they offer. MFIs are using our tracking tools to gain more visibility into loan client cashflows (pre or post loan). This can decrease their HR and underwriting costs, as cashflow data currently must be collected in person by staff.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

In terms of end users, we currently target first generation immigrants in the U.S. and other primarily cash-based, underbanked households. Over the upcoming year we are also gearing up to expand to other markets outside of the U.S., focusing initially on piloting in Latin America.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

Above all we stive to be a user-centric and data driven company. The foundation of our team's culture is responsiveness to user feedback and results from marketplace tests. Internally our team is driven by the desire both to enable personal transformation in our users' lives and to build a long term model of profitability. Focusing on innovation at that intersection of business and impact enables us to attract highly talented, passionate, and relentlessly driven teammates. The operating environment in the market of financial services for the underbanked is ripe for the innovation that Juntos can drive, as customer-facing technology is underharnessed in this sector - as is the successful use of behavioral design.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We would of course be thrilled to be connected with any of the resources you listed within the Changemakers community, but we highlighted the three that we feel are most important to achieving our growth goals in the upcoming year.