The 2018 Inside/Outside Innovation Summit in Lincoln last May attracted more than 30 startups seeking to make pitches for cash prizes. The winner of a $25,000 grant from the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development was a company from Australia. The grant comes with a catch: the winner must locate or expand in Lincoln.
“It was clear to us from the point we launched that our primary market would be the USA,” said Tim O’Shea, Founder and CEO of SavR, a personal finance app. “We had previously considered San Francisco, and were accepted by Rocket Space to operate from their downtown coworking space, but it didn’t seem like an ideal fit.”
“We recently shortlisted Austin and Lincoln as potential locations,” O’Shea said. “They are both strong, emerging tech hubs with a lot to offer in terms of corporate collaboration and also potential talent to grow our team. The cost of living is also far more sustainable in those locations.”
The SavR app allows users to round up payment transactions and use the spare change for debt reduction. This is not unique, but other apps take the roundup concept to make investments such as stock purchases.
“My original idea for the app was at a finance conference,” O’Shea said. “The Acorns app had just been introduced to the audience. I thought the roundup concept was fantastic, but it could be put to work in many better ways other than investing in shares.”
SavR can be especially useful for people who have limited savings.
“Two-thirds of U.S. adults have under $1,000 is personal savings,” O’Shea said. “Those are probably the people we can help the most. Anyone that wants to take advantage of modern mobile technology and an automated saving tool will benefit from using SavR.”
O’Shea was asked if there was potential market overlap with Hip Money, which is largely focused on financial institutions.
“Surely Hip Money and SavR will have some overlap when it comes to potential users,” he said. “But ultimately we both aim to improve the financial wellness of our users, just in slightly different ways.”
So how does SavR make money?
“SavR will monetize by collecting and analyzing the daily transactional data of each user, and using that information to deliver strategically timed discounts on products and services our users are already buying,” O’Shea said. “This way, we can provide our users a way to save money, and we will only be showing them offers that are interesting and relevant, and we can offer the app for free to those that need it the most.”
As an outsider, O’Shea is impressed with the startup community in Lincoln.
“Relatively speaking, Lincoln is a smaller area by population but it has a fantastic start-up ecosystem,” he said. “Both the corporates and also the local government are really getting behind supporting innovation and that is very exciting for us to take part in.”
He is also bullish on the support for startups across the United States.
“The US, in general, seems to have made an entire industry our of supporting startups, which means there is usually a choice of coworking spaces and consultants to choose from if you have a startup idea,” he said. “Very few actually nail those services though, as you really need a lot of passion to provide the assistance startups need.”
“Lincoln has some top-notch people to work with,” he added.
Rod Armstrong is the Vice President of Fundraising at AIM Institute and a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.