|Hey HN, we’re the founders of Penny (https://www.pennyapp.io), part of YC’s W17 batch. We’re building an easy way for people to keep track of their finances. In a nutshell: download the app, connect your accounts, get insights and advice on your finances.|
We actually got our start on HN over a year ago. Alex and I spent a couple weeks putting together a prototype of the app as a fun side project in between jobs. We launched that on Show HN (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9942202), managed to raise a seed round a few months later, and then re-launched on Show HN (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10858327) several months later. Thanks for the encouragement and feedback along the way!
Some things that we’ve learned and/or would be happy to discuss:
- Having only five categories scaled way further than we thought. It turns out there’s a silent majority that appreciates the simplicity. We just added a premium version that includes subcategories, but we made it over 1.5 years without them.
- We built Penny as a web app (Cordova). It pretty much guarantees that we don’t get featured by Apple or Google, but it allows us to iterate really, really quickly. All users always have the latest version, and we can update the app in two minutes flat. We think the tradeoff is worth it.
- We’re using a chat interface because it allows Penny to explain your finances in simple, relatable English, but we’re not on any chatbot platforms. We also strongly favor predetermined choices over freeform messages.
- Most people don’t realize when they’ve potentially been harmed: over 40% of our Wells Fargo users hadn’t heard about the scandal a month after the news broke. For the Arby’s breach it was over 70%, and for the Navient lawsuits it was 93%.
- We decided to roll our own Ruby DSL for writing conversations, which renders a JSON syntax tree that’s interpreted by the client. Right now, Penny has 34,560 words of copy, 888 emojis, and 93 GIFs.