Featured Image for Interview with Pocketbook co-founder Bosco Tan

Interview with Pocketbook co-founder Bosco Tan

Pocketbook is a free Aussie app designed to help you keep on top of your various financial commitments, which recently received an impressive $500,000 injection from investors – one of whom was Australia’s favourite financial boffin, David Koch.

“Everyone knows they have to do a personal budget and monitor their money, but they don’t,” Koch said. “It’s too fiddly and too boring. Pocketbook does it all for you in a very proactive and easy to understand way.”

Pocketbook co-founder Bosco Tan was kind enough to have a chat to Techly about how Pocketbook has survived as a free app, where its future lies, and their scholarship for awesome Aussie students who know how to hustle.

Q: Pocketbook is a more mature app than what most people might think. Are you guys still about customer acquisition?

A: Thanks. We’d like to think Pocketbook is the best way to manage your money – full stop. The app world validates us – Apple has featured us and has put us top of their curated Personal Finance apps list and both CNET and Lifehacker have given us glowing reviews, with CNET calling us “The best app of its kind (they’ve) ever seen”.

The consumer finance world loves us – David Koch mentioned us on Sunrise before he became an investor, and we’ve been featured in many superannuation, financial planning and banking publications.

The misconception people have with us being simple is because that’s the intention.

If it’s not simple for the consumer, we won’t build it. That’s our product design philosophy and we’ll continue to push that in 2014 as we add a whole host of features our users have asked for.

Customer acquisition is the other side of our product focus – we like to think it’s part of building a really customer-focussed product that caters for the mass market.

We get thousands of users sign up to us organically week-on-week because of word-of-mouth or some sort of social sharing online.

While we have firm goals on acquisition, we know acquisition starts with a brilliant product.

It makes it tough to pay the bills without revenue coming in. Do you rely on investment?

We raised $500,000 last year from TankStream Ventures and a number of select angel investors. By operating leanly, we can do a lot with that money.

Our investors believe we’re solving a valuable problem for Australians, so as long as we get product and acquisition right we’re on the right path.

We want to be as critical as Facebook, as useful as Google Maps and as engaging as Instagram on your phone. None of these products we love started with monetisation as a product feature.

Do you have an exit strategy? Are you looking at cloud players like Xero to snap you up? Are you looking at paid models or other strategies?

We are keeping our options open. Obviously, Mint’s acquisition by Intuit serves as inspiration for us. But the landscape has changed and the global financial crisis means people are more focussed and critical on their finances. So we think there is an even greater opportunity.

How much importance do you place on data security, given users are handing over their bank details?

Security is absolutely paramount to our business. Before we even started, we spent months making sure the security architecture of Pocketbook was inline with our security profile.

This involved multiple layers of security – both hardware and software. We had banking security experts review our systems before we launched our product.

And I actually started my career in security – you’ll find me as a speaker at AusCert 2006, the biggest security conference in the Asia Pacific region.

So security for us is very serious. You can read about our security practices here.

You’ve had some downtime recently. As publishers, we know how much that hurts here at Techly. Can you expand on what’s going on, and what you’re doing to become more reliable?

The downtime is not specifically related to anything in our own technical architecture but due to recent bouts of Distributed denial of service (DDoS) that have been affecting worldwide services.

When one of these hits our hosting provider it can quickly fill up their entire network pipe, causing all services to be knocked offline – including us.

One of the things we have rolled out for this sort of protection is Cloudflare, which helps us mitigate DDoS and other security threats.

Our hosting provider is also rolling out lower level DDoS services to ensure these sorts of issues are resolved quickly.

Your just-announced scholarship in partnership with Zookal: Who are you hoping will apply? Will you be thinking about hiring someone if they’re awesome?

Hiring someone awesome is always on our agenda. We want to hear cool stories about what students have done to get what they want.

The ‘hustle’ is often downplayed as a startup skill, but it’s the only one you can’t teach. It’s a combination of creativity, persuasiveness and courage.

Everyone on our team today has the hustle, our first employees have been founders.

This is a quality I’ve talked at length to Ahmed Haider, the CEO at Zookal, about, and it’s something we recognise as the core skill that universities don’t teach.

It comes from experience and watching others do things that seem implausible but pull it off.

We hope through this scholarship, we can let some students experience that first had with our respective teams.

And the money, free textbooks is the kicker to make the process of starting up something that much easier financially for the student. Students can apply here.

Where do you hope to be at the end of 2014?

At the end of 2014, we hope to be the financial personal assistant to over 150,000 Australians.

We hope to raise another round of money and are on a path to become another Silicon Beach success story alongside the likes of Atlassian, Freelancer and BigCommerce.

For further reading on Aussie startups, check out What it’s like being a start-up in Canberra

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