Like many entrepreneurs, Jesus Lopez has personal experience with the problem he is trying to solve.
Mr. Lopez is the cofounder and CEO at OnePay, an app which consolidates and manages monthly bills in one place and pays them with a single payment.
The seeds of OnePay were planted in Mr. Lopez’s college years. He and cofounder David Dewey saw many friends experience financial setbacks because they fell behind on their monthly bills. In many cases those people had enough cash flow to cover those bills, but poor organizational skills led to neglect, far enough in some cases for some services to be discontinued.
Mr. Lopez and Mr. Dewey were convinced the problem was widespread and immediately they sensed an opportunity.
“But (bill payments) were not dealt with in any strategic way,” Mr. Lopez said. “We thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if someone could deal with that for you?”‘
As they researched the concept, Mr Lopez said he and Mr. Dewey discovered a related issue. Often people pay for more service than they need, especially with insurance and data plans.
Many are overinsured, but never read the fine print to learn how. Perhaps their content coverage is much higher than the actual value of their possessions. Maybe they are paying for flood insurance in an area where it is rare, or water main insurance in a newer home.
Data plans are another area. People may pay for 10 gigs on their monthly data plan but rarely use more than two. That’s eight gigs they are pay for but do not need. As many as 85 percent of us overpay one or more bills every month.
OnePay identifies those areas where people are paying for more than they need and provides cheaper alternatives that save the average user as much as $80 per month, which is $1,000 per year. That is how OnePay makes their money. The app is free for users, with OnePay taking ten percent of the savings found for one year.
“We truly take the approach of putting people first,” Mr. Lopez said. “If we can help put people on a better path the changes will affect them for years from now.
“The money saved can be enough for a family payment or a down payment on a ring.”
Mr. Lopez said these individual cases of financial mismanagement add up. Roughly one in three general bill payers regularly pay late fees. Collectively Americans pay $1.7 billion in late fees every year.
Incorporating each of these unique ideas into a functioning app was indeed a challenge, Mr. Lopez admitted. Because rates for insurance and data plans are constantly changing, it was important to employ real-time data.
Their constant monitoring of rates is one of several ways OnePay maintains an ongoing relationship with its users. Once a user baseline is established, OnePay sends notifications when usage spikes, like when a faucet is left on.
OnePay is one of a growing number of companies recreating the relationship between service providers and their customers. Many of the entrepreneurs had some personal experience during the recession that helped shape their companies. The recession was one of several factors shaping this new generation of fintech companies, Mr. Lopez believes.
“The recession was a catalyst but not the main cause. People were starting to see a lot of inefficiencies in the corporate world and in the financial system itself.”
People have long been complaining about financial services and entrepreneurs are seeing better ways, Mr. Lopez said.
“In my eyes a lot of companies started popping up that are truly tackling those needs and giving a voice to those demands that have long been subdued and ignored.
“Those ideas that before were prohibited are now available.”
Mr. Lopez is in a unique position to comment on how major stakeholders can combine their efforts to best foster innovation. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in both economics and government before completing an entrepreneurship fellowship at Stanford.
“Support and tools are what startup founders need,” Mr. Lopez said. “Tax breaks for startups are also helpful.”
College is great for learning theory, but when entrepreneurs leave school their education continues, he said. Cities serious about attracting new business and fostering a startup culture need to connect those entrepreneurs with investors, mentors and regulators who can help them navigate what for many will be an entirely new city.