The ultimate subscription business
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Fintech. This Tuesday: the secrets of Truebill’s success, the CFPB’s fintech offensive, and the latest DeFi disaster.
There’s even money in canceling subscriptions
Haroon Mokhtarzada launched Truebill after realizing he was paying $40 a month for home security for a house he no longer occupied. He and his two brothers, who are Truebill’s co-founders, also discovered that they were unknowingly paying for subscriptions they didn’t really need. That’s why they created a whole business around canceling subscriptions.
Truebill tracks users’ subscriptions by analyzing their bank account and credit card data and helping them cancel those they no longer need, or aren’t even aware they have. The startup launched in 2015 amid the rise of subscriptions as a business model. “The subscription economy has massively exploded,” Mokhtarzada said. Here are some key insights he shared with Protocol.
“Most of my companies come out of a personal frustration that I have.” Mokhtarzada said he found it difficult to track his subscriptions.
- Getting users’ transaction data was the first step. Then came “algorithms that can detect recurring payments and subscriptions automatically.” Next came actually canceling subscriptions on users’ behalf. Truebill now supports getting rid of over 1,000 subscriptions.
- “We looked at the different methods possible to cancel and we do it within those methods, whether it's a letter, whether it's an email, whether it's calling them. We will call on behalf of our customers and cancel for them,” Mokhtarzada told Protocol.
The growth of the subscription economy was good for Truebill. Good timing is crucial for a startup, and Truebill got its start as the subscription model was really taking off.
- Mokhtarzada admits he “didn't do some huge market research analysis.” He and his co-founders just believed that “it was a problem and it was going to be a much worse problem as more and more companies were shifting to subscriptions.”
- Entertainment, software, even grocery delivery: so many things have shifted to subscriptions.
- The most common reason for someone dropping a subscription is that the customer isn’t using it anymore, Mokhtarzada said. And some products shouldn’t even be subscriptions: He gave the example of a credit-repair service used by someone who’s trying to buy a house and doesn’t need the service after the transaction is completed.
Truebill became a big business over time. And its new owner has plans to make it bigger.
- Search optimization drew in users, with Truebill positioning itself as the easiest way to cancel subscriptions that were particularly hard to get rid of.
- Rocket Companies acquired Truebill for $1.3 billion in December, starting a new chapter in the Maryland-based company’s history.
- “It took us a little while to figure out that people would pay for our service,” Mokhtarzada said. “We were trying to make money in all kinds of other clever ways, like showing them ads and stuff like that. We thought maybe we could get them to sign up for other subscriptions or other services through our service. But none of that worked.”
- Instead, what worked turned out to be … a subscription, one that customers could easily cancel and for which they could pick a price that felt appropriate to them. It aligned Truebill’s incentives with the subscription-cancelers, Mokhtarzada said.
The next step is looking at customers’ full financial picture. That’s where Truebill really fits in with Rocket. Many people come to Rocket’s websites and apps thinking about mortgages, but many don’t apply. Truebill gives them tools to assess and improve their financial picture even if they’re not ready to take out a home loan. That’s a lesson worth subscribing to.Read it here.
A MESSAGE FROM CHECKOUT.COM
The emergence of DeFi is shaking up the way consumers think about how they store value. For reference, Visa saw $2.5 billion of crypto-backed transactions in the first quarter of 2022. We’re seeing consumers really starting to use this in a way that even a year ago was kind of hypothetical.
On the money
Rohit Chopra is going after fintechs. Citing a “dormant authority” under the Dodd-Frank Act to regulate nonbank entities that pose risks to consumers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s director said it would give the agency “critical agility” to “stop harm before it spreads.”
Coding mistakes in a smart contract turned into a $34 million DeFi disaster. Former baseball player Micah Johnson’s Aku Dreams NFT project saw thousands of ether accidentally locked.
Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has an unexpected beneficiary. The price of dogecoin, a cryptocurrency Musk has promoted in the past, surged around 9% Monday after Musk announced his deal to buy Twitter.
A MESSAGE FROM CHECKOUT.COM
Businesses — whether Web2 or Web3-oriented businesses that don’t want to hold crypto but do want to be able to interact with crypto holders — want to be able to offer that as a payment mechanism to their communities. The other is hands-on, where merchants are comfortable accepting crypto.
Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!