10th August, 2021
The team behind SpendAble are on a mission to make managing money easier for people living with disability and their support workers.
Winning a startup award is great reassurance that an idea is heading in the right direction, but for the team behind SpendAble, taking home the top spot at the Startup Victoria Fintech Pitch Night in June was just the tip of the iceberg.
For co-founders Chris Kessaris, Travis Ashworth and Reece Miller, the concept (make spending and managing money more safe and inclusive) has been a no-brainer.
It’s bringing the concept to life that’s a big challenge.
“I was previously running a disability service where we developed a really good team of support workers and a management team made up of seven people living with disability,” explained Miller, the startup’s chief executive.
“While doing our improvement strategy in late 2019, we identified the way that a lot of our support workers handled money for people was old and very labor intensive.”
From there, the concept for SpendAble was honed as the team began developing a business idea that would include an app for support workers and people with disability to manage their money. And, it would include an integrated debit card.
Miller proceeded to develop the concept with Kessaris (in the role of chief financial officer) and Ashworth (chief technical officer), but initially struggled to find a way to solve challenges presented by the debit card integration.
“We went through a design process and worked with a Visa principal partner to run a proof of concept in May 2021.
“We are due to launch the full system in September 2021.”
Not only have the team clearly impressed the Startup Victoria Fintech Pitch Night judges with their business concept, the level of design thinking going into the app is also enormous — a familiar set of challenges for many entrepreneurs starting a tech business.
“Initially we designed SpendAble to help support workers but we discovered we could help people with intellectual disability who weren’t currently handling their own money.
“Now we have done a lot of work to design a system which allows people with disability and their families or guardians to feel safe spending money independently, or with support.”
The Spendable app and debit cards are designed for the community of people living with disability, their families and support workers.
Miller provides several key use cases that demonstrate the application in its intended setting.
“If you have an intellectual disability and struggle with financial literacy, then our app automates the budgeting and numeracy involved so that it’s easy steps to empower them to transact.
“If you have support workers that regularly make purchases for you, then the support worker debit cards mean you can track what they’re spending on and never have to give out personal debit cards or cash and wait for receipts again.
“Lastly, if you’re a support worker who makes purchases for multiple people you can use your one card and app to support the purchases of everyone.”
The app includes the ability to take photos, add notes and capture receipts all in the one place, to remove the need for juggling wallets and receipts.
Solving problems that impact accessibility and inclusion may be an easy sell at first glance, but even the team at SpendAble recognise there’s still a lot of work to be done in spreading the word.
Partially that’s because accessibility issues like financial exclusion don’t get the attention they deserve in the first place, but Miller says there’s also an element of people putting up with the status quo.
“People with disabilities are used to not getting a suitable offering from banks so they make do with what’s out there now.
“Then, businesses are less likely to realise there’s a market, as these people are exhausted from fighting for other issues, such as social inclusion or the NDIS.”
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For the feature set that the SpendAble team wanted to deliver to its customers, that was going to have to be developed in-house.
But, as Miller notes, when it came to accounting software, they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
“We built our tech stack for SpendAble from scratch because there just wasn’t anything out there that could do the really unique use cases we were trying to address,” said Miller.
“Outside of the problem we are trying to solve there is no reason why we would build our own software for well-established business processes.
“The offering MYOB has in its accounting software couldn’t be replicated by us, plus they handle the ever-changing tax landscape too.”
In that way, SpendAble is able to focus on delivering its offering without having to get tangled up in admin.
“It makes sense to use well-established and tailored software for management processes so that more time is dedicated to solving the problems of our users.”