London-based Splittable is helping flatmates and couples in 45 countries manage their financesFrancesca Ferrario
Splittable is an online financial platform to manage household expenses, born in 2014 in London. Founders Vasanth Subramanian and Nicholas Katz met three years ago when they shared an office space at Open Data Institute, the non-profit company founded by the World Wide Web inventor Sir Thomas Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt. They were there because they felt they had gained experience enough to start up their own project and, as it happens, they were both researching property data. Their similar interest and complementary backgrounds led them to team up and venture together in the entrepreneurial journey that culminated with Splittable.
Looking for the gap
“Nick’s background is from commercial real estate, while I’ve worked for software development companies” says Vasanth, adding, “We found we had a shared interest in property data and we started researching together on that. We wanted to do something consumer-focussed and realised that there was no service targeted to the younger demographic to make their day-to-day management of the home any easier. There was a lot of innovation going on in the transactional space of the UK property market, with platforms like Right Move and Zoopla, which are good for listing and searching for properties. But nothing was created to deal with the problems that build up once you’re inside the house before you move out, and that’s where we found we want to focus our attention.”
Vasanth and Nick themselves have experienced the hassles of managing the expenses in a household in London. “The worst happened to Nick. He lived in ten properties in London over the last five years and has fallen out with one of his housemates because there was no good communication and they didn’t know who was going to pay for what expenses,” says Vasanth.
Curious to learn whether others shared the same problem, they started touring various neighbourhoods of the city to ask people on the streets about their experiences with sharing household expenses. Most said they had faced this issue. Vasanth recalls, “Young renters we spoke to were telling us stories they had about falling out with their flatmates over money. Mostly they hadn’t been paid back for certain bills.” The duo realised it was not just the two of them, but many among the hundred people they interviewed had issues managing household finances in the last few years. That is when their vision of harmonising the way people live together took shape.
In 2014, the duo raised £150,000 from angel investors for the first hires and developments. That is how Ollie Bennet helped build the beta version of the Splittable app, and Nick Marsh helped the team go through a larger seed funding process in 2015. In October 2015, they raised £800,000 from Seedcamp, Playfair Capital, the London co-investment fund, some of their previous angel investors, and a new one that operates in the property space.
Now, the team grew up to 11 members and the users – although the team prefers not to share exact numbers – are in the tens of thousands. The team shares that Splittable is popular especially among young professional in big cities, where the costs of renting properties are very high. However, Vasanth adds, “We also have seen an increasing number of couples using the apps. We think this is due to the fact that high rental prices drive couples to move in together at a younger age than ever before. Rather than going through the hassles of opening a shared bank account, many of them prefer to use Splittable.”
When the team started, Vasanth says the only platforms similar to Splittable were small scale experiments that single individuals were creating for themselves. However, he shares, “Since we started growing we’ve seen the emergence of a few other companies across the world. There’s one in the US, one in the UK, one in Europe, one in Australia.” Yet, he continues, it is still too early to say exactly who dominates the market, “Household management in the young rental demographic space is still a very early stage market, so none of us is significantly far ahead of the others across the world. We like to think we’re the leaders in the space so far, but it’s still early days.”
The team is already looking at global expansion. “Splittable is available in 36 different countries,” explains Vasanth, “Some of our biggest markets outside the UK is in the US especially in New York and San Francisco. Australia and Europe are the largest ones after that, and India is actually among our ten main customer bases!”
The wide world and the challenges
Taking a different perspective on Splittable, one can see in it a tool that has found a pain point in large urban centres that transcend national borders. Probably this is the effect of having the company roots in an open data centre which looks at the world. Or maybe it is the cultural diversity that characterises the team. Vasanth, for example, has still strong family ties in Tamil Nadu where his parents migrated from, and where he recently got married. Whatever the reason, it is definitely an advantage for Splittable’s expanding ambitions.
The challenge is now to implement the revenue model they have worked on for a while. Vasanth says, “Right now we’re in pre-revenue stage. Our monetisation plan is to partner up with some of the service and utility providers and allow our users to pay bills directly through Splittable. We would take a percentage of those bills from the supplier side.” He adds that they are planning to test the model with a few houses in London that would help them develop a system for the UK and then they will start looking at the other countries. Yet, he continues, “We imagine that there will always be a free version of the Splittable app that lets anybody track the expenses they have at home.”
You can learn more about them and download the app here.