Vera Money

Empowering underserved populations in Gen Z to reach their financial goals.

Photo of Michael Palomo
6 15

Written by

Additional categories (optional)

  • Education
  • Technology

Date You Started Your Project Started

8/23/2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We want to bridge the gap between the lower-middle class and the wealthy. Through user research, we learned that our target market has: little to no wealth, low financial literacy, low engagement in finances, and high ambiguity in finances. These are big contributors to wealth inequality. If we combat the narrative of the rich getting richer and the poor struggling to stay afloat, we hope to make an impact to a more equitable society.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Vera is an AI-based app that engages users to achieve both financial literacy and wellness, merging novel features to budget, plan, and connect with other people. We also leverage Gen Z based tactics to accomplish our goals. Our first feature is fluid budgeting. Budgeting is only effective if the user sticks to them. We believe the approach is wrong and that budgets should serve the user as opposed to the other way around. Fluid budgeting creates baseline recommendations for each spending category and time period (daily/weekly/monthly) and auto-adjusts as the user goes over. A chatbot communicates daily budgets to form habits and can give advice prior to purchases as opposed to only feedback after budgets are broken. Second is a financial roadmap to help users plan for their future. This will allow users to input their goals, get recommendations, and learn what they need to know as it becomes relevant to them. This educational roadmap will boost literacy because of its tailored learning plan. Last is social engagement, where users can both gain insights and create shared goals and challenges, gamifying the experience by allowing participation with others.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

We resonate with a similar story that was motivated by our parents. Our parents immigrated to the U.S. with the mentality to work hard and pinch pennies for a brighter future for the next generation. They shared common goals of saving enough money to send their kids to college, and while they were able to achieve them, we’re sitting today 30-40 years later watching them struggle to retire. It's difficult as we fail to help them in a way that isn't giving them a lot of money that we just don't have, however, we believe that it points to a bigger issue that holds people back in these underserved communities. While the notion of underserved is often associated with having less money (lower-middle class), low financial literacy also plays a significant role. It limits lifestyles financially if one doesn't know how to be effective and responsible with there money-- and we want to change that.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Scott is a college student who is stressed about his finances and wants to do more but doesn’t know where to start. He’s tried budgeting and investing before, but nothing has really worked for him. A friend tells him about the app and he tries it out. Vera starts by engaging Scott at the level he’s most familiar with: his own spending. He forms better habits and awareness and begins to start saving. He begins to check out the social features, continuing to use the app and draws friends in as well. Soon after, the app prompts him to begin outlining his goals. Planning has thus been made easy with a tailor learning plan, completing a tailored app that empowers his financial life. Scott isn’t the only one this can benefit- college students around the nation resonate with the same problem. This issue is worsening, and we hope to empower more and more people to combat it with us.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

While there are financial apps out there, many of them focus on the affluent. We differentiate ourselves by trying to help the younger generation (Gen-Z). Through our own experiences and extensive research, we found that our target market loves social media, short and sweet information delivery, and instant gratification. Then, we designed a product to satisfy their needs! We integrate social media features, give customized context-based advice, and include a chat bot available 24/7. By designing for a niche and often-ignored market, we're able to meet more of their needs.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

There are huge financial disparities in the world. Those with enormous wealth benefit from professional financial advice and huge opportunities to grow their savings while people from modest backgrounds struggle. We want to stop this cycle. We are still at the idea stage, but after showing our prototypes to people in our target market, we received an overwhelming positive response. All of our interviewees saw the value in the app and agreed that it was tailored towards their population and 80% of them said they would enthusiastically use it. They agreed that it would help them take control of their money, which is important because 70% of college students reported that they were stressed about finances. Our overall goal is to empower people, take away their anxiety and hopelessness when it comes to finances, and make financial advice more accessible!

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We developed a product design and now we want to build it! We are currently working with industry professionals on perfecting our marketing strategy and business plan. We want to grow our team in order to build our product, but we don’t have the resources to make that happen. To do this, we hope to seek help and advice from the T-Mobile Changemaker program. We also want to start at the college level but hope to expand. Our vision is that this will be the first app people will download when it comes to financial engagement. With a growing user base, we can then consider expanding monetization opportunities. For instance, with tailored plans and advice, we can leverage data to segway users into referrals that will benefit both us and them.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Web/Mobile Development


10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $100-$1k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 25%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 25%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 75%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 25%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 25%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 25%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 50%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 75%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 25%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

6 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
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Photo of Alan Ignacio
Team

Gen Z needs this!

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Photo of Toqa Abosabaa
Team

Such a good idea!

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Photo of Robert Hernandez
Team

What will the AI be powered by? Also what bot frameworks have you all looked at

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Photo of Ricky He
Team

It sounds like a promising idea. This would help many.

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Photo of Savong Tan
Team

Thank you for your support everyone!

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Photo of Aliz Marie Sanchez
Team

I think financial education is very important for young students and if this app could help them.