“Why own anything any-more?” ask fans of Subscription-as-a-Service. The model, out of Silicon Valley (where else?) has proved as popular as it has been wide-ranging – from the now world-famous Dollar Shave Club, to B2B sales and contract management software like Zuora, Apttus, or Salesforce.
Most of us will have at least three or four subscription services in operation at any one time, from subscriptions to media services like Netflix to music platforms like Spotify, to credit scoring, apps, dating sites, software and more.
How many of them we may need or want in reality, is a different dilemma altogether, and one that a new London start-up, founded by an ex-investment banker, is trying to solve.
Nikhil Shah, CEO of SmartBill, a subscription management platform fresh from the world-famous Y Combinator accelerator, has created a robot for locating, tracking and managing bills, to help consumers avoid ‘subscription traps’, and save money.
SmallBill is a free service that allows users to track down any unwanted subscription payments lurking in bank or credit card statements, which have been quietly siphoning off a few pounds every month long after we have ceased to use the service they provide.
SmartBill says that unwanted subscriptions are costing the UK more than £4 billion every year. More often than not, the “trap” is set when a customer signs up for a free trial by submitting their bank account details, only to forget to cancel.
Subscription-as-a-service companies can go strangely quiet once the monthly payments start to roll in, but are often hard to spot as they do not tend to remove large sums.
And that is where SmartBill starts to strut its stuff. Uses can “use SmartBill to identify and cancel unwanted services in a single click, eliminating the need for cancellation calls to multiple providers.”
The software has been created with the help of the same back-end provider used by the Money Supermarket group of companies, and operates, says the founder, with bank level security.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg” says CEO, Nikhil Shah.
“In the future, we will save people money across the entire spectrum of household payments. We want to take the hassle of contract monitoring and deal sourcing away from the consumer so they have the best deal for everything, all of the time.”
It’s a noble ambition, and one that introduces us to a service that is even more on the bleeding edge of tech disruption than Subscription-as-a-Service; Robot-as-a-Service.
In a press release, SmartBill cite data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) that estimates 30% of all applications will be in “R-a-a-S form by 2020, with 60% of these driven by robotic software.
SmartBill says that this is great for a service such as theirs and that being such early adopters of cloud-based Robotic software “provides a great backdrop for the continued expansion of its services.
The startup believes that customers can save an average £300 per annum by using SmartBill, as well as protecting themselves against price hikes.
The software uses bank level encryption certified by Godaddy read only access, and SmartBill promise that they will not store any of their user’s credentials on their servers.
Besides Nikhil Shah, an ex-equity analyst and portfolio manager for the likes of Bank of America and JP Morgan, Ketan Pandya, a winner of Microsoft’s “Digital Britain Technology” award, and ex equity derivatives trader at JP Morgan, is CTO, and Smeeta Patel, who has worked with “big 5” organisations such as IBM and Serco, as well as mentoring with early stage startups, takes up the COO role.
Going forward, according to their website, SmartBill hopes to “bring you individually tailored money saving products, but will obtain revenues from the product providers should you wish to save even more through our platform.”
Sounds like a plan. And it may even help Subscription-as-a-Service providers up their own games too – no doubt they are useful, but the ‘free-trial-we-just-need-your-credit-card’ trap is an infuriating marketing trait that needs to stop.