Freelancer finances made easy: Ivo Weevers (left) and co-founder Dan Bruce (right) at Runway East Moorgate
If you’ve ever done freelance work, you will understand the pains of arranging your finances and those pesky tax returns. Wouldn’t it be great if some app would just do your finances for you? Fear not, the Albert app intends to resolve that pain point. We caught up with its co-founder, Ivo Weevers, to chat about the business, Runway East and how he and his co-founder Dan built the first version of Albert on a plane across the Atlantic.
How many users?
Give us your lift pitch.
Albert helps you to be smarter and less anxious about your freelance finances. It does that from your favourite device, by communicating with you about important updates, and with a whole new design optimised to get through things from one place.
How did you come up with that idea?
We found that a lot of freelancers love what they do but they had a problem: they hate doing their finances. I was one of them, my co-founder was one of them. There are accounting solutions out there but they aren’t optimized, accessible or affordable for most people. We thought why don’t we build an app that adopts the same simplicity and approach of other familiar apps we use everyday.
Would you say those features separate you from your competitors?
I think so. We have added some very smart features that take out the fear of invoicing and give the same confidence to users as posting with Instagram. For example, Albert notifies you when a client opened your invoice or the email with the invoice did not arrive at its destination. In this way, you know better how to take action. It also automatically collects information from companies house, so you have to be less worried about the correctness of information.
Where did your investment come from?
We had two rounds, one angel round and one seed round. Our angel round was with top leaders, people from the financial tech industry. We were very happy that Mangrove Capital, Digital Space Ventures and Nevern Capital joined for our Seed round.
What did you learn when raising investment?
It becomes much more rewarding when you view it as finding the right people who can help you and your company. We are very fortunate that our investors are incredibly smart and experienced people who help with advice, their experience and insights. The moment you meet the right people, you suddenly realise it is worth the time commitment.
What did you do before?
Dan, the co-founder and myself both designed and built the mobile banking apps for RBS and Natwest. If you’re using these apps than you’re probably looking at our work. Then we worked separately for the BBC and Ubuntu and then again together for a fintech startup in L.A., again on mobile apps.
Whilst waiting in L.A. airport, we could not believe there was no easy solution on their phone to check out our freelance finances. The prospect of arriving back in the UK on a Sunday morning and spending their time in front of a spreadsheet instead of their friends and families sounded ridiculous. On one of the trips back across the Atlantic, we built a prototype of how we thought finances should work on a mobile, which we showed to freelancing friends. They asked if they could have it the same day. That’s when we quit our jobs to start Albert.
What does Runway East mean to you?
It’s very important for us to feel at home and to be surrounded by people who go throughthe same rollercoaster as you, who help you, and who give you a place where you can feel happy, frustrated, and excited. The other startups are fantastic and the people who run Runway East are incredibly supportive to us .
If you went back in time what would you tell yourself?
Stay true to what you believe in. There are moments where you will go through ups and downs, when you’re in a down moment you might get advice from somebody that conflicts with what you really believe in. Listen, learn and respond to the people around you. But don’t forget the reasons that got you in the game in the first place.
What’s the worst decision you’ve made?
In the beginning, we were told growth was the most important thing, which sacrificed the quality of our product. If you focus too much on just getting people on board, your product will be tailored to that goal rather than making it the best place for people to come. We went back to what we believed in and we made an app that people would want to keep using. That’s where the biggest value lies. Albert now has consistent high user ratings, got featured by Apple and have incredibly high engagement numbers.
What does success look like?
If every freelancer in the world has Albert in their pocket, helping them to alleviate their financial fears :-)!
More from the Runway East community:
Well done to our Runway East Shoreditch members Labstep, who have raised £1 million in new funding from existing investors.
We spoke to Jake Schofield, co-founder of Labstep, a research and collaboration platform for scientific experiments.
We spoke to Sam O’Connor, co-founder of Coconut, a current account for freelancers and self-employed people that automatically sorts your expenses and tells you how much tax you owe.