Thousands of Aussies are currently letting out a huge sigh of relief because that agonizing awkwardness of asking a mate to pay them back has vanished.
You can thank Backpocket for that.
A joint venture between Luke Tricket’s Blue Stamp Company and JM, Backpocket is an app that makes splitting payments a breeze. From idea through to launch, we brought Backpocket into the world in just six months of strategizing, designing, engineering, and team-building.
Just how did we do it? We sat down with JM’s Head of Product Colleen Morgan to find out.
So, what is Backpocket, in a nutshell?
It’s a way to pay mates back — fast and free. No need to get each other’s bank account deets. It’s also a great way to keep track of who owes who with the ability to split bills and keep track of IOUs. If you want you can record purchases as you go and just pay back what you owe each other at the end of the month.
Who is Backpocket’s ideal user?
It’s awesome for people who live in sharehouses or if you’re heading on a trip with mates. It’s also just good if you’re splitting costs with friends or family for presents, nights out, dinner, that kind of thing.
Talk us through the early days of Backpocket. Who was involved and how did conversations start?
Luke Trickett is the founder. He’s the head of an investment fund and has spent years analysing the payments space in Australia and internationally. Backpocket is the second venture he’s founded. He had previously used an agency to get his first venture off the ground, but this time round was looking for a venture studio that operated more like a co-founding team, rather than an agency. When he came to JM, we started off with a Recon engagement. It’s something we often do when we are ‘dating’ with a founder. It gives each other a chance to get to know each other, but most importantly, it’s a deep dive into the opportunity space, a chance to understand how value is created for whom, and to rapidly bring a product to life with key UI screens. At the end of the recon, we thought we had a spark, between JM and BlueStamp (Luke’s fund) and for a product that could carve out value in the payments landscape. So, we aligned around a common goal of launching an MVP in the market as rapidly as possible, and got to work!
So you came out of the recon knowing the fintech opportunity space. How did you land on what Backpocket should do?
Paying each other back is a pretty unaddressed element of our financial lives. We tend to rely on remembering to pay a mate back, sending an awkward message nudging a friend or frenemy housemate to pay you back, or just not getting round to it because you have to jump through the hoops of getting bank account deets.
What this all contributes to is apprehension around shared purchases. No one really wants to be the one that gets the bill and asks others to pay back. Businesses don’t want to split bills because of charges they get and the mystery leftover cocktail apparently no one drunk.
Beyond addressing the need for a tool to manage shared purchases, Luke had a strong thesis that payments are social, so the product we create should also be social in nature. We strongly agreed and saw social as a way of enhancing the value of Backpocket for our userbase, and the value of the business, by leveraging the social connection fly-wheel.
We can all certainly relate to not wanting to chase our mates up for their share — but aren’t there other apps out there that do this already? How is Backpocket different?
There are other apps out there for keeping track of who owes who, but there's still a pain point when people actually want to pay each other back. And on the other hand there are other apps for paying each other back quickly and easily, but they don’t help you organise and keep track of who owes who. Backpocket aims to do both really well.
Peer-to-peer payments is where we are starting, but once people’s social connections are using Backpocket together, the world of payments is our oyster. We have many future avenues to explore. Things like, building a culture of investing in your social life (COVID has taught us, this is an investment worth caring about), social recommendations for purchases, and making group purchases even less painful.
Got it, you’ve sold us on the need, and we’re ready for Backpocket. Were there any particular challenges in bringing the product to market?
Ventures are always fairly risky business, but as a Fintech, the biggest risk for us in building Backpocket was security. Backpocket required technical robustness to match it with the big players in the Australian Financial System. From the very beginning security was at the heart of our technical strategy at every level. We conferred with advisors from AWS to make sure the infrastructure and architecture was at the absolute forefront of security practices. We also engaged a cyber security firm to conduct a threat modelling assessment early on, and full penetration testing where they attacked our systems from every angle they could, before we launched.
Sounds thorough! Speaking of thoroughness, can you describe what building the venture means to you, beyond the actual app?
As a joint venture, our remit in building Backpocket went well beyond just the digital product itself. We put in place operational structures systems, and perhaps most importantly, we helped to build the capability and culture of the Backpocket team. As we got close to launching we began working with Luke and a couple of team from BlueStamp, to hire key roles for Backpocket. We started with a Head of Product and Head of Marketing and moved on to a number of technical roles, leadership positions through to specialised skill sets. As Backpocket employees came onboard, we continued to work as one team aligned to the same ultimate goal and overtime reduced the involvement of JM team as the Backpocket team hit their stride.
Great team culture is an essential thing to instill from the outset of a venture. We took the best of the things we do to create a great culture at JM and applied them at Backpocket to create an environment of respect and admiration for one another and openness and honesty.