Americans’ finances have seen better days. The U.S. poverty level has risen to 15.1%, its highest level in 27 years, according to the latest Census Bureau report, and the U.S. Federal Reserve is reporting that consumer debt now stands at $2.4 trillion. The average American owed $4200 in credit card debt in 2010, according to Experian.
To get Americans' finances back on track, a new startup, SaveUp, aims to gamify good financial behavior by rewarding people for saving their money, rather than spending it. And its saving up some Benjamins of its own: SaveUp announced Thursday that it has raised $2 million in seed funding from BlueRun Ventures and True Ventures.
How does it work? You link up your accounts—savings, student loans, credit cards, 401K, mortgages, car payments, etc.—and each time you demonstrate a positive financial behavior, like putting money in savings or paying down your debt, you earn points that can be redeemed for real prizes. You can also earn points for participating in daily challenges or engaging with educational content on the site.
The rewards will come from SaveUp’s consumer brand partners. While CEO Priya Haji declined to disclose who those brand partners will be, she did tell me that they will benefit from “increased and targeted exposure to highly-engaged and aspirational consumers who are not distracted by competitive messaging.”
In turn, SaveUp will generate revenue via brand sponsorships, as well as through referrals for financial products. The site is completely free to consumers.
Haji is well-versed in the process of creating a company that addresses real-world social problems. In 2004, she co-founded World of Good, a company that sources and sells fair trade and sustainable goods. The company sold to eBay in 2008. Prior to that, she co-founded Free at Last in Palo Alto, a model program to address substance abuse issues.
The company’s other co-founder is CTO Sammy Shreibati, who was previously Head of Product and Director of Engineering at PrepMe, a personalized online test preparation service.
“SaveUp is disrupting and completely reinventing the entire concept of traditional rewards programs. By incorporating rewards and game experiences into every-day financial activities, SaveUp motivates Americans to closely examine the way they spend and save money and empowers them to make positive changes to their financial behaviors,” said Jonathan Ebinger of BlueRun Ventures, in a statement. “The SaveUp team has the right combination of technology expertise, creative vision and determination to tackle one of the toughest challenges facing Americans – saving money and paying down debts -- while making it fun, easy and accessible enough for just about everyone.”
Ebinger will also be joining SaveUp’s Board of Directors.