Credit Karma buys mobile notifications company Snowball

Steven Loeb · December 30, 2015 · Short URL:

The acquisition will help Credit Karma build out its mobile capabilities to reach more young people

(Updated with confirmation from Credit Karma)

I'm almost 30 and I still barely understand what a credit score is. I mean, I know it's important, but I've never actually looked it up because, well, I haven't needed to yet. I'm also kind of afraid to see what it is. 

I know that's not the best attitude to have, and young people should be more interested in things like their credit history, especially if they ever want to buy a house. Credit Karma, the personal finance company that is one of the better known ways to get that kind of information, knows it needs to hook in young people. And the best way to do that is to go mobile.

With that in mind, the company has acquired Snowball, a provider of an inbox for prioritizing mobile notifications on Android, it has been confirmed to VatorNews. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

Snowball started life in 2010 as an inbox for mobile messaging services, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS and Snapchat, before it pivoted in July of this year to do the same thing for push notifications.

The company prioritizes notifications and hides "annoying" ones that the user doesn't want to see, which they could indicate simply by swiping left and pressing a button. 

"We believe that notifications represent the next important platform: app engagement is increasingly defined by push-driven notifications rather than the traditional pull-driven experience," Anish Acharya, founder and CEO of Snowball, wrote in a blog post.

"However, this opportunity is hindered by the notification overload problem, which prevents consumers from realizing the benefits of relevant, useful notifications."

Along the way the company had raised $2.3 million in venture funding, and was backed by Google Ventures, First Round Capital and Greylock Partners.

Credit Karma, for its part, doesn't seem too interested in Snowball's functionality, as it will not be using any of the company's tech. Rather, this was an acqui-hire, with five out of six Snowball employees coming to Credit Karma. Acharya will become the company's Senior Director of Product Management.

Meanwhile Snowball will be removed from the Google Play store, but remain active for the next three months before it is shut down for good and all of its data is deleted.

It isn't specified what the rest of the Snowball team will be working on at Credit Karma, but it is clear that the company was mostly interested in their expertise in mobile, as it attempts to build out that side of its business.

"Credit Karma is the most popular financial services app on Android, and we continue to prioritize mobile as consumers signal a preference to engage on their phones. The Snowball team brings the product and technical expertise Credit Karma needs as we continually strive to provide better and more meaningful mobile experiences," Credit Karma CTO Ryan Graciano said in a statement provided to VatorNews. 

As for what those mobile experiences will be, the company isn't quite saying yet.

"Credit Karma's mobile-first approach includes looking for ways to put useful information in front of people that makes most sense for that moment, without overwhelming them. This includes telling people, in real time, when they are overpaying for a loan or if there is suspicious activity on their credit card accounts. We have several exciting updates that we’ll be able to share more details on next month," said Frances Cohen, Public Relations Manager at Credit Karma.

Founded in 2007, Credit Karma is a personal finance company that offers many of the same features that other services offer, such as bill reminders, alerts, personalized debt management recommendations, and spending breakdowns to show users where their money is going. The site also offers a comparison feature that lets users compare interest rates on their credit cards and loans of all types.

But the major difference between Credit Karma and other personal finance tools is its focus on credit ratings. Credit Karma says that it offers users a more complete picture of their credit, which is missing from a lot of other personal finance sites.

The company has raised $368.5 million in funding, including a $175 million round in June, which valued the company at $3.5 billion,

Investors in Credit Karma include Google Capital Susquehanna Growth Equity  Ribbit Capital, Felicis Ventures, QED Investors, Founders Fund SV Angel, Tiger Global Management, Valinor Management and Viking Global Investors.

The company has over 45 million members, who together give it insight into roughly one-fifth of America’s $11.85 trillion in household debt. In November Credit Karma gave away it's billionth free credit score. 

This news was first reported by TechCrunch.

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