FinTech Female Fridays: Nami Baral, Founder & CEO, Harvest Platform
What led you to create Harvest Platform?
I had set out to build a different product before. While building the test version of that previous product, I got the chance to speak to hundreds of Americans all over the US about their biggest financial struggles. At the surface, it looks like the biggest issue for Americans is that they do not have any savings and are not investing. However, when I dug deeper, I realized that the bigger problem is that most Americans are reeling from debt. Debt may not look like a big issue at a surface level but when you take into account the fact that 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and do not have $400 for an emergency, but the average household debt in the US is more than $30,000, excluding mortgages - the picture of an economy drowning in debt becomes much clearer. There is so much household debt that most people are overwhelmed, and will never be able to pay it back in their entire lives.
Seeing their plight inspired me to pivot and build something that can help reduce their overall debt footprint. That’s how Harvest was born. We are building a platform to help customers reduce their debt, starting with automatically negotiating down their bank fees, credit card charges, mortgage fees and more.
Harvest identifies fees across credit cards, checking accounts, and savings accounts.How were you able to find these fees across these three verticals and renegotiate them for your clients?
We leverage third party technology that is used by most fintechs (aggregators such as Plaid), to get access to financial data once the user links their accounts with us. This data fuels our proprietary algorithm that can determine negotiability of fees, as well as informs our AI bot to determine what use cases can be applied in the negotiation. And then, the negotiation is performed automatically by the bot.
What does the typical client of Harvest Platform look like financially?
Average Americans who have checking and credit card accounts.
The US is in over $22 trillion of debt; how can apps like Harvest Platform help reduce this debt?
Having debt inherently isn’t bad, but having debt that can’t be paid back is bad for everyone, both to those providing debt and those taking debt. The biggest thing one requires to start reducing debt is discipline, and the time and energy to think about it on a regular basis. From a human perspective, that is difficult to do. But it is easy for machines to be disciplined and take actions - without feeling tired, emotional or bored. That is how we help reduce debt - we automate all of the actions needed to reduce it, and then to manage it. We have built this for bank fees and credit card charges already, and are quickly expanding to other financial products.
What are your 2 main goals for Harvest Platform this first half of 2020?
We have 2 main goals: scale our product to more customers and scale our support for more banks.
Reach out to Nami on LinkedIn.