Technology startups are changing the way consumers are living life, solving everyday issues and altering the way we interact with our daily technology. These rising tech companies are disrupting the innovation economy, one app, hardware item and software service at a time. The innovators behind these tech tools, products or organizations have followed through with their concepts and established noteworthy startups. BlackEnterprise.com is recognizing these pioneering startups in its Tech Startup of the Week series.
Founder(s): Charisse Conanan, CEO and CFA; Adrissha Wimberly, COO
While many of the MBA students in Charisse Conanan and Adrissha Wimberly’s cohort at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business were gearing up to enter the business world, the founders of Smarteys prepared for entrepreneurship. Geared toward millennials, the online software at Smarteys.com provides money management and personal finance assistance that allows its users to estimate their future living expenses such as income, debt, bills, and savings.
“There’s a lot of asset management companies out there and there are a lot of big banks, but we just did not see a place where young people could go for trusted [money] advice, so that was the inspiration, seeing a problem and trying to solve it in a way that spoke to millennials,” says Conanan on getting started in the tech business. “The Smartey’s experience is about the transition that you’re having from college to career,” adds Wimberly.
Business school brought the financially savvy duo together, and gave them time to brand their new business and seek funding for the venture, which they received from the Invest Illinois Venture Fund, and several angel groups and investors from Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. In addition to serving as financial experts on Smarteys.com, Conanan and Wimberly have shared their expertise with Fox News in Chicago, Huffington Post and Talk Credit Radio with consumer credit expert Gerri Detweiler, as well as sites like BlackMBAWomen.com and TheBudgetFashionista.com. The Chicago-based founders sat down with BlackEnterprise.com to talk about entering a new industry, how they make it work and the tech scene in the Windy City.
More Than a Money Tracker: Founded in 2011, Smarteys offers advice in the form of written and video content, a lifestyle estimator, which factors your current or potential salary and generates a forecast of what your lifestyle looks (or will look) like, and product or service recommendations from the Smarteys team.
Money Machine: Smarteys generates revenue mostly through affiliate marketing. “Our partners who we recommend our users to use their services, they pay us for one of our users signing up for their service,” says Conanan. The company’s partners include E*Trade, Discover, Power2Switch and Akimbo, and the current arrangement brings Smarteys between $7 to $100 per transaction. They also generate revenue through speaking engagements and the team has spoken at universities like University of Chicago, DePaul University and Northwestern University.