These NYU students created a budgeting app catered to millennials
‘We believe in empowering our generation so that we can do the things we love with the money that we have’
Between balancing your grocery list, Sweetgreen salads, rent, weekly chair massages, and bar tabs, managing expenses can become stressful in our lovely and grossly overpriced city. Luckily, three NYU students created a lifestyle app to help fellow millennials budget better.
Launched in late August, Exeq boasts a waitlist of 40,000 users and aims to build a connection between people and the places they shop at, all at the touch of your fingertips.
Exeq is a budgeting application for millennials by millennials. “When you want to get a car, you click Uber. When you want to hear a song, you click Spotify. When you want to watch a show, you click Netflix. When you want to spend better to fulfill a part of your lifestyle, you're going to click Exeq,” said Isaac J. Kassin, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Exeq.
“A couple years back, we noticed young people, like ourselves, were being neglected when it came to their money. I was in a finance major and yet I knew very little about practically applying personal finance to my own life. We noticed it was mainly because of two issues: banks don't cater to young people either because their products are expensive or useless, or because the personal finance apps currently out there aren't practical,” said Kassin.
“Zoning in on that problem, we realized the crux of the issue is that people don't spend properly,” said Alex Rahmani, Head of Business Development at Exeq. “When an app automates saving money for you, it’s not actually helping with the intrinsic issue that you don’t know how to spend right given the lifestyle you want to live presently.”
Recognizing that younger generations travel, move to cities, attend college, change jobs, all while aiming to uphold a certain lifestyle, these students took a leave of absence from NYU to pursue a solution that could benefit millennials and their wallets in the short and long term.
“The way we came to solving this issue was two-fold. Firstly, we were young people in a market that was filled with older people that were trying to create solutions for a generation they don’t necessarily understand. Secondly, we wanted to treat money the way people treat money. While our competition treats money the way banks treat money, like numbers on a spreadsheet, we treat money as a means to an end for the experience you want to buy and the places you want to go,” Kassin said.
Taking a glance at the Exeq app, the visual and experiential treatment of money comes through front and center on the feed. “We were inspired by Snapchat, Instagram, and other products that are both experiential and utility oriented. We used that as a lane to create the app that we think everyone will enjoy to use,” said Tomer Ben-David, Co-Founder and Head of Digital Strategy.
How the team uses Exeq
“My first behavior change regarding my finances occurred when I pulled up my Lyft, Gett, and Uber merchant profiles and found that I spent significantly less on average when I use Lyft. If I spend two to three dollars less on each cab, that's 10 to 15 extra dollars I have each week to spend on an extra smoothie or to save or anything of that nature,” Rahmani said. “It's the small financial decisions that I get to make just by knowing more about my spending and it's super important. It's what we're all about.”
“Whenever I want to get in a financial headspace, Exeq just makes it super interesting and super fun to see where I'm spending my money. I love checking it and adding emoji reactions. Seeing other people I know on my feed is also fun, but I'm most excited about features to come and where we're going to take this company,” Ben-David said.
Financing made friendly
Exeq is empowering millennials, making finance more friendly and accessible for people our age. The company is underway with releasing features that have to do with both budgeting and spending, such as spending recommendations, places to go within your price range, and places to go within your taste.
“Feed is your hub for understanding your budget and where you are in the week in terms of your set budget. Loop, a new feature dropping this week, shows you awesome places that fit within your lifestyle, while also letting you see your friends reactions to places they shop at,” Rahmani said.
Last year, Rahmani, Ben-David, and Kassin, welcomed Barclays Bank as an investor in their company. As part of their investment, Barclays flew them out to Israel to attend their accelerator program in Tel Aviv in partnership with Techstars, a global technology accelerator.
The team at Exeq grew from eight in Tel Aviv, to 13 present day. The app is launched in New York as of now with a national waitlist of more than 40,000 users. “We’ve started exploring other options for places to expand to strategically, looking for millennial markets where there is a lot of spending that goes on in a small radius— places where our technology can provide the most value to the most people,” Ben-David said.
One of the main reasons the company launched in New York and is starting at NYU is because New Yorkers are exceptionally aspirational. “We want to start businesses, travel, create hip-hop albums, and we have all these aspirations and goals, but there are a lot of distractions in life that prevent us from getting to them,” Kassin said. “We have all these distractions, but managing our money shouldn't be one.”
Budgets and numbers can get very personal, and the founders of Exeq know that. Exeq is linked to over 9,000 banks and institutions, so signing up is as simple as picking your establishment through your username and password. The app has the same banking security protocols as the Chase app does. At no point do any of your numbers get shown to anybody.
“It’s just places you choose to react to that get shown on the feed. It’s similar to a Venmo transaction when two people choose to make a payment public. These features are a way to express yourself and social media is amazing when you get to create the experience that people are seeing; we’ve been super sensitive about that here at Exeq,” Ben-David said. “It's really about these fun data points and seeing how my friends react to the merchants that I enjoy. It brings a light and fun experience to finance.”
“One of the big ethos of our company isn't just budget better or spend better, we really believe in our generation and really believe that by being more aware and knowing where we’re spending, we can start investing in ourselves” Ben-David said. “Ultimately, this is a way to build a more fruitful future for ourselves and our generation and more than anything, we believe in empowering our generation so that we can do the things we love with the money that we have.”
The NYU students behind Exeq
Born and raised in New York, Rahmani was studying finance at NYU Stern prior to joining the company. Upon searching for a fourth roommate, he was introduced to his Co-Founder, with whom he lived for two years. “Daniel and I would talk about what the guys were up to at Exeq and about what I'd been studying at Stern. We talked about business problems out there and how I wanted a junior year internship; Daniel invited me to come to Exeq for the summer and see where things go and see the potential for me to be a part of this,” Rahmani said.
Rahmani attributes much of his due diligence in making the decision to leave NYU to his supportive parents. “They trust me and the decisions I make” Rahmani said. “I chose to take the risk.” Over two years, he has done operational work, marketing work, and tried out a few things before zoning in on what it is that he’s exceptionally good at: business development.
“What NYU and any higher education is good at is bringing you knowledge and showing you the potential applications of it. But one thing you learn when you start working is that knowledge is important, but bringing it into specific action items is super important,” Rahmani said. “So, executing based on the knowledge that helps you plan is important. Planning and executing go hand in hand, versus in college, for the most part you don't get the opportunity to see the execution first hand.”
A Chicago, Illinois native, Ben-David studied creative direction and marketing at NYU Gallatin before dropping out and joining Exeq. He always knew he wanted to design brands and experiences for people, but wasn’t exactly sure how that would manifest itself outside of NYU. “One of the fears I had while at Gallatin was in wondering whether my major was going to allow me to get a job and ultimately what Exeq helped me do was to find that place where I could create and build, and not only create to be creative, but also create to sell and to market,” Ben-David said.
Initially, Ben-David oversaw creative direction at Exeq before settling in as Head of Digital Strategy. “I want to tell the story of what this company means and what I think it should mean in the modern market,” Ben-David said.
After his freshman year, Ben-David founded the tech company, helping to raise 300,000 dollars. “It was one of those things where stars aligned and I knew I could either take the opportunity that presented itself and go full force or I could go back to school and finish the three years, but I was doing in life what I was studying to do once I graduated so I decided to take a leave of absence,” Ben-David said. “I would say that entrepreneurship is a hard and lonely path – it's not glamorous, it's pretty hard, especially being a young person dealing with a lot of money and expectations.”
Gallatin’s concept is that different schools of thought and different subjects can work with each other to create value. “Gallatin was incredibly helpful in what I do day to day – everything you study can have an impact on what it is you want to do with your life. Gallatin was super helpful in teaching me that way of thought,” Ben-David said. “I love the people I work with – they're my best friends. We really try to create an atmosphere of love and respect. If you're smart enough to be in the room, then you're respected for being in the room.”
Isaac J. Kassin
Kassin grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and studied finance and marketing at NYU Stern for just short of three years before leaving to build Exeq with his friends. Kassin, much like the rest of the crew, had to learn to become a leader, a manager, and a delegator at a young age.
“Starting a company at 19, brings with it a lot of risk and exposure, so you need as much blessing on your side as you can have, and having a united team that is in love with not only the product and vision, but with each other, has helped us persevere through product changes and ups and downs,” Kassin said.
When he left school, he and his co-founders did not yet have a company, but simply an idea. He and his friends committed to their decision and put it all on the line to prove to themselves, their friends, their families, and to millennials that they would solve their generation’s personal finance struggle. “The advice I'd give to a nineteen year-old thinking about an idea that he or she may want to pursue is don't be afraid to take a risk, but make sure you’re sincere about the problem you want to solve,” Kassin said. “It's not about dropping out of college, I intend to go back and graduate, it’s about genuinely solving problems that people like you face every day.”
“Exeq continues to teach me patience – everything is a process and there's no easy way out of anything. It taught me the importance of not only loving what you do, but also being good at it and making sure there's a need for it,” Kassin said. “Stern taught me competition. The world is way bigger and there are people way smarter than me. Exeq was a great follow up to that – it's not only about intelligence, it's about execution.”
Exeq is looking for interns and contributors to come see what’s happening behind the scenes at their SoHo offices. Interested? Contact Exeq at [email protected]