Faithful CHS readers and followers of the Capitol Hill tech scene may have heard of Jana and Keith Harper as founders of The Mill, the design & developer focused co-working space on Broadway, or because of their online design and art portfolio startup, Well Crafted. You may not have heard of their newest creation, TruBalance, a mobile application that helps users figure out how much money they can spend today.
All of the Harpers’ startups have all come from running into a “pain point”, as Keith calls it, and then building or founding a solution to the problem. Well Crafted grew from Keith’s need for an easy-to-update digital portfolio. The idea for The Mill came from the duo’s need to have an affordable space to work on their contracts and startup projects outside the home. TruBalance germinated from the couple’s irritation of having to deal with Microsoft Money to keep track of their finances.
”I loved the cash flow feature of Microsoft Money,” says Jana, “My favorite part was seeing when the lowest part of my cash flow would be, so then I knew exactly how much money I could spend every day. It was a really great way to budget my money out. But Microsoft Money kinda sucks, they stopped supporting it in 2010…Then we thought, why don’t we build our own?”
TruBalance works by taking your income and expense information (which you enter into the program manually) and projecting out the money that you can spend on any given day without going below the lowest comfortable balance that the you set. The Harpers say that TruBalance is different from other online financial applications (like Mint) because of its focus on how much of your money you can spend in days to come. “Mint does an awesome job aggregating all your information, and telling you what your historical patterns are,” Keith said. “But [Mint and programs like it are] focused on the past. That’s where our difference is, [TruBalance is] laser-focused on this one number [your lowest comfortable balance] that’s in the future.”
The Harpers created the prototype for TruBalance at Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in July. “When we saw the opportunity to have fifty-four hours laser-focused on this thing we wanted to do for a long time, along with having mentors and all those things, we decided let’s use this to do TruBalance,” Jana said. The couple’s experience creating Well Crafted also helped them develop TruBalance. “[When we started working on Well Crafted], we had this grand vision of wanting to have to a million things, and we realized it was better to keep things as simple and focused as possible,” Jana said. ”We applied the ideas of keeping it simple and focused that we learned with Well Crafted to TruBalance.”
Keith and Jana are currently building the beta of TruBalance as a mobile website in order to “really hone in on what the functions and the features should be, then we can focus on the apps,” said Jana. “We can iterate more quickly on the web.”
The Harpers also said that they wanted to start with a mobile website because that would allow every smart phone user to have access to the service, regardless of platform. Once the couple work with their beta users to find out what core features they want and use most, Jana and Keith plan on creating TruBalance apps for the iPhone and the Android.
If you want to see and hear more about The Harpers’ newest startup, Keith and Jana will be presenting TruBalance at the Tech Cocktail’s Seattle Mixer & Startup Showcase this Wednesday night at SURF Incubator. You’ll have to go off the Hill (gasp!), but it looks like it’ll be worth the walk if you’re into tech startups.