Old eMedians deliver Pocketsmith

Web-based tool for personal budgeting

Three former eMedia managers have spent the last three months developing a web-based tool that could make personal budgeting a lot easier.

The tool, Pocketsmith, uses a calendar model to allow users to enter their cashflows and produce projections as well as analysing those projections against actual income and spending.

Jason Leong, James Wigglesworth and Francois Bondiguel noticed the personal budgeting tools offered by banks were either basic or difficult, being based on drop-down boxes or a spreadsheet model.

Pocketsmith allows users to enter transactions for a 12-month period, do forecasts and upload actual transactions from their online banking accounts.

Leong, who describes the tool as “weightwatchers for finance”, says he used to use a tool called iCal, Apple’s personal calendar application, to map out his finances and that provided the inspiration for Pocketsmith. His research showed that people liked the idea of a calendar-based tool. “A lot of people who can’t relate to a spreadsheet can relate to a calendar.”

Leong wrote about the concept for the Audacious 40K Otago business challenge, a contest which provides funding for promising start-up ideas. However it did not get anywhere. Despite this, the trio decided to go ahead and develop it.

Leong says he is a fan of agile development. The first stage was development of an alpha version, then feedback was sought and the product continuously improved. Three months after the project started, Pocketsmith went into beta testing.

He says the biggest development challenge was moving to a new development toolkit. The developers had been using Microsoft’s ASP .Net web application framework, but moved to Rails for Pocketsmith.

“It’s a great platform for bringing a product to market in a short time,” he says.

Leong says he wants the product to be free to New Zealand users, so he is talking with banks and other organisations about partnering to provide it.

“In this economic climate anything that can help people budget should be free,” he says.

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