By Hailey Eisen
When she was just 11 years old, Roya Kachooei remembers a friend asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her response is something she recalls clearly to this day. “I told him that I wanted to have my own business first, buy a sports car next, and then get married,” she says with a laugh.
After earning a computer engineering degree and a number of tech jobs later, Roya is now living her childhood dreams. “I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who makes the world a better place to live in, and I believe that in building our start-up, Walletifai, I’ve found a strong way to contribute,” she says. (She still has her eye on her dream sports car.)
In 2019, Roya was working as a software engineer for FreshBooks when she and a business partner decided to start building out their idea for Walletifai. It wasn’t the first time they’d worked together on an idea, but this one definitely had more traction.
“Over the past seven years, I’ve had 4 or 5 serious business ideas, but the first one we developed as a side project ran into some international difficulties, so we put it aside,” she recalls.
This time around, after many coffee shop discussions about the state of the world and the future, Roya and her partner were ready to go. In conversations, they kept coming back to the idea of personal finance and what the future would look like in terms of money management and savings. This fueled the plans for Walletifai.
“I saw a problem that needed solving, and I’ve always been someone who likes to solve problems, to fix things.”
“I saw a problem that needed solving, and I’ve always been someone who likes to solve problems, to fix things,” Roya explains. The immediate problem was that no matter how many apps she tried — and she tried many — Roya could not find a solution that would help her manage her personal finances better than the spreadsheet model she’d always employed. “As a user, I thought, if I can’t find a solution on the market, I’ll build one.”
The goal was to build a personal finance management application that would help people understand their spending — in the past, in the form of visualized spending history, and in the future, in the form of prediction; this would help people identify how else to spend their money, and how to make the most out of money that they make. It makes saving more intuitive and more fun, cutting back on fees, and avoiding human error, Roya explains. The overall focus would be to maximize what’s left in a person’s wallet at the end of the day. “I truly believe that savings is a great contributor to getting the things you want in life.”
Using machine learning and automation, Roya has developed a mobile app that can predict expenses and provide insight into a person’s spending history. It works with 20,000+ banks and financial institutions, allowing users to connect their bank accounts and manage their personal finances. The app will soon launch a “savings challenge” component, something Roya is especially excited about. “It’s different from all the savings tools out there, and it will help users shift their perspectives and expectations around savings.”
Walletifai is free, and eventually the app will have a premium offering for those who want to pay for additional features. Roya is currently working on developing partnerships which will tie into their savings feature.
“I don’t have a business background, but I’m passionate about learning, and having good advisors available to use, to help unblock you, to brainstorm with, and correct you along the way is incredibly valuable to any start-up.”
She’s excitedly tracking the app’s milestones while working hard behind the scenes to continue to grow and develop its offering. “When we reached the first 100 users on our platform organically, that was an amazing moment,” she recalls. “It proved that what we were building had demand.” When she talks to early adopters, she says, the response is overwhelmingly positive. “Some people — including potential investors — may try to make you doubt your decision, but if you know the product really helps crack the code and it isn’t out there yet, then that gives you the confidence to push forward.”
In order to gain more support and help Walletifai reach the next level, Roya applied to ventureLAB’s Tech Undivided program, which offers a comprehensive 6-month program to enable women-led tech companies to scale their businesses through access to critical pillars like capital, talent, technology, and customers. Tech Undivided curates a supportive community focusing on equality, open dialogue, and overcoming obstacles — all things Roya is eager to embrace.
“We met with ventureLAB last year when we only had an idea and a presentation,” Roya recalls. “They liked our idea and said to me as many others had, ‘prove to me you can do this first and then come back’.”
After their first release in 2020, they went back to ventureLAB and were chosen to be part of the third Tech Undivided cohort. “I’m so excited that we were accepted into the program and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they can support us on our journey,” Roya says. “I don’t have a business background, but I’m passionate about learning, and having good advisors available to use, to help unblock you, to brainstorm with, and correct you along the way is incredibly valuable to any start-up.”