Alice CEO explains how his app saves employers — and their employees — thousands

by Katie Fustich
February 1, 2019
image via alice

Each day, it’s more than likely that you (and your co-workers) are spending money on things that are actually eligible for pre-tax deductions, including childcare, parking and transportation, prescriptions and more. Alice helps employers monitor these expenses and ensure that their employees are saving every penny they can. In turn, companies save money of their own, in the form of payroll taxes.

A unique startup idea like Alice’s is paired with a unique backstory. Unlike many of today’s wave-making startups, Alice didn’t begin with stealth funding or an award. Rather, when CEO Avi Karnani and CTO Paul Barnes-Hoggett began formulating the idea for Alice, they took to the streets — literally.

“We started a micro-loan for the 30-day MetroCards aimed at hourly workers in NYC,” Karnani told Built In NYC. “Every morning we went out and bought dozens of MetroCards from subway stations and then mailed them to people who paid back weekly — but less per week than the seven-day cards they were buying previously.”

It was another example of how low-income Americans pay more for the same things than higher earning folks do.”

The experiment was inspired by Karnani and Barnes-Hoggett’s time as fellows at the Robin Hood Foundation Lab in 2014. There, the duo researched methods to improve financial security for hourly workers. They were surprised to find that millions of hourly workers were using a seven-day MetroCard, as opposed to a 30-day MetroCard. “It was another example of how low-income Americans pay more for the same things than higher earning folks do,” Karnani said.

As for their experiment, it proved a rousing success: “We had a super high repayment rate and it grew three percent a week by word of mouth. We learned so much about how to message with people about financial services and create a great experience people wanted to tell their coworkers about.”

2019 is all about growth. We’re going to bring on more companies and more workers across the U.S.”

The foundations of Alice were set in place. The company set its roots in Brooklyn in 2015, and hasn’t looked back. This past year, the firm debuted its automated software: a plugin that integrates with a company’s payroll in a matter of minutes.

From there, employees can connect their debit and credit cards to the Alice app on their phones. Expenses are monitored, and payroll is automatically updated when eligible expenses are found. Despite a successful launch of Alice’s core product, the company shows no signs of slowing down.

“For us, [2019] is all about growth,” said Karnani. “We’re going to bring on more companies and more workers across the U.S. because the cost of commuting, childcare and healthcare aren’t going down anywhere.”

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