Jason Young, Michael Brooks, Jr., and Jonathan Yagel of Peak Money

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Jason Young (co-founder and COO), Michael Brooks, Jr. (co-founder and Chief Product Officer), and Jonathan Yagel (co-founder and Vice President) of Peak Money, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Peak Money – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

Our story is unique in that we have a founding team, rather than a single founder. That’s because several of us worked together at a previous company, building apps to help people live healthier, happier lives. Peak Money got started when that group met the other half of this founding team, who came from the banking industry. Together, we realized a specific need at the intersection of our talents: Helping address what the American Psychological Association consistently describes as the #1 cause of stress in America: financial issues.

Obviously this is a huge topic, so we did some extensive research, surveying over a thousand people and doing dozens of in-person interviews, trying to identify the deepest pain point. We decided to specifically focus on young professionals, and what we heard time and again was that they want help with saving money. So we built the Peak Money app to provide the guidance, automation, and encouragement to reach their savings goals. It’s an FDIC-insured account that you can completely create and manage through our iOS app or through peakmoney.com.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

Standing out in a crowded market. There are so many personal finance apps available, not to mention all of the large, incumbent banks. One way that we’ve done this is by staying focused. It’s tempting to try to address all of the potential financial problems that people might face, but we’re very focused on saving. Another differentiator for us is working through distribution channels that build trust. For instance, we work with employers to distribute Peak to their employees to give those users confidence that Peak is a platform they can rely on.

What does the future hold for Peak Money?

We’re committed to building the best savings experience in America. We’re looking forward to using our background with engaging digital experiences and behavior change to help people to both save more and feel confident in their journey toward financial wellness.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Chattanooga?

Chattanooga is a great place to start a business. The town itself has gone through a kind of renaissance, transitioning from Walter Cronkite calling it “the dirtiest city in America” in the late ’60s to winning Outside Magazine’s “Best Town Ever” award, a couple of years ago. Chattanooga has also gotten a lot of recognition because we have some of the fastest internet in the US. Add in really great cost-of-living and you can see why this city is an appealing alternative to some of the big traditional tech hubs.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Brooks: Building quality products takes time. Strive for greatness and don’t look for shortcuts. Do the work to the best of your ability and keep doing it. Be deliberate and try to do what’s best for the team and focus more on doing what’s right for your company and not blindly following others.

Yagel: Use the scientific method. One of my favorite lessons from the Lean Startup is that early-stage startups are all about quantified learning. All of your variables are unknown, so the priority has to be learning as much as possible, as quickly as possible: Who are the ideal users? What is the core value that you can provide for them? Take the time to set hypotheses, run structured experiments, and review your results. Use this approach to establish some verified assumptions as early as possible, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

Young: The people you work with should inspire you just as much as making your idea into a success story. Surrounding yourself with smart and kind people who you believe in will provide you with the conviction and confidence to push forward in the most challenging of times.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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