A Q&A with Feel My Money founder and CEO Nicole Hamilton. The New York City-based company, which was founded in 2012, launched to the public in mid-June.
SUB: Please describe Feel My Money and your primary innovation.
Hamilton: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to tell people about our company. Our mission right now is to create a better, faster way to get a mortgage and sell a mortgage. We are focused on providing transparency and clarity to the mortgage industry so that people can take control of the mortgage process and make the best decisions for them and their families. Long term, it’s to apply the same thinking to other financial areas.
Underneath, we are a technology and research company. We do continuous primary research with both consumers and mortgage professionals, and look for ways to integrate with other systems to make the most impact.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Hamilton: We have two sets of main users: people seeking mortgages and the professionals who serve them.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Hamilton: On the consumer facing side, there are a number of public companies—such as Bankrate—that provide content, calculators, and live rate quotes, and on the mortgage professional side, companies like Mortgage Coach that make presentation tools for selling mortgages.
SUB: What differentiates Feel My Money from the competition?
Hamilton: Instead of operating on the customer side or the mortgage professional side, we have a platform that connects customers with mortgage professionals. We empower the consumer to better understand their options, while providing more opportunity for mortgage professionals. We focus on areas where there is a lot of misunderstanding and also huge ROI for the consumer, while giving mortgage professionals tools so that they can do more business. What we’ve released is just the tip of the iceberg—there’s a lot of friction in the mortgage system that Feel My Money can relieve, as well as some real opportunities for mortgage companies where they can simultaneously serve their customers better and generate more business.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Hamilton: I quit my full time job a year ago and teamed up with Ron Raymond, our user experience designer and user research expert. I had started researching and learning the industry as far back as 2009, and spent the first year asking a lot of really basic questions about industry business models and the economics of the mortgage business. I didn’t quit my job until I knew it was a viable business model and felt confident that we knew the necessary parts and people to make it work.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Feel My Money? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Hamilton: The company was started because of my own personal frustration with the mortgage process. In the depths of the recent recession, I was trying to reduce expenses on a home—and either sell, refinance, or rent. Mortgages payments consume such a large amount of people’s paychecks, and people deserve to know what options they have. I found a lot of the resources out there overly simplistic or biased—and in some cases deceptive—and I knew there must be a better way to understand and navigate the process.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Hamilton: I was thinking of what the emotional feeling would be of having control of something that is very difficult to understand but has a huge impact on you. The purpose of the company was always to make major financial decisions tangible—and because the software is interactive and you manipulate it by sliding across time to see the long-term impact of decisions.
Where you choose to live is a major decision—while ‘mortgage’ is a boring word and the process is frustrating, a home is at the center of a family’s life. So, it was important that the name is very human. Feel My Money, take control, really feel and understand your options. Plus, it makes people smile and sometimes laugh. And joy and laughter are things sorely missing from many mortgage customers in the past few years.
SUB: You recently launched to the public. Why was this the right time?
Hamilton: Our product was ready and the problems in the mortgage industry are still prevalent.
SUB: Do you have plans to raise outside funding in the near future?
Hamilton: We recently made the decision to raise a Seed round. We found some opportunities that require us to expand technically faster than we might be able to support organically, and want to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Hamilton: The biggest obstacle we had was back in October when we were looking for experts with very focused knowledge on specific aspects of the industry that were difficult to obtain. We went through a frustrating period where we got a lot of different answers to the same questions, and then found a few key people who had the knowledge we were looking for, who knew the key parts of the industry that we needed to know about for a long-term roadmap. Besides that, getting our beta out in March for the mortgage professional product was extremely labor-intensive because we had so many dependencies.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Hamilton: We charge subscription fees to mortgage professionals and mortgage companies.
SUB: What are your goals for Feel My Money over the next year or so?
Hamilton: Now that we’ve gotten some basic functionality out, we are excited to partner with other companies in the ecosystem, expand our APIs, get our biggest ROI tools out there to consumers, file some more patents on some things we have cooking, and look for more business opportunities. We’d also like to add a couple more key people to our team.
Feel My Money – www.feelmymoney.com