A trip to Africa led Susan Langer to envision a world where people could not only put money away into savings, but also give back to communities and charities in an impactful way. The Spave app, created by Live.Give.Save.’s co-founders, Langer and Ajay Nair, helps change people’s spending habits while changing the world.
It was a business excursion to Africa more than 20 years ago, and Langer was working in marketing for a large credit card company. While there, she decided to donate a dollar to World Vision—the organization she was volunteering with—for every dollar she spent on the ground.
When she saw the concepts of microfinance and micropayment in action in rural communities, her wheels started turning.
“I saw these women living in abject poverty and paying back loans with market rate interest,” Langer explained. “The first year when the women were paying back their loans, they could barely look us in the eye. They lacked self-confidence. The second year, they repaid their loan and they were excited, looking at us, smiling. The third year, they were community leaders. It gave the women self-confidence, independence, and dignity.”
Clearly people were empowered as they took control of their financial futures.
Helping Americans Put Money Aside
Thought America is a developed country, people are anxious about money, and rightly so. The situation 20 years ago—with Americans saving less and less money for retirement and increasingly struggling to make ends meet—has continued to present day.
Less than 50 percent of people are actively saving for retirement, and Millennials report increased financial anxiety and decreased ability to save. Add to that the rising student loan debt crisis, and it was clear to Langer that something needed to change… quickly.
“If we can’t even take care of ourselves saving for retirement, who is supporting the organizations that take care of people living on the margins? What are we doing?” she asked.
As apps like Acorn, Mint, and Save Plus entered the arena, Langer saw there was an evident need. She incorporated Live.Give.Save. (a play on the words “spend” and “save”) in February 2016, and this past summer brought on Nair, who he previously worked for the firm Langer hired to develop the app.
Spave links securely to your bank accounts to track your purchases and transfer money to savings goals. Through the app, you can select up to five charities to support from a database of more than 1.5 million accredited nonprofits. You then have the option to set aside a percentage of how much you spend each day to charitable giving and your personal savings.
“Say you purchase something for $10 and you have it set to save 10%. At the end of each day, we aggregate your purchases and transfer 10%, or $1, to savings,” Langer said.
They are currently targeting three primary communities: Millennials, Baby Boomer women, and Latinos.
“These groups have three commonalities: their spending trajectory is on the rise, they’re saving less for the future, and they are very social,” Langer said.
What’s in Store in 2019 and Beyond
The company participated in the Spring round of QC Fintech, through which it hoped to find a strategic partner. That search is still ongoing, and it is currently in partnership discussions with a major financial services firm in the Charlotte area. This partnership would unlock the ability to pursue B2B opportunities, as it has released as a B2C initially to prove the concept and refine the app.
With a small, bootstrapped team, the company’s focus now is on securing funding to hire a full-time team. They have already raised half a million dollars, largely from family, friends, and a local foundation. They want to raise an additional $500k in the first quarter of 2019 to spurn their next level of development.
This process has taught Langer a lot about navigating the entrepreneurial world. Her advice for those who are thinking of starting on this path? “Stay true to your vision. Find like-minded and like-hearted people who are fully committed to that vision.”