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UMKC alumni trio creates app to help students transition to off-campus life

Brad Starnes and his co-founders, Nolan McMichael and Joe Allen, are UMKC students working to improve roommate relationships by solving the problem of money management and paying bills.

The trio’s app, “Splitsy,” is made to automatically divide bills between roommates and control payments without the hassle of manually exchanging money.

The founders are students and graduate students at UMKC whose app was made to help solve a problem that they themselves faced. Allen mentioned that the idea for “Splitsy” came along when he and Brad were living with another roommate.

“We were having issues with splitting bills with each other and tracking who paid for what bill,” Allen said. “So we decided to try and build it ourselves, thinking it would be easy.”

“Splitsy” is different from competitors on the market because it does the math for its consumers, and it connects directly to billers such as Evergy, T-Mobile and Google Fiber. This feature is not available on other peer-to-peer money management apps.

The app has a service fee of $2.99 ​​for payments like rent, auto loans or mortgages, which are all large payments that do not accept cards.

Starnes, McMichael and Allen began this project in March 2020 and launched the beta version of their app in January of this year.

The founders were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom to the real world and their business. McMichael mentioned the networking opportunities that UMKC provides as being a key factor in the app’s success.

“Surrounding yourself with a strong network of individuals is the key to driving continued success,” McMichael said. “And UMKC has been able to provide us with the tools and resources necessary to get to where we are now.”

Starnes was named the 2021 Bloch School Student Entrepreneur of the Year, but he does not take full credit for the award.

“While the award had my name on it, it was a representation of my team and the work we put into it,” Starnes said.

Each co-founder has a unique educational background that allows them to work more cohesively and focus on different aspects of the business.

Starnes has knowledge in business and information technology, while Allen is skilled in urban planning and design, and McMichael works the numbers in finance.

“Each one of us is different from one another with a differing set of skills or way of thinking through things,” McMichael said. “But our common interests allow us to use each other’s strengths for the benefit of the company.”

Customer feedback from the beta version of “Splitsy” has allowed the founders to pinpoint areas of improvement and where they can expand their app.

These advancements include being able to customize percentages on splits rather than splitting bills evenly, and adding bills to pre-existing groups.

“Splitsy Premium,” which launches soon, will allow roommates to budget as a group and build credit even if their name isn’t on a specific bill.

While the trio of young businessmen has seen success in their product so far, there are always challenges that need to be faced and improved upon.

One of these challenges includes competing with billion-dollar companies that have many more resources.

“Software development is expensive, and trying to build first-in-industry applications requires the kind of velocity that few early-stage startups are able to keep up with,” McMichael said.

In spite of this challenge, the founders of “Splitsy” still use a portion of the app’s profit to give back to their KC community.

In collaboration with UMKC’s Delta Zeta sorority, “Splitsy” donates $5 to DZ’s philanthropy, The Starkey Hearing Foundation, when users download the app using a referral code that is connected to the group.

“’Splitsy’ is focused on giving back, especially in the Kansas City area,” Allen said. “Some of our marketing techniques are to partner with organizations, companies, etc. to help to donate to organizations throughout the Kansas City area.”

Starnes said the company was also working on a partnership with a local Kansas City business, Betty Rae’s Ice Cream.

For more information and on how to download “Splitsy,” visit https://splitsy.app/ and view their Instagram or Twitter @gosplitsy.

lbb5ky@mail.umkc.edu

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