Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Money Meter App Level Launches With $5M From Kleiner Perkins

How does today’s digital generation think about money? Likely not in terms of cash, budgets and balanced checkbooks.

LevelThe reality is, we each bring in a certain amount of money every month, and spend another amount. And it would be helpful to easily know the difference.

The new iPhone app Level Money aims to be an at-a-glance money meter. Once users connect their bank accounts (this is handled using Intuit’s platform), they can see how much money they have to spend on a daily, monthly and weekly basis.

The amount is calculated by analyzing recurring deposits and debits — things like salary, rent, Netflix, etc. The working assumption is that users should aim to set aside seven percent of their income per month. Right before they make a big purchase, or just on a daily basis to get a health check, users can see if they’ll be in the red or or the black at the end of the month.

The startup behind the app, Level, is launching today with $5 million in funding led by Kleiner Perkins and including former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill, former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and former Barclays Global Investors CEO Blake Grossman. It is based in San Francisco, with a team of nine.

Level Money seems almost too simple. The app has just a few screens, with bubbles of data imported by a partner. It doesn’t help users do anything about their money, like transfer it into savings or investments. And it’s not yet available for Android.

But its selling point is the simplicity of the interface, according to Level co-founder and CEO Jake Fuentes. People already know what they want to spend money on. The question is, can they afford it? Fuentes said that the math for calculating recurring transactions is non-trivial, too.

Fuentes likes to compare Level to “quantified self” health tracking. It’s a bit like MyFitnessPal for money. The obvious tech-startup predecessor is, but that is more oriented around budgeting. Plus, even after six years on the market and being bought by Intuit, it has 12 million registered users.

In the future, Level hopes to add more products, such as managing savings, student loans and credit-card debt, said co-founder and chairman Frank Yeary.

Fuentes was formerly chief of staff for emerging products at Visa, while Yeary was vice chancellor of U.C. Berkeley, is on the board of Intel, and spent 30 years in finance at banks, including Citigroup.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald