How Finimize Grew to be One of the Biggest Finance Apps on the App Store
Building one of the biggest financial media companies on the App Store
When Finimize first launched in 2016, it was a small website that served financial content written by a handful of ex-bankers, built out of a need for reliable financial guidance. By expanding their content channels to a daily newsletter, and then a mobile app, Finimize transformed into one of the leading financial media brands in the world, and was acquired by a multi-billion dollar financial services company in 2021. With over 1 million members who read Finimize everyday and even connect with each other in real life, their community-powered app now sits among the top ten Finance apps on the App Store, globally.
Launching a website without an audience
When Founder and CEO Max Rofagha started Finimize, it was based on his own experience with his personal finances. After years of saving, Max wanted to become a savvier investor, so he decided to speak with a financial advisor at the bank. That interaction was his aha moment. “I had this feeling of being sold to as opposed to actually getting genuine advice,” he remembers. “I just sat there thinking, well, it would be great if I could just speak to the bank’s research analysts myself and decide what I want to be doing with my money.”
From this experience, Max developed a thesis about what he thought was missing from the financial space – an easy way to disseminate financial information and advice over the internet, and choose financial products or make decisions accordingly. To achieve this, Max built the original Finimize website himself and found five ex-bankers who were his first content writers for the site.
But, when Finimize went live, they hit a major roadblock: nobody was visiting their website. “Nobody really knew about us,” Max said. He knew they had to get creative about acquiring their audience. “We started sending out an email to everybody we knew. People were opening the email, but they still weren’t going on the website. So we ended up taking all our web content and putting it into an email, and that became the newsletter that now has the broadest reach for us. Over a million readers every day.”
Finding a way to monetize a newsletter
With their newsletter reaching a massive audience, Finimize readers still wanted more. “The app was the next product we launched after the newsletter,” Max says. “The number one thing that our customers wanted was more content, and we knew the way to produce more content and get it in front of our audience was through a mobile app. The app allowed us to create a roadmap of more features, like bookmarking and audio content – and that has been a huge focus for us ever since.”
Launching an app also made it possible for Finimize to prioritize monetization through premium content. Unlike some media companies, Finimize keeps much of its content under a paywall, which Max says helps ensure the company’s incentives are better aligned with their subscribers. “By paying for a subscription to get access to content, it means it’s our responsibility to provide good content so that you don’t cancel the subscription. That has always been an important piece for us – ensuring those incentives are very much aligned with our customers.”
Cracking monetization was the first step, and the next hurdle was growing their paying users. Max says the company reached 1 million members with organic and grassroots marketing efforts, such as visiting university campuses, partnerships, cross-promotions, PR, and referral programs. And, thanks to their app, Finimize has also benefited from the loyalty of a niche community. “We have a very active community where, literally hundreds of thousands of people have physically met at our meetups that they organized themselves,” Max explains.
But, as Finimize carved out their media products and grew their community, the company recognized a need to invest in paid user acquisition – and that’s where Braavo stepped in. “When you add paid marketing to the mix, you can go out and raise money. Or you can try and grow out of your own cash flows. We decided to do the latter,” Max explains. Finimize decided to partner with Braavo to reinvest the company’s earnings into their paid UA channels, minimizing the need to raise venture capital or dilute their equity.
A successful exit with operational independence
The strategic path Finimize took from small startup to major financial media brand ultimately led to a successful acquisition by a multi-billion dollar financial services company in 2021. Finimize still operates independently, with Max at the helm. “Our aim is still to build a sustainable business, and continue doing what we’re doing at the next level of scale.”
Before getting acquired, Finimize focused on growing their user base and subscribers in a very lean way – which Braavo helped make possible. “Braavo allowed us to grow our subscription business quickly and cash efficiently. It enabled us to scale our subscription business the way we have,” Max explains. “Braavo lets you grow your own app without needing to deal with external investors and the overhead that might create. It buys you flexibility, freedom and independence. But you can always still take on additional capital if you need to.”
Fittingly, as Max looks back on his journey with Finimize, he has one piece of financial advice for mobile founders. “You need to be thoughtful and reflect on what is the right financing route for the business you’re trying to build.”
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