Bodeswell Wants Financial Planning to Be a Game With “Real Loot”

Xconomy Boston — 

There’s no shortage of financial software companies offering to plug into bank and investment accounts, chart out spending and income graphics, and let users construct monthly budgets or savings goals.

Familiar names like Intuit’s (NASDAQ: INTU) Quicken and Mint have been joined by apps like Personal Capital, You Need A Budget, Wally, Cinch, and other platforms that track users’ daily flow of transactions.

A new Boston software startup is joining those ranks. Bodeswell is developing a software that will track budgets and investments as they relate to users’ financial milestones: buying a home, investing in a child’s college fund, paying for a child’s wedding, or saving seed money to start a business. It was founded this year by former Yesware CEO Matthew Bellows and former TripAdvisor engineering VP Bernard Bernstein.

Bellows tells Xconomy that he wants Bodeswell to play the role of a traditional financial planner but give users an easy-to-digest display of their progress on those long-term financial goals. The startup’s biggest obstacle is designing that display. A first build of the software is done (and available to view here).

“What’s the big rock to get over? It’s about design. It has to be super-easy to use and super impactful to people,” Bellows says. “If we solve it, the next time you wake up in the middle of the night and ask ‘Where are we with our 529s? Should we have that baby number 3?’ And you turn on Bodeswell, and you know where you are.”

The central element of the design and interface that Bellows says Bodeswell needs to nail is game mechanics that nudges users on those large goals. His first startup WGR Media was an ad supported media site that reviewed the first mobile games for cellphones. He sold that to tech review site CNET in 2004.

“There’s a lot we can learn from video games to solve these problems. It’s a hundred-billion-dollar industry that just takes your time and money, doesn’t give you anything in return. This actually could be quite productive,” he says. “As opposed to a video game, in Bodeswell you get real loot.”

Bellows says the tech driving a lot of the budgeting and investment tracking alternatives might be all operated by the banks themselves, who who have an interest in keeping users inside their tech ecosystems and are investing in their own budgeting platforms. Similarly, categorizing transactions for budget accounting too is a “diminishing problem” that will “soon be solved,” Bellows says.

It’s not clear how much Bodeswell will differentiate itself from offerings like Cinch, which uses machine learning tools to recommend financial decisions for consumers. Bellows says the startup is more focused on helping users allocate funds from a 10,000-foot view of life decisions and less about what asset classes to choose.

“Money is means to an end, not an end itself,” Bellows wrote in a follow-up email. “If you want to save for a baby, buy a house, retire at 50 not 70 etc. All those goals will have different financing strategies. We help users easily allocate resources and make decisions to achieve their goals.”

Bellows adds that more details asset-level suggestions could become part of Bodeswell “at some point” but it’s not the focus now.

Bodeswell’s team of five employees so far operate remotely. The company is running on $1 million of a $1.5 million seed round that Bellows says has been supported by a number of Boston area tech executives. The funds give the startup a year to a year and a half before it needs more capital, he says.

Bellows says he is aiming to release an inaugural version of Bodeswell this winter “before New Year’s resolutions time,” and Bodeswell will charge users a subscription fee for the service rather than making money by serving its users ads from banks and insurance companies.