Introducing Adaptu: S04E20 / 122
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Table of contents
[00:00] Introduction from Bryan J Busch
[00:38] Interview with Mark Brundage
— [00:59] What is Adaptu?
— [02:26] Using Adaptu for planning and budgeting
— [03:54] Advice from regular people vs. financial planners
— [04:31] Adaptu’s focus on transparency
— [05:46] Unbiased platform, offering different perspectives
— [07:48] Community member reputations
— [09:08] Privacy and security at Adaptu
— [09:46] Users’ blogs and videos
— [11:28] Adaptu’s communities vs. groups
— [13:40] Getting started with investing and crowdsourcing the best ways to use Adaptu
— [14:37] The advantages of adding your friends
— [15:32] Connecting to other people in your city
— [17:17] The finances of Adaptu’s own employees?
— [18:13] Future enhancements to Adaptu
— [18:59] End
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Bryan J Busch: On today’s episode of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast we talk with one of the co-founders of the Adaptu, a new online money management and community tool for finding the answers to life’s financial questions.
Bryan: Welcome back to the Consumerism Commentary Podcast. I’m Bryan J Busch. Today I’m joined by Mark Brundage, the co-founder of Adaptu, which is found at adaptu.com. It’s a free online financial planning and management service with a strong emphasis on engaging with educated community members. Thank you for joining us on the show today.
Mark: Great. Thank you for having me.
Bryan: So let’s start here. What is Adaptu?
Mark: Adaptu is a free online service for people to use to help make better financial choices around their everyday lives.
Bryan: So little things like shopping and maybe gas prices or car insurance or are we talking bigger decisions like investments and things like that?
Mark: Probably a little bit bigger decisions. But everyday we’re making different financial choices and one of the things that inspired us to create Adaptu was the need to see not only where your money is going and where it’s being spent but how do you start making better choices going forward and what does the data tell me about my spending habits and what are my different options available to me so I can become a better and smarter shopper, a better, smarter investor and at least understanding there’s multiple ways to get to the solution that I want to maybe achieve and what are those different options.
Then everyone’s financial situation is different so what is going to be then the best choice that fits my unique situation and works for me?
Bryan: Could you give me an example of the sort of pattern one might uncover by looking at their data on your website and then how they might go about choosing a different option at that point?
Mark: Sure. One of the things that we see a lot of people doing is more around family planning and budgeting. So one of the things that we felt was missing in the marketplace today was the ability to families and couples to use a different service.
So we have a big discussion right now going on around with a bunch of moms talking about how much they should really be spending for a kid’s allowances and that’s probably one of the big advantages that Adaptu brings is not only does it have the financial aggregation tools and so forth that people are almost coming to expect from institutions, but now we also have a community around that so people can actually have discussions and conversations around what their data is telling them.
One case might be moms are looking at how much am I spending on allowances or around just child support and supporting my children and then how do I make better choices around that. So they’re having a conversation around allowances and looking at what is the right incentive for that.
Bryan: I imagine an interesting side conversation might be which chores should I expect my child to do in order to get this money?
Mark: Exactly. And some people are trying to even figure out at a certain age what is the right amount you should be paying for children? In some cases it’s hard to ask certain questions of a financial planner.
One, not everyone has access to the financial planner. Two, sometimes a better choice and options actually comes from people who are living and breathing the same situation that you’ve done. So that’s where the power of the community comes into play is you can ask questions and maybe seek guidance from financial advisors who might be on the site but you can also ask questions from people who have been there and done that and then really figure out which solution best fits your specific need.
Bryan: When you’re on the site asking questions about your situation and you’re getting answers from different people, is it obvious in the answers which people are professional financial planners and which people are just civilians, for lack of a better term?
Mark: One of the things that is really important to us is to help bring transparency into this marketplace and one way that Adaptu provides that is through people’s profiles.
We don’t force you to complete the profile beyond really just an email address, a password of your choice and your own community user name that you choose. But a lot of people that we’re seeing are starting to fill out more and more of their profiles.
So when you receive answers you’ll be able to see the profile of the other people who are commenting. Now, a lot of times if you are a contributor of Adaptu, we’ll actually disclose that so you’ll know if it’s an Adaptu employee or one of our contributors.
Outside of that, if the other person who is responding to your questions or engaging in conversation with you had filled out their profile data, you’ll at least be able to see if they have any licenses or certifications or if they’re at least someone that maybe has already been through a different situation similar to yours.
Bryan: It looked to me, poking around the site, that most people were using their full name when contributing to the website, which brought an interesting question to my mind. For better or worse, it seems like most people are sensitive to sharing financial habits, especially online.
I’ve found that it’s very helpful when a group of friends isn’t so touchy about discussing money matters. Is it a goal of yours to encourage people to be more open and helpful?
Mark: Absolutely. One of the things that Adaptu wants to provide is really to be an unbiased platform. We’ll help bring in different conversations and at least what we want to do is be able to offer different perspectives and not from our own perspectives but bring in individuals who have different points of view because as a true consumer you want to figure out what are all the different angles and then make a better choice and more educated choice because of what you’ve learned.
So we feel that people are comfortable using their first and last names. One of the new features that we will be rolling out is the ability to use your real name or, if you aren’t quite as comfortable using a name, you’re able to just use a community profile name.
But the important things is really that you’re not alone out there with the questions that you have and people are finding the ability to connect with other people to find and work together to figure out what their overall solution is. It’s really helpful.
It’s like starting a diet. It’s really easy to start a diet. It’s hard to stick with it and that’s the power of this community within Adaptu is it’s really letting you know that you’re not the only one out there and that through engaging with other people you start to learn that your question might not be, for a better term or not, a dumb question because there’s a lot of other people that still have that same question and now you have a support group to help you think through that and to share your experiences.
Bryan: That sounds really good. In addition to looking at the profiles of people who are answering our question, are there other ways of knowing which advice to consider more strongly than other advice?
Mark: As part of the user’s profile, besides for the information that they’ve already filled out, you will be able to see — there is a point system. So the more you contribute into the community you will be able to see the different user ratings that they’ve gotten.
You, as a user, can also rate the feedback that you’ve received. So it’s up to your personal interpretation whether you felt that that comment was helpful or not helpful.
For example, you can go in and on certain discussion threads there might have been several discussions or comments made around a discussion but that user who asked the initial question felt that their answer quite hadn’t been fully explored yet.
You might see that this is still not answered, meaning that that person who asked the original question is still looking for a little bit more of a deeper knowledge.
It doesn’t discount that comments and suggestions people gave were helpful but it’s not the exact solution they were looking for. So it’s really empowerment to all the individuals who use the community side of Adaptu to rate and judge how they felt their question was being addressed and whether they got the right answer that they were looking for.
Privacy is very important to us. Security is very important to us and we want to make sure that we adhere to and follow to the strictest guidelines within those. So we won’t disclose information outside of what you personally choose to disclose within Adaptu and within the community.
Your financial data and information only stays private just to you. We don’t encourage anybody to share personal information outside of just conversation such as account numbers and passwords and so forth. Adaptu staff will never ask for those pieces of information either.
Bryan: In addition to simply commenting on situations, it looks like you encourage your community members to create blog posts and videos. What do you find that people are generally creating such content about?
Mark: A lot of them are creating content around just sharing their own story. So there are a lot of blog posts being put up just around their own question or maybe an experience. We’ve actually recently had a blog post that’s gunned some activity around — one of the Adaptu community members shared a situation about one of their parents had passed away.
Just the eye-opening experience — there’s a lot of complexity that unfortunately goes around an eventful situation such as that that most people don’t really think about and understand until they get thrown into that situation.
So this person just shared some of their stories around that and started getting a lot of conversation around that. There’s a lot of conversations happening and people sharing their ideas around budgeting tips and tricks.
Even though Adaptu has its own automated tool, we also have people sharing some of their favorite budgeting spreadsheets because everyone is going to budget just a little bit different. We want to make sure that people have the best tools and best information that fits their specific needs.
We also have a lot of people that are creating discussions. So, again, budgeting really seems to be on everyone’s mind but also family planning and family budgeting is a big conversation that we’re seeing a lot of people have within the community as well.
Bryan: Adaptu has support for communities and for groups. What are the differences between those?
Mark: We have a support for groups, meaning people tend to find answers through others. So if you have a group you can actually probably receive support for your questions if you band together with other folks.
It’s not a technical support per se in an interpretation for using groups. It’s more of an emotional support, being able to find your answer collectively with other people who are going through the same situation as you.
Technically, we do have support for our communities and people can go down into the bottom footer of Adaptu and click on Help and we actually have a whole community support area where people can give us feedback, tell us what they like, tell us, maybe, some suggestions that they want to see improvement upon.
But we also want our users to feel very supported in terms of if somebody has a technical problem on Adaptu, we have a very supportive help forum where people can go in and ask a question technically and a lot of times you can search first to see if somebody else has already asked that question and what the responses were.
If you don’t see the immediate response or the solution that you’re looking for, you’re able to send a direct link into our help desk and we have a very active community manager who is constantly on the site, so rest assured that you’re going to get some response in a relatively quick, timely manner.
We also want to give the opportunity for feedback. So our users are also very active in telling us what they like about the site and praising it for certain things. They’re also pretty active in telling us some of the things that hopefully that they want to see going forward because we want to make sure we’re adding value continually for the users.
We want to make sure that they have a chance as the users to help guide the future direction of functionality in the site.
Bryan: What are some of the more active groups right now?
Mark: The more active groups right now is we have a beginning investor group that is taking off. There are a lot of people — once they have figured out budgeting and are able to save a little bit of extra money, now they want to know, “Well, what should I start doing with that money?”
So this group is having conversations around how to start looking and learning about investing and where do I even start and how do I get moving forward.
We also have a pretty active group just around since the overall site and community is still relatively new, the Welcome to Adaptu group is pretty new, which is really people helping each other find the best parts and functions of the site that they like and how to even utilize those features and options to the fullest and understand here’s all the great things that are available to you as a user inside the community of Adaptu.
Bryan: There’s a social networking aspect to the site. What are the advantages to adding your friends on Adaptu?
Mark: The conversation that people are already having — if you’re already having these conversations with friends and family, sometimes your friends might have the best answers and sometimes your friends might not have the best answers because they haven’t been through your specific situation.
But there is a sense of trust and familiarity with your friends. The ability to at least have conversations with your friends and sometimes your friends might not have the answer but a friend of a friend might be able to get you connected through there.
Again, that’s just another power of the community within Adaptu is to help you at least start filtering out and finding where are some of the best sources but where are some of the sources that I trust that then bring value and meaning to me?
Bryan: Does it look like people are seeking out other people based on location, maybe city groups or would it even be helpful to do that sort of thing?
Mark: Absolutely. I think within Adaptu, users do have the ability to start seeking out others in their same city and we’re starting to see that with some of the family planning and budgeting, so people in similar areas are starting to look for each other in the same geographic area.
I only expect that to continue growing, especially as the communities get larger and larger.
Another component that we have is I know that a previous interview that you’ve done before is with Adam Baker and Man Versus Debt. Adaptu and Man Versus Debt have actually partnered up together and Man Versus Debt is using Adaptu for his nationwide tour, which just started last week.
So Adam Baker is going around the country visiting different cities talking about his challenge of helping people crush $1000 of debt. If you don’t have $1000 worth of debt then find $1000 in savings that you can then use to start investing.
As he’s going through city-by-city, we’re creating different groups within Adaptu that people will start being able to not only pledge, “I want to take the challenge,” but then continue with it and help each other out.
So that’s just now starting to take off and as Adam Baker and the Man Versus Debt tour keeps rolling through different cities, you’ll start seeing even more groups popping up, specifically around different cities but around the same goal of helping reduce debt.
Bryan: How has running Adaptu changed your own household finances?
Mark: Running Adaptu has affected everybody that’s worked on this project. Probably the best comment that I get from anybody on the team or any partners that work with us — the one unanimous comment that I get is the fact that they’ve never really thought about their finances in this type of way until they started working on this project or with our team.
It’s great to hear that we’re bringing value but also helping people change their behavior. No matter where you’re at financially, if you’re in debt or even if you’re not in debt, everybody wants to move from one point to a better point.
Adaptu is starting to bring that kind of value to people and help them begin to put the roadmap in place to make those changes.
Some of the exciting things that we have coming up is Adaptu will be looking at continuing to grow out the different communities. We’re looking at adding a mobile device, so currently today we don’t have a mobile experience but that is in the works and we’re looking to be rolling that out relatively soon in the near future to support our users.
I think that people will be pleasantly surprised with the robustness of the automated aggregation tools and also, then, the value that the community can bring and then we’re going to be adding some pretty unique features and functionalities to the site going forward this year that will even help people make better financial choices going forward.
Bryan: Thank you very much for joining us on the show today.
Mark: Great. Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Bryan: Thank, again, for listening. I have been your host, Bryan J. Busch. Join us again next week for more, great personal financial advice and information.
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Updated May 3, 2011 and originally published March 6, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.