A locally-developed app, downloaded more than a million times in just a year, is helping Filipinos manage their finances.
The possibilities for Lista PH as a financial management app are endless, and investors are already taking notice as they infused $5.8 million or around P336 million into the startup company which was established by 25-year-old Aaron Morada Villegas and 32-year-old Khriztina Lim.
The co-founders met as members of the small local startup community where everybody knows each other, says Villlegas, who serves as chief executive of Lista.
“When we started this, the problem that we saw was there were no available tools in the market in terms of managing our finances. The tools that were out there were either too complex or were not built for Filipinos. So we came out with this stuff, which is a simple financial management app, and our goal essentially is to help fellow Filipinos improve their finances,” he says.
“We have been so lucky that within just a year, we have seen a wide range of users—from vendors to stay-at-home moms and young adults—who keep track of their expenses or who collect loan payments. Within just a year, we had 1.4 million downloads. We are now in over 300 cities,” says Villegas, who describes himself as a former overseas Filipino worker in Italy.
“We are grateful for the trust and support we received from international investors who believe in our mission and who believe that there is an opportunity to build something good here in the Philippines. We have been able to raise $5.8 million or around P336 million this year,” he says.
Lim, a Bachelor of Arts graduate from the University of the Philippines who worked for Grab as a marketing manager before forming Lista, says managing household finances is a serious challenge especially for young adults.
“Like me personally, when I was a fresh graduate, I didn’t know how to start saving. When I received my salary, I didn’t know where it went. So it is also a problem. But with Lista, you can start by listing down your expenses, understand it and start saving, no matter how small the amount it,” she says.
Lim says they are exploring various opportunities for the continuous growth of Lista.
Villegas, who handles growth strategy and fund raising activities for Lista, was born in Milan, Italy but grew up in the Philippines.
“I was always passionate about startups, about building something from the ground. With Lista, we are proud that it is being used by and helps so many Filipinos. It also inspires others to form their own startup companies. In that way, there are more solutions to resolve problems for Filipinos,” he says.
He says while the plan is to certainly grow Lista, “right now we focus on how we can improve the financials of the users, what products we can offer.”
“What we have done from day one is we built Lista around a tightknit community on Facebook. They are really passionate about Lista, and we built what they wanted us to build. We really grew with them. If they say they want a certain feature, then we can consider it,” says Villegas who manages a team of 40 people based in their main office in San Juan City and a co-working space in Rockwell Center, Makati City.
“We are always talking to and checking potential partners. It is natural progression for a company, as long as at the center of it is the benefit for the users,” he says.
Among the investors in Lista are 1982 Ventures, East Ventures, Saison Capital, Alternate Ventures, Monde Nissin Family Ventures, Willy Arifin and other angel investors.
The free bookkeeping app offers a free and secure way of managing finances such as tracking debt, reminding users about upcoming payments, recording transactions, tracking savings and issuing invoices. While it initially targeted sari-sari stores as it main market, the app expanded its offerings to empower all Filipinos to take control of their finances.
One of its most prominent features is the “Ipon Challenge” which was launched in April to encourage Filipinos to save money. In time for the Christmas season, Lista also unveiled a powerful and simple tool to help Filipinos get their finances in order.
The new Personal Budgeting feature housed within the Lista app aims to empower people to become more proactive in reaching both personal financial targets and long-term value investments.
In a media event on Nov. 23, Lista revealed the findings on the kinds of gifts Filipinos save up for leading to the holiday season. Motorbikes topped the list at an average target budget of P54,000, followed by new phones at P25,000, travel at P23,000 and Christmas celebration needs at P17,000.
“With the holidays coming up, whether you’re planning to buy gifts or a spread for your Christmas celebration, Lista makes it easy to see where your hard-earned money goes, and helps you maximize your budget to help you give more to what’s most important in your life,” says Villegas.
The Personal Budgeting feature on Lista is easy to use and navigate. Users can set a budgeting cycle from weekly, semi-monthly or monthly periods. Users then list their expenses and get reports on their spending plus additional insights and tips for better budgeting.
For users in need of a little help when it comes to creating a budget, Lista suggests one guided by the 70-20-10 principle that segregates income into three buckets: needs (70 percent), savings (20 percent) and wants (10 percent).
“Lista was created to help every Filipino raise their quality of life, one step at a time. Beyond the holidays, budgeting is a great way to gain control over your income, which is why we’ve made it easier for Filipinos to create a budget, stick to it, and use it as a tool to gain greater financial freedom,” says Lim.