Promise promises US consumers to plan and manage their bills online with the utilities and…government agencies, and has raised $20 million in Series A.
It’s never easy to pay bills however the last two years of hardships have made it harder. Promise cooperates with utilities and government agencies to offer the flexibility to pay for those who cannot pay their entire electric or water bill in one sitting. The company has experienced massive growth in 2021 and has just completed an investment of $25 million to continue to grow.
Promise collaborates in conjunction with government agencies as well as other organizations which collect everything such as utility charges to licensing fees. The payment methods for these types of payments are extremely rigid and don’t take into account changes in income or cash. Promise offers a plug-and-play, installment plan that is interest-free for things like an electric bill.
“For those with cash, we’d like to have systems that allow as much flexibility as we can however for those who are poor it’s not the way to go. If you don’t pay your bill by the 5th day, you don’t receive the service and you’ll be liable for the consequences,” said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, the CEO, and founder of Promise.
If you don’t pay your commercial driver’s fee on time, and you’re not granted the license. This means that you’re not able to earn the money required to purchase the driver’s license or the gas bill, which means you’ll be charged late charges, and so on. Amid a lot of economic uncertainty, such flexibility isn’t a good idea.
Ellis-Lamkins explained that the previous system is based on the belief that if a person does not pay for their loans, it’s because they do not want to and are penalized with fines and interest or are required to use an untrustworthy service such as payday loan companies. A promise is a different approach.
“Our thesis is that structurally, they can’t pay — it’s not a choice,” she stated. “If you build a system that works better for people, they will pay.”
This notion is supported by data areas where the majority of people had the burden of government debt and suddenly paid the debt at rates of more than 90 percent. “The science of what we do is getting better and better,” she said. Governments have realized that it is sensible to sign up for a service, making it much more likely that revenue will be earned.
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We spoke to Promise nearly exactly one time ago when the company announced it would raise $15 million to increase its operations. It has since expanded its business, which it has. The year saw its revenues as well as its customers (that is, utilities rather than customers who pay bills) rise by 32x and 45x, respectively. The company also stated that at the beginning of 2021 it had scheduled multiples of these multiples.
I asked her what the growth looked like. “It looks like adding child support, it looks like adding parking tickets — we have a pretty diverse client set,” she explained. “We simply want people to not have to deal with the negative effects of debt from the government as well as we don’t want anyone to have to pay for interest. We’ve been able to get money into the system but we’ve also hoped to become really proficient in getting the funds out.”
According to her the Promise’s direct connection with a utility or other entity can provide insight into issues like stimulus or government subsidy checks. For many, getting discounts or money that’s legally allocated to them requires filling out forms on paper, providing tax documents, and then visiting a location in person. Not very convenient, even in pandemic circumstances. The government agencies know which individuals are eligible, but they don’t notify them beforehand — as Promise acts in their place.
It is important to be clear that it is the money that state and local governments would like to distribute budget items or federal funds which could be lost if they don’t award. However, like all bureaucracies, neither speed nor communications are their strength. In the Louisville investigation, Promise offered 10 times more than the local authorities received in fewer or more cases by sending out text messages to eligible people and telling them “come and get it.”
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The positive effect of Promise’s work is that it reduces the lenders and collection agencies that made their money from the poor and struggling. Many will be disappointed to see these shady business models relegated to dire circumstances, similar to those they are targeting.
As it becomes apparent that you’re catching more flies (and bills) by eating honey Local governments are sign-up in order to pay the monthly subscription costs which offer Promise with revenue. Users aren’t paid. The $25 million of funding will allow for the hiring needed to manage all the new customers. In addition, Ellis-Lamkins hasn’t been able to provide specific details expanding the business to working on payments with the Feds. This is a huge fish to catch and we should anticipate Promise to continue growing.
The B round was led by The General Partnership, with participation from Kapor Capital, XYZ Ventures, Bronze Investments, First Round Capital, Y Combinator, Howard Schultz, and others.