Q&A: PTN talks to prelaunch proptech startup BillHub

PropTech News catches up with James Harrison, managing director of proptech startup BillHub, which is set to launch later this week.

Who are BillHub?

We’re a company based in the heart of London with a team of highly dedicated individuals who share two things: a passion for problem solving and a commitment to our customers.

When we started out in January 14 we had a vision for the future, where utilities would be consolidated on one digital platform, a platform that would cater to the modern requirements of the housing market and would enable the user to interact with their utilities in a much more streamlined and user friendly way.

The team consists of a handful of people with a very diverse range of knowledge, from tech to accountancy and almost everything in-between, which has meant we’ve been able to crack some pretty tough problems.

What’s BillHub all about?

We’re revolutionising the way people live together!

Utilities can be a source of real friction, whether you’re sharing a house or not; Hefty surprise bills, arguments about who owes what and the over complicated ways of sharing costs mean that utilities can rip apart friendships and breed animosity in a place that you should be able to relax and feel secure.

We’re changing all of that through the use of technology, hard work and some smart ideas! Maybe I get more excited than most about utilities but I genuinely believe the status quo is flawed and the solutions we are developing can be likened to the comparison between a rotary dial phone and a smart phone – it is better in every way.

We believe the current solution to managing utilities in a house-share and homes in general is fragmented and old fashioned. It’s still very common for people to open up a shared bank account just so that everyone can contribute their share or for each person to take responsibility for one bill. In the first case someone still has to manage the suppliers, setup payments and generally deal with administration that simply doesn’t have to happen.

To us, it’s crazy that we still receive paper bills through the post from utility companies in 2015! I think most people understand the fundamental draw backs of paper vs. digital, which is why it surprises us that nothing has changed much.

How does BillHub change that?

We’ve always taken the view that technology is king, so our system and platform has been designed accordingly. Automation is key for us to scale and optimise our operations.

In our industry the biggest problem is how to manage utility accounts without using vast numbers of account managers, like our competition. It might sound easy to bull a platform and automate the process but the utility sector is not known for being particularly tech-forward so implementing API’s to communicate with suppliers, for example, was always a non-starter.

Once we fully understand a new process, we automate it. It’s meant we have been able to stay very lean and spend more time focusing on developing new innovative ideas rather than using resources to cover operational requirements.

What exactly does BillHub do?

We consolidate all your household bills on one digital platform incorporating features that better fit the needs of the modern property market and allow users to interact with their utilities in a much more user friendly way – it’s like a clever shared bank account I guess.

What we’ve always said from the start is “you’ll never pay more for your utilities than if you went to the supplier direct”. Added to this we don’t charge anything for the use of our platform, it really is a no-brainer. We make our money via a small referral fee from the suppliers.

We find the vast majority of our customers are students and young professionals who share a house. The BillHub Hub allows users to split the costs of utilities equally and contribute their share independently meaning no one person has to chase others or mange the house bills. BillHub disperses their contributions to their suppliers, on time and in full.

One new feature that we are excited to release will now allow customers to split the cost of miscellaneous and one-off costs such as toilet roll and dishwasher tablets. Those small costs that no one has the energy to recover from the other housemates, but enough that can buildup to a meaningful amount especially if you are the housemate who always buys the milk, bin bags or even a cleaner. The feature will allow you to input the amount with a description, it will split the cost equally, collect it from every other housemate and pay back the person who bought the goods originally.

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