3 Products Later: How Iteration Led to Earmark

October 29, 2013

1:00 pm

With the indoor temperature always at a perfect 70 degrees and the scent of produce somehow in every nook and cranny of the store, a visit to Whole Foods can – at times – be a truly visceral experience. So, I mean, it wouldn’t necessarily be out of place for someone’s life to flash before their eyes whilst sampling the mimolette gouda. For Josh Chambers, such an epiphany came to him while staring at a pyramid of his favorite beer.

Chambers is the founder, CEO, and CPO of Earmark. Earmark is a mobile app that aims to help people redirect their decision from possibly making mundane purchases to saving that money and utilizing it on products that users really want to save for. So, for instance, with Earmark, a user can track when he or she has opted to skip lunch at The Palm and decided to use that money they would’ve spent on savings toward a new MacBook.

“I have this personal belief that how you spend your money reveals your true beliefs and values. This idea of spending your money more meaningfully – I think – has been a philosophical underpinning that has been there my entire life.”

The idea behind Earmark is great – indeed, I’m sure that literally everyone on this planet feels that buyer’s remorse after wasting money on trivial purchases – but the current version of the product is actually quite different from its initial prototype. And while the core concept of the product has remained the same, Earmark has had to go through two different transformations, producing three different products, before becoming what it is now.

The core concept of the product came to Chambers when he decided to buy baby food in lieu of purchasing his favorite beer while at Whole Foods; it was this idea of skipping out on certain purchases so that you can spend that money in more meaningful ways. Going off this idea, Earmark started off as a nonprofit donations platform, where a user can, say, skip on buying beer and give that money to charity, instead.

While that idea proved to be successful (they even won a startup competition based on that concept), Chambers thought that there could be more at play; hence, the series of iteration began. For the second product, focus was shifted to people specifically in relationships (couples, parents, etc.). Going off the premise that financial issues are one of the primary strains to any relationship, the product was created to help couples basically keep track of each other’s spending and redirect those funds toward some joint goal. In the second product, the predecessor to Earmark really began to incorporate more collaborative functions between people.

From there, Chambers learned from users of the second product that people really liked this social aspect – the function to share what you skipped on purchasing and what you are saving for. He also really liked this idea of being able to actually shift money around to help users fulfill those goals. The third (and current) product really incorporates these functions, allowing users to move real money when they “Earmark” (target as their goal) a product, as well as also allowing friends to provide feedback.

Earmark’s current iteration is only three months young, but users had already Earmarked $1M in product spending intent within the first two months. As to whether you should skip out on this app purchase, my advice is no, you shouldn’t (1. it’s free, so you don’t have to purchase anything, and 2. it is actually really great at keeping you on track of your spending).

Earmark was featured at last month’s NYC Tech Cocktail Mixer & Startup Showcase. Most recently, it was 1 of 24 startups to pitch at Tech Cocktail Celebrate

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things.

Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in ‘Doctor Who’, Murakami, ‘The Mindy Project’, and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a “writer”. Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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