Plans & Roles


Jia: user/design (bot)
user research/testing/domain research
FY: tech/design (making the bot smart)
LR: tech/user (integration with APIs)
prototype/platform integration
user research/testing
PP: presentation/design (documentation)



  • writing
  • logic flow/bot design
  • user research/testing
  • market research
  • domain research
  • deck
  • website
  • video
  • blog


  • NLP
  • APIs
  • Prototype and platform integration: Slack/SMS, Plaid, Redis, aws/heroku
  • financial data analysis/ML
  • research tools 



personas (?)

  • graduating student
    • Anxieties about graduation
    • Job hunt
    • Student loans
    • Credit card debts
    • Rent/food/coffee
    • Socializing: restaurants, bars, events, etc.
  • freelancers: creative, tech, etc.
    • Multiple accounts: personal and business
    • Bidding multiple projects: negotiating, contracts, budget
    • Getting paid on time!
    • Paying collaborators
    • Materials/equipment
    • Paying taxes: W4 + 1099 for different projects
  • small business owner 
    • a lot of similarities to freelancers
    • More people have business accounts: personal + business kind of blurry


2 long interviews:

  • late 20s
  • installation student/artist/performer/freelancer (2-3 projects at a time, 3 mo each)
  • a lot of uncertainties: just planning next 1-2 months (want to plan long term)
  • has multiple accounts: personal (multiple credit cards), business
  • worries about debts
  • 30 something
  • graduated 2 yrs ago
  • have startup experience
  • has multiple accounts: personal (multiple credit cards), business, stocks


Insights from interviews


  • Cut down cost, but spend on nice things (travel, big item, expensive restaurant)
  • Need to trust judgement, want to feel protected
  • Just want an indicator (total net worth) to make decisions (don’t need too specific)
  • Want all accounts in one place (personal and all projects/clients)
  • “Cannot fuck up budget” (rent, electricity, pet) vs. “do whatever budget” or “want vs. need”
  • International students have specific questions





Market research

total market

  • personal financial management app users:  12,816,140 users
  • Mobile Banking, Personal Finance, Personal Investing and Wealth Management. Your request fits under the Personal Finance category which includes: “Digital capabilities for tracking spend and income, along with budgeting.” 
target market
  • critical mass of freelancers
  • graduating students
There is also a broader market of daily money managers, CPAs, bookkeepers, private banks and others (several thousand professionals) that will manage your finances for you if you are so inclined.  The state of Massachusetts will even provide personal bookkeeping services to you if you are elderly and physically are unable on your own.
1. 87% of U.S. adults have a mobile phone.
2. 39% of adults with both mobile phones and bank accounts reported using mobile banking.
3. 22% of all mobile phone owners reported having made a mobile payment in the 12 months prior to the survey


  • mint/intuit
  • 1-2 million active users
  • people complain about bad categorization
  • troops (for Salesforce)
  • robinhood
  • expensify
  • quickbooks
  • freshbooks
  • level
  • acorn
  • goodbudget
  • wally
  • learnvest
  • quicken
  • CashPath Financial
  • Debitize 
  • Milestone
  • YNAB
Best for Individuals:
  • Mint (Lirong, Jia)
Best for Small Businesses:


Hello Warren


Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 1.37.11 AM

Getting started for symbiosis…

The challenge (copied from the MSR design expo site)

Design a product, service or solution that demonstrates the value and differentiation of the CUI. Your creation should demonstrate the best qualities of a symbiotic human-computer experience which features an interface designed to interpret human language and intent. Of course, language takes many forms – from speech, to text, to gesture, body language, and even thought. Your creation should clearly demonstrate foundational elements the CUI calls upon in order to delight people. It should meet a clear need and be extensible to wider applications. It may be near-term practical or blue sky, but the idea must be innovative, technically feasible, and have a realistic chance of adoption if instantiated. Of course, to deliver an optimal experience, much is implied – from data and identity permissions to cross-app agent and/or bot cooperation and coordination (first and third party); your design should minimally show awareness of these barriers or explore solutions to them.

There is a much longer version of the brief. I’ll be adding some notes on it here soon. Stay tuned.

Our proposal: Warren

In short, we proposed a personal financial officer CUI that makes financial management simple and fun for newly graduated students. It helps track your income and spending and chats with you to make financial decisions based on your cashflow on the go.

The problem is that to many students and freelancers personal financial management is challenging and boring. Many lack skills in this area even though financial literacy is increasingly important as more people become independent workers and need to manage more complex budgeting and cash flow.

The biggest challenge for our team is most likely domain expertise in Fintech.  It’s tough because we need to have more financial management knowledge than we have now. Also security and privacy are two huge issues to consider. It’s hard to get people to talk about their financial management behavior, not to mention convincing people to trust our CUI application enough to use it. On the tech side, we would also need to do research on security standards, even if we use third party APIs that handle security.

Important questions

These are some of the questions for next week’s presentation. I categorized them to help clarify sections of the presentation and provide a rough outline. Also, since these are questions we will continue to research and test, it’s nice to have them written out on this blog as a reminder.

big idea (context)
  • What are we proposing?
  • Why it matters? what is the impact?
clarify idea
  • What is the idea?
  • Why is it a good idea? so what?
  • How would it work?
  • What form?
  • Who would use this
  • Who would this benefit?
  • What does your market look like? 
  • Who else has done this? How are we different?
workshop plan
  • What do you plan to do by the end of the workshop?
  • How will you show your concept, and what will it be?