Q&A with fintech for the self-employed app Uome
Hi Jason, what is Uome?
Uome is a platform created to make self-employed life simple. Uome’s innovative, bespoke solution allows sole traders and small business owners to run their operation entirely from their phone. With Uome a business owner can invoice and communicate with customers, manage income and expenses, take payments, do tax preparation and much more. All without the need for any kind of additional hardware. Uome is available in the UK currently with plans to expand to other markets in the near future.
Why does the market need it?
Small businesses, particularly sole traders have been an entirely disregarded and under-served sector historically by financial service providers especially those covering banking and payments. Both of which are fundamental demands and essential for anyone running a business. Due to lower transaction volumes and revenues, small & micro businesses and sole traders are totally overlooked, when in fact, they contribute upwards towards 1.5 trillion GBP to the UK economy alone. This will continue to grow with the gig and social influencer economy.
Currently most solutions in the market are meant for consumers or larger enterprises that have merely been shoehorned to try and fit their demand, with little to no bespoke development for a vast market of sole and small business owners.
This is where Uome comes in with its state-of-the-art bespoke solution that allows sole traders and small business owners to run their entire businesses from their mobile phone. With Uome, business owners have full control of how they choose to run and grow their business and can switch on or off integrated services at their discretion.
The platform is not only built with the most modern, secure and user-friendly technology, but it’s also entirely API driven. This means that partners who have access to large quantities of SMEs and sole traders, but are looking to add value to their offerings, can simply connect directly into Uome and utilise Uome’s services as their own, under their own brand to offer to their customers.
Uome’s platform offers the following capabilities:
- Send professional looking quotes and invoices in an instant
- Cash flow monitoring to keep track of income and expenses
- Inventory catalogue for products and services
- Instant messaging with customers/clients for proof of work, invoicing, purchase orders and relationship building
- Dashboard for complete business overview
- Accept credit and debit cards all through the app and on email invoice
- Accept payments via Apple pay and Google pay through the app and on email invoice
- Accept in-person payments (point of sale) directly from customers via scanning a QR code that links to open banking (via Plaid) so businesses receive a 100 percent of payment immediately.
- Offer credit via Uome’s integrated Klarna “Buy now pay later” solution
- Instant settlement with Uome’s open banking solution (via Plaid)
Where is the business today?
Since launching to the market in spring 2022, Uome has received strong indications from the market that it’s solving problems and improving the lives of business owners. The user base continues to grow organically and in Q4 alone Uome saw a doubling in businesses signing up and an even higher growth in total cumulative invoicing volume.
The company continues to deliver enhancements and features based on user generated feedback at an unrivalled pace, allowing Uome to stay ahead of its competitors. With the most recent feature being its state-of-the-art application point of sale (aPOS) system via our Plaid integration.
This integration enables Uome users to take in person payments directly from their customers and clients. This is done by allowing customers to simply scan a QR code on the business owner's phone which securely launches the customers banking app to confirm payment. Once confirmed by the customer the funds are transferred immediately to the businesses bank account.
Our approach to innovative solutions means that potential competitors endeavour to partner with us to utilise Uome’s API driven platform in lieu of an in-house, proprietary build.
Uome was selected as one of three fintech start-ups for the Tech Nation, Libra 2.0 programme. Libra 2.0 is designed specifically to combat racial inequality in UK tech by supporting under-represented founders. Uome has been nominated and is a finalist for ‘App of the year 2023’ at the Black Tech Achievements Awards.
What made you think there was money in this?
I worked as a consultant financial technologist for over 20 years for the likes of Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and HSBC and what’s really important to me is financial inclusion.
I created Uome to make self-employed life simple. We do that by taking away all the operational burden that you have with running your business such as managing your customer relationships, invoicing, quotes, tax preparation and managing expenses. All of that can be done from your phone, allowing business owners to focus on what’s important, providing the products and services their customers' need.
I spent years working as a consultant and in doing so I worked alongside lots of consultants, contractors and freelancers. I saw that the space around managing your business was poorly served by most. If you take a look at most of the incumbents in this space they focus on a particular part of the journey, whether that be cash flow or tax preparation. But what you really want to do as a small business owner is to focus on your customers, they come first and this is essential for business growth.
So, after doing some extensive research and armed with the knowledge that small, solo & micro business owners make a significant contribution to the UK economy (£1.5 trillion) but are underserved in this area, I set out on a mission to simplify and reduce the stress of running a business.
Uome was created to take away all that operational burden and cognitive friction. I also wanted to offer a product that was competitively priced with a three tier plan (free, pay as you go & subscription) that would appeal to the self-employed community wherever they are on their business journey.
What's your biggest strength?
Uome is about making self-employed life simple and it is the first app to combine the following features in an intuitive way:
- Allowing users to offer their clients/customers a flexible buy now pay later option to spread costs at no cost to their business with our Klarna integration. With full control integrations allowing users to switch it on or off at their discretion.
- Allowing users to send in-app, real-time messages to clients/customers including images, videos and updates on projects rather than working with multiple communications platforms (WhatsApp, Email, SMS etc)
- Allowing users to take in person payments directly from customers with Uome’s state-of-the-art aPOS feature that works by scanning a QR code that links to open banking all from the app without the need for hardware.
What is the secret to making the business work?
As a start-up with a mission to make self-employed life simple we aim to put our customers first and so user generated feedback is key to our value proposition.
We are a small but agile team of experts that have taken a strategically targeted approach to everything we do.
Our development has been based on user feedback. It is really important as a general rule that you listen to your customers and tailor the product to their needs. Even if this requires releasing an early version of a feature to get feedback on which you can then iterate on. This allows you to build up a community of engaged users who can then become ambassadors for your product and encourages loyalty because of their contribution to the development of the product. I would also add that before spending heavily on the product and marketing, it's important to explore routes of distribution through commercial partners that already have an established customer base.
How do you market the company?
As a start-up that began its journey being bootstrapped we have taken a strategic and targeted approach to marketing communications. With a shoestring budget we’ve focused on targeted communications activities, with the aim of adding value and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners and potential stakeholders. These range from media relations to attending relevant events where our target audience frequent and looking for other creative ways to reach our audience. An example is we sponsored Bianca Miller-Cole (2014 Apprentice runner up) event for the launch of her new skin care line and Uome was the platform used to take payments. We will also be running a masterclass for her self-made mentoring group where she coaches budding entrepreneurs.
Anyone running a business will know that marketing and PR is very important, they should also know that it is fine to take an incremental approach so you don't max out your budget. As we grow so will our efforts and budget, however despite being on a smaller budget than most, we are making good headway and excited to be nominated as a finalist for the App of the year Award at the 2023 Black Tech Achievement Awards.
What funding do you have? Is it enough?
I initially bootstrapped Uome before we raised an initial angel round. We are now seeking to raise a larger amount for execution of our commercial strategy and expansion into the B2B space as an API driven small business infrastructure provider.
Tell us about the business model
Our business model is entirely user focused. Uome’s platform is not only built with a fully modern tech stack, but the company has also integrated with global partners to provide a wide range of flexible and innovative embedded payments solutions for small business owners. This includes BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) technology via our credit partner, Klarna, where eligible Uome users may offer financing to their customers.
Another global partner integration is Stripe, which allows for credit- and debit card payments to be collected entirely without the need for additional hardware. We also partnered with Plaid Open Banking solutions which helps to facilitate aPOS and instant account to account payments.
When it comes to pricing, we set out to ensure that we were competitively priced and most importantly adding value with three plans available. The free plan, where you can invoice up to £2500 per month, the pay as you go plan that allows you to offer credit to your customers and Uome charges a small transaction fee. Lastly, our subscription plan which unlocks the full capability of the Uome platform including the removal of capped invoicing and free opening banking transactions via our invoicing and/or aPOS, purchase orders, income and expense reporting and management which is priced at just £9.99 a month.
The Uome platform is entirely API driven, which means that any company or financial institution with an existing merchant base can integrate with Uome and take any of its features to build and add to their own platform. Uome will charge a monthly fee based on the active number of devices using Uome’s technology, covered by a minimum retainer early on. These fees will vary depending on volume and services.
Uome’s platform is built to ease the minds of sole traders and small businesses everywhere. As part of this mission, Uome will also work with partners who offer services to SME not covered by Uome. There will be revenue sharing agreements with any company and service included in Uome’s marketplace for SMEs.
Uome has launched its affiliate programme (Feb 2023) which provides a great way to boost awareness of the brand whilst also helping affiliates to earn a recurring commission of 20% on referring new paying subscribers to us. We believe sharing is caring so for those who are referred and become paid subscribers, they can do the same and share with their community to help others who are starting their business or already on their journey to stay on top of their finances too.
What were you doing before?
I worked as a consultant financial technologist for Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch, HSBC and more. I am also the co-founder of Code Untapped with Ezechi Britton (MBE) that seeks to empower the underrepresented community to fulfil their potential through increasing diversity in technology. Together with their team, they host, teach and develop the skills of under-represented talent and assist in placing them with companies and organisations otherwise difficult or impossible to access.
What is the future vision?
Uome, as a tool for sole traders and small businesses has been built for the sole purpose of making it easier, more efficient and cost effective to run a small operation. This includes anything from managing customer relationships and communication, paperwork such as issuing quotes and invoices through to actually getting paid as a business.
Uome, as a brand and as an application has already gone live in the UK market. However, we look to expand and serve small business owners all over the globe by 2030, but more importantly, due to the extreme flexibility of the platform, we also seek to empower other companies who wish to serve small businesses by letting them utilise the Uome APIs.
Uome’s technology is built entirely around an API based platform, which allows any company, anywhere in the world, to take advantage of any part of the suite of features we offer to integrate into their own platform to better serve and add value to their offering. In doing so, the Uome brand will not only be known as the go-to application for improving any small business, but it will be the engine that services, and provides features and applications for small businesses all around the world.