Comfy’s Bill-Splitting App for Roommates Garners $1.25M Series A

Comfy, an Austin, TX-based free online service that helps college students locate new housing, has secured a $1.25 million Series A round from existing investor ATX Seed Ventures as the company begins shifting its focus to a newly launched bill-paying app that it hopes will earn it more money.

In March, Comfy launched Unbill, an app that allows roommates to split bills and living expenses. Individuals can use the app to pay anything from the cable to the phone bill, according to CEO Jordan Wright. The company is expanding the type of services the tool can pay, most recently adding rent to the list, Wright says.

Along with the financing, Comfy announced it has inked a partnership with Conservice, a company that manages utility bills for property managers across the nation, which will make Unbill the suggested mobile payment platform for all of the apartment buildings Conservice works with, Wright says. Conservice, which participated in the Series A investment, has millions of customers that Comfy has the opportunity to service with Unbill, he says.

“We’ll be able to market to potentially all of them,” Wright said in a telephone interview. “We want to be in a position to be cash flowing by the middle to end of next year.”

Unbill typically charges a 99-cent fee for most of its services if paid using a checking account, and an additional percentage for using a credit card (around 3 percent, depending on the card), Wright says. Comfy, which will also have customers outside of its partnership with Conservice, will pay a referral fee to the company for any customers it brings, Wright says.

Founded in 2013, Comfy initially launched as an online service meant to help college roommates find new housing. It developed Unbill as a way to earn money from those customers, who already used the Comfy service for free, Wright says.

College students and the other younger folks Comfy seems to be targeting may be a notoriously poor set, but that isn’t a concern to Wright. He says that people are willing to pay for a service that makes tracking, paying, and splitting bills easier, because paying bills can be so difficult with roommates.

“The pain point is pretty big,” Wright says. “ ‘This person never paid me back the whole time we were living together or the power got shut off cause no one paid the electric bill.’ This gives transparency to the entire group that the bill did get paid, and when it was paid.”

Wright is using the funding to build out a customer support team, potentially hire more engineers, and expand to other markets. It is currently focused in New York, Austin, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and the company wants to grow through the rest of the U.S., particularly in college towns, Wright says.

Payment processing is a crowded field, with stalwarts like PayPal controlling much of the digital payment-sharing space and newer entrants like Venmo allowing customers to share in paying for purchases. There are other apps that do similar work, too, from RentShare in New York to Splitwise in Providence, RI. Unbill is different because it splits the bills and makes the payment on behalf of roommates, Wright says.

“That’s our big differentiator and that’s why we target roommates almost exclusively,” Wright says. “Friends may use Venmo, but Unbill is a 10x better type product for splitting and paying bills.”

Unbill may develop other features for its app, which is available on Android and Apple platforms, such as messaging tools or the ability to split the costs for something like a pizza delivery, Wright says.

ATX Seed Ventures also provided the company with $800,000 of seed funding in 2014.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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