Business

This Raleigh native’s startup is taking on payday lenders — and helps manage your money, too

Quinten Farmer, co-founder of the financial technology startup Even, is a Raleigh native and a former student at North Carolina State University. His company has a fast-growing presence in downtown Raleigh.
Quinten Farmer, co-founder of the financial technology startup Even, is a Raleigh native and a former student at North Carolina State University. His company has a fast-growing presence in downtown Raleigh. courtesy of Even
This story has been updated to correct the address of the company's office in Raleigh.

It’s been less than a year since Raleigh native and former N.C. State University student Quinten Farmer’s startup opened an office in Raleigh — but the California-based finance technology company has grown quickly here.

Even — which helps users monitor their financial health by tracking spending — had three employees in a co-working space on Fayetteville Street in August. The company now has its own digs — at 137 S. Wilmington St. — and has hired 21 employees with positions still needing to be filled. (The address of this office has been corrected.)

“It’s been much faster growth than we could’ve hoped for,” said Farmer, the company’s chief operating officer, in an interview. The company’s other office in Oakland, Calif., which is mainly made up of software engineers, has grown to around 50 employees, he added.

It is the company’s relationship with Walmart that has fueled its rise in the past year. More than 200,000 Walmart employees in the U.S. have used Even’s app to manage their finances, Bloomberg reported last year.

The app connects with your bank account to track spending and give you a real-time ability to see how much money you can spend versus your expenses, like a car payment or an electricity bill. When used in arrangement with a business, the app can also allow employees to take a portion of their paycheck early — which allows workers to avoid going to payday lenders.

Many of the new jobs in Raleigh are focused around sales and handling relationships with clients.

“We anticipate we will be here (in the Hargett Street space) for over a year” before we might need more space, Farmer said. “We are continuing to grow here and where that stops, I am not sure. It will be driven by demand.”

EVEN JPG.jpg
Eanes, Zachery Courtesy of Even

Farmer said his familiarity with Raleigh, its cost of living and access to talent, were behind the decision to open an office here.

The 5-year-old company, which Farmer co-founded with CEO Jon Schlossberg, has been fueled by $40 million in venture capital funding and high-profile corporate partnerships with companies like Walmart and Kronos. Bull City Venture Partners in Durham is one of its many investors.

Farmer said that eliminating the need for payday lending, which many people turn to when they have an unexpectedly high bill, is a goal of the company. The payday loan industry has received criticism for charging steep interest rates on their loans to primarily lower-income individuals.

Even doesn’t charge fees or interest on the money employees receive early — the function is called “Instapay.” Instead, it charges an $8 monthly subscription, which some companies subsidize for their workers. That makes Even a little bit different from its competitors, whose similar services often make customers use a debit card issued by their employer rather than their own bank account.

Instapay is treated as a payroll deduction, a spokeswoman for Even said, meaning it is usually deducted from an employee’s paycheck via an employer’s payroll system.

Users can only access up to 50 percent of their net pay before payday and only once per paycheck — so no one can get a full paycheck ahead of schedule.

“What we saw was that essentially the math of being a middle-class American was getting harder,” Farmer said. “Expenses were going up and wages were staying the same. From our point of our view using software to alleviate that strain was one thing that should exist and something as a team felt well positioned to do.”

Even’s internal data has shown that around 28 percent of its users had taken out a payday loan in the months before starting its service — compared to less than 20 percent four months after signing up for Even, The Associated Press reported last year.

By giving users a way to manage their finances more efficiently, “they can begin to save or pay off existing debts instead,” Farmer said.

Going forward, Farmer said he expects the company to keep building new services within its app as well continuing to hire both here and in California.

He added that his goal is to split his time evenly between Oakland and his hometown — but so far he has found himself on the road traveling to visit potential corporate clients more often.

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