Scale-ups in the spotlight

Find yourself spending on autopilot when shopping online? Quinn can help you take control, to spend less and save more. Founder Garrett Meccariello explains how.
Posted on June 15, 2021

So, what’s Quinn and where did the idea come from?

Quinn is a free Google Chrome browser extension that helps you avoid unnecessary online spending. Whenever you’re about to make a purchase, Quinn pops up to remind you what you’re doing and asks whether you really need it. Every time you decide not to go through with a purchase, you save money.

The funny thing is that the idea for Quinn came through our connection with TFI.

About three years ago, my research partner and I saw an ad on twitter about a research grant that TFI was sponsoring. The topic struck a chord with us. We looked at each other and said, ‘We spend too much. How do we stop spending so much money?’.

This got us thinking about ways to get people to spend less money on unnecessary things and to save for stuff that matters, like paying bills, saving for the future and having an emergency fund. It’s ironic because, up until about a year ago, I myself didn’t have an emergency fund. That really goes to show that no matter what your background and level of education is, there are a few basic financial things that everyone needs help with along the way.

So for Quinn, we started testing a few ideas, and we found that by displaying the right nudge message at the right time, we could reduce the amount people spend online by up to 24%. That’s a powerful figure with such a simple intervention.

Quinn gets in front of unnecessary spending and stops it before it occurs.

But how does that work for the long term, such as setting goals?

All Quinn does now is let you know you’re spending money in a web shop and reminds you that you have goals – general financial goals. The next version of Quinn, 2.0, will start to bring in personal goals and allow you to track your progress towards them, so you can quantify the change you’re making in your life.

As we grow Quinn, it may also help you manage your money . Let’s say you’ve just avoided a 24-euro purchase; so now let’s send those 24 euros to your savings account. Quinn will also track your progress as you build an emergency fund.

We’re trying to build a holistic journey and help people along the way, beyond just putting money in the bank.

What kind of feedback have you received?

Most people said they didn’t even realise they were shopping! I myself do it all the time: I’ll be at home on the couch, and all of a sudden I’m browsing on Amazon.

We’ve also made some changes based on that feedback. Originally, the idea was for Quinn to pop up as you entered a web shop. But we realised that people view shopping as a way to relax; and we don’t want to discourage that aspect. So now, Quinn does not pop up until you place items in a cart, as a reminder that you’re going from shopping to spending.

So how does Quinn keep users happy?
That’s a tricky point. One of our goals for Quinn 2.0. is to help people avoid the disappointment of not buying something by giving additional options. One would be to help you make a better purchase by applying personalised discounts for you. Another would be to let users know that while they avoided spending 24 euros today, they actually invested that money in themselves – in their future. It’s all about how we reframe that moment.

What would be your one piece of advice to people in financial distress?

It all starts with a small change, and I use that word in multiple ways. Pennies add up. So don’t be afraid to take that first step. And if you don’t know where to start: ask. There are lots of great resources out there, but don’t take just any solution. Quinn might not work for everyone – and that’s okay. So start by identifying your problems and make a plan that works for you.

Look at it this way. There’s a lot of financial inequality around the world, and Quinn alone cannot lift mass amounts of people out of poverty. But what if we can inform one micro-decision? We believe in the butterfly effect: that the flutter of tiny wings can have a huge effect in other areas. In this case, that starts with just having 1,000 dollars or euros in a savings account in case something goes wrong.

So, it’s mainly about financial literacy?

As much as we need to educate consumers, I don’t feel that the burden is on consumers alone to be educated. The burden is on fintechs, banks and platforms to make it easier. You see great progress in this area within the TFI ecosystem, and ING has been doing a phenomenal job with that as well. But outside, you see banks using confusing jargon for loans and evil tactics to get people into higher interest rates. That’s just not right. So no matter how much we try to get people on board with financial literacy, firms – all firms – must build better experiences to empower and lift people up.

To me, that’s what it means to be part of TFI’s accelerator programme: learning from each other and scaling up small models to create mass change. That’s something really powerful.