Are your friends terrible at paying you back? This startup has a solution for that

November 22, 2017
singul chicago tech company
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No one likes hounding their friends for money.

Digital payment options like Venmo and Facebook Messenger have made it easier to always repay your debts. But they still require someone to put money down and remember who owes what.

That’s fine if you go out to brunch with a couple of friends on occasion. Less so if you put several hotel rooms on your credit card and the bill is coming due at the end of the month.

Singul, a Chicago fintech startup that officially launched on Wednesday, wants to make it easier for groups to settle bills right away.

The startup issues digital, single-use credit cards that customers use to pay shared bills. It then charges each user’s personal bank account to cover their portion of the tab.

Founder Ripal Sanghani said the idea came to him after a trip with a group of friends to New York.

“There were bottle service tabs, restaurant tabs, taxi tabs and one person paid for the hotels,” said Sanghani. “So my buddy, who’s in consulting, whips out a spreadsheet to crunch the numbers.”

Instead of tracking expenses, Sanghani wanted a way to settle bills as they came up. But in order to gain traction, he knew that whatever he came up with would have to be universally accepted.

What he landed on was an app that generates shared virtual credit cards.

In order to pay a bill, the user types in the total amount and invites their friends to partake in the transaction. Once everyone has accepted, Singul generates a virtual card. The card is only good for the agreed-upon amount, and can be used with any online merchant or point-of-sale system.

If you don’t want to share a credit card with your ne’er-do-well friends, the good news is that you won’t. Singul’s virtual cards are essentially corporate cards issued to the startup — but with your name on them.

Since Singul charges the customer’s personal account right away, the service does not require a credit check or affect the customer’s credit score.

For now, users have to hand over their phones or write down the credit card number for merchants who type in the details manually. However, the startup’s long-term plans include pairing the app with connected cards that can be swiped like regular cards.

Sanghani said he and co-founder Purav Sanghani have been working on Singul for about 15 months. The solution has been in private beta since earlier this year and is currently available for iOS devices, with an Android version coming up soon.