Student entrepreneur hopes to change the payment experience

Tess Hogan

Brad Starnes, co-founder of the app DivviUp, recognized his entrepreneurial spirit at the age of 10. Now, as a UMKC student majoring in information technology with a minor in business administration, he is turning ideas into reality.

“I’ve always been, in a way, an entrepreneur,” said Starnes. “When I was 10, I was mowing lawns, doing 30 lawns a week. Then, as I was going through high school, my aunt had a website development business, so I quickly taught myself how to do website development and worked for her before moving into my own business.”

The app works as a monthly multi-user automatic payment system. This allows roommates or friends and family to share bills on an automatic basis, with multiple payment methods on file.

“Me and a couple friends went to Chicago, and we went to a deep-dish pizza place where we waited probably about an hour and a half for our pizza, and then another 45 minutes to get our check. Come to find out that you couldn’t share the bill,” Starnes said. “At the time I was the only one who had a credit card that could cover the cost. So it kind of became a way for all of us to put our cards on one file when we went out to restaurants.”

The idea transformed when Starnes joined E-Scholars, the UMKC Bloch School’s entrepreneur development program. 

“We went through the entire semester of the E-Scholars program. It’s open to the community, so I was one of three UMKC students in a class of 15 or 20 people,” said Starnes. “Because of the E-Scholars program, we got partnered with the Husch-Blackwell Law firm, so we are actually one of their pro-bono clients.”

Over the past several months, Starnes worked closely with E-Scholars program coordinator, Ben Gruber. “Brad was an excellent student and exactly the type of E-Scholar we try to recruit,” said Gruber. “Brad is a gifted, natural problem solver, which is why he was so thorough in his planning and execution, from identifying the problem and exploring potential solutions, to recruiting a team, to designing and building the product; even finding smaller problems his classmates encountered along the way with which he could help.”

The app is currently at a patent-pending stage. As a result of the pro-bono status with the law firm, law fees will not begin until they complete the app. 

“It kind of helps now at the start-up phase that we’re in, not having to worry about $10,000 or $15,000 for lawyers,” said Starnes.

“Our intent is to have it up and running before the end of the year,” said Starnes. “Long-term, our intent is actually to either build it to the point to have enough momentum that we can run the thing ourselves, or get to the point where we have enough behind us that we can sell it out to some company like PayPal, or even have it acquired by Venmo, who’s owned by PayPal.”

Starnes is now taking extra steps to move the app further. He recently put in his two weeks at his job to focus more time on the efforts of DivviUp. Starnes plans to graduate next December and is hoping the timeline for the app is able to provide direction for his post-grad plans.

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