Miami Tech & Startup News

Looking to improve your finances? Make Debbie your new best friend

Looking to improve your finances? Make Debbie your new best friend

By Riley Kamimer

Growing up in an immigrant, single-mother household, Frida Leibowitz experienced the stresses of dealing with debt. 

“My mom was what I like to call a ‘perfect victim’ of all these targeted credit offers,” Leibowitz told Refresh Miami. “It’s about the idea that you can buy whatever you want if you just put it on credit. And the credit card companies actually incentivize you to do it.”

This also led Leibowitz to study finance at New York University. Still, Leibowitz found herself falling into the same debt trap as her mom. Eventually, she began a journey of reducing her debt, bringing her to a debt consolidation company.

At the same time, Leibowitz graduated from NYU and started to work at Goldman Sachs, focusing on their consumer-facing product, Marcus. “There, I realized that more than half of borrowers who used debt freedom products started to go back into credit card debt within less than a year,” she said, drawing parallels with crash dieting. “They went right back to where they started.”

These concerns fell on deaf ears at Goldman, so two years ago Leibowitz packed her bags and moved from New York to Miami, partnering up with Rachel Lauren to co-found Debbie, a behavior-driven rewards platform for debt payoff.

Leibowitz underscored two principles driving Debbie. First, that debt is a behavior problem more than a math problem. “The vast majority of solutions are looking at ways to automate your debt away. But in reality, if you really want to help someone achieve long-term debt freedom and financial success, they’re going to have to change their behavior.” Second: incentives. Debbie rewards users for good behavior, not for spending.

Dieting app Noom was a source of inspiration for Debbie’s platform. Debbie offers weekly money psychology lessons plus rewards for debt payoff and savings. It also has a marketplace where users can qualify for lower rates on their debt, made possible by Debbie’s unique partnerships with credit unions.

“Credit unions are completely overshadowed by big banks and fintechs,” asserted Leibowitz. “But they are not-for-profit and can often offer much better rates.” Debbie has built a digital storefront and engagement mechanism for these credit unions, giving them access to younger consumers (90% of Debbie’s three thousand users are aged 25-35). Debbie makes revenue from these financial institution partners through subscription fees and transaction revenue, which enables Debbie to offer its platform for free to consumers.

So far, Debbie has raised $2.3 million, with plans to raise a seed round early next year. For now, Leibowitz is the only South Florida-based employee on a team of 10 – something she hopes and expects to change in the near future. Leibowitz was recently included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for South Florida.

Looking forward, Leibowitz hopes Debbie can help millions of people get rid of their behavioral debt problem. “I’m particularly excited by the emotional and mental wellbeing piece, since debt is a huge part of their lives.”

Pictured at top of post: Debbie co-founders Frida Leibowitz, at left, and Rachel Lauren.


Riley Kaminer