Brad Starnes Honored for Developing Splitsy

2021 Student Entrepreneur of the Year recognized for creation of payment-sharing app
Brad Starnes holds his Entrepreneur of the Year award

Splitsy founder Brad Starnes (BIT ’20) knows from experience that sometimes waiting is a good thing. After all, it was waiting for his friends to pay him back for a dinner that inspired him to create the payment-sharing app in the first place. Splitsy, which allows each person in a group to pay their portion of bills directly, earned Starnes the distinction of the 2021 Student Entrepreneur of the Year award, but he had to wait for his accomplishment to be announced.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony to commemorate his achievement was canceled, but despite the delay, he was eventually able to receive the award recognizing his innovative payment solution. We spoke with Starnes, who is currently seeking his master’s in business administration, about his inspiration for Splitsy, how UMKC helped him take his idea from concept to business and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

What is Splitsy?

We’re a mobile application that allows roommates or shared households to share automatic payments. Currently, we partner with 15,000 billers nationwide. Users sign in to our application and set their predetermined splitting preferences. Then, every month when we receive that bill, we charge each person their individual portion and consolidate those into one payment to the biller.

What inspired you to create Splitsy?

One of my co-founders, Joe, and I have been friends since seventh grade. He went to UMKC as well, so he and I moved into the dorms together and then we decided to get an apartment. We had some problems sharing some bills.

We had some other incidents that happened, too. We went on a group trip to Chicago and it was like 12 of us and we ordered a deep dish pizza. It’s super expensive for a deep dish in Chicago. We went to go split the bill at the end of the night and the restaurant didn’t split bills. I was the only one who had a credit card at the time, so I was able to put the purchase on the card and have everybody send me money back, but it took me almost three weeks after that trip to finally get all the funds back.

That exact issue would be replicated and a lot of those pieces meshed together and got me to do it. Now I see so many people going through the same problem that I know it can be stopped.

You got your bachelor’s degree in information technology from UMKC. How did that help you with starting an app-centered business?

In the IT program, you have to do a bit of programming. You have to know how to manage databases. Those kind of things have really helped me now. We outsource most of our app-building, but I have taught myself how to code in a lot of the programming languages we use and I will hop in and do some of the smaller tasks so our developers can focus on more critical pieces of the platform. I wouldn’t have been able to that without the course work at UMKC. It also helped me understand the overall architecture of things, which really helped me conceptualize how technology can be connected.

What does this award mean to you?

It’s an award that has my name on it, but I see it as all-encompassing of everyone who has been involved. Not only was I being rewarded, but so were my cofounders who have been here along for the ride with me. Also, family and friends who have been supportive from the beginning. It was nice to be able to share that with the individuals who have helped us for so long. Just to be able to tell them thank you was really important to me.

As an entrepreneur, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of what I, and the people around me, have accomplished so far. The things that I have learned, just in this last 13 months doing this, is probably more than most people who go into the corporate world learn in the first three or four years in the job. I’m just proud of all of the knowledge that I’ve gained so far and where we’ve come. At this point, no matter if Splitsy works or not, I've gained the knowledge and expertise to prepare me for what's next.

What advice would you have for others looking to create a startup?

It is a fun ride being an entrepreneur, but it has its ups and downs. Just be open and ready to execute your idea and go forward with your dream. Also whether things do well or things get tough, plug yourself in the right ecosystem, like I have here in Kansas City. There’s always people who you can count on.

About the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

The Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, which are sponsored by the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management, recognize innovative and creative accomplishments of entrepreneurs. The 2022 recipients will be honored at a ceremony Oct. 12, 2022.

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