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Elevator pitch: Hnry, the financial service for self-employed people

Anyone who’s worked as a contractor, consultant or freelancer knows that alongside the freedom and flexibility it brings, the administration side of things can be a bit of a pain. Alongside the hassle of working out income taxes, there’s also GST, ACC, student loans and KiwiSaver to think about.

And yet, the gig economy is growing in Aotearoa as people take advantage of the opportunity to work flexibly, remotely or juggle different employers. At present, 17 percent of the workforce is classed as self-employed – or one in six New Zealanders.

Enter Hnry. It’s a one-stop shop “financial sidekick” for self-employed contractors, freelancers, sole traders and gig workers.

It automates these tasks on a pay-as-you-go basis and takes care of financial obligations, such as taxes, through predictive analytics software.

The algorithm takes into account how much the user earns, the sort of work they do and predicted business expenses, then analyses earning patterns and applies income forecasting models to it.

Each customer gets their own unique Hnry Bank Account to have their self-employed income paid into. When the funds are received into this account, Hnry automatically calculates, deducts and pay the right amount of taxes, before passing the remainder on to the customer, along with a payslip.

The cost? One percent of your self-employed income, capped at a maximum of $2000 if you earn over $200,000.

The idea for Hnry came about after the co-founders found themselves working as freelancers and contractors and witnessing first-hand what an arduous task it is to manage financial tasks.

“We weren’t running a small business, but suddenly the banks and government treated us as though we were, expecting us to produce balance sheets and cash flow forecasts just to get a loan or a mortgage,” Fuller says.

Fuller says traditionally, contractors and freelancers have been expected to figure out how everything works for themselves using a myriad of online calculators and spreadsheets, or hiring an accountant.

The vision with Hnry is to make being self-employed as simple and hassle-free as having a permanent job.

“We realised that we could bring self-employment in to the 21st century, and do all of this and more as a single end-to-end service that took all the stress away, allowing people to focus back on the things they actually want to do, knowing that all their financial admin was taken care of,” Fuller says.

Hnry’s service was designed in 2017, with input from New Zealand’s four biggest accounting firms, legal experts and government agencies, leading to it becoming an accredited tax agent for the IRD and ACC. It also was a graduate of the 2017 KiwiBank Fintech Accelerator, and finally launched to the public in 2018.

James Fuller

While its launch was bootstrapped, in 2018, Hnry raised nearly $1 million from local investors such as accountants, financial professionals and angel investors. The company now counts eight full-time staff and has almost outgrown its Wellington office.

Fuller says in terms of users, Hnry has gone from having a few early adopters on board, to thousands of people now using its service in under two years.

“We’re seeing a massive rise in the number of people who are starting to earn independently ­– not just full time contractors, freelancers, gig-workers and self-employed people, but also people working alongside their permanent jobs, and people later in their careers deciding to come back to the workforce part time,” he says.

As for Hnry’s biggest competitor, Fuller says its service is unique, so the main competition is individuals who are trying to do everything themselves. This proved a challenge when trying to get word out about its services initially, but he says referrals have been a game changer.

Fuller says another point of difference with its services is Hnry isn’t a faceless software corporation. It is now classed as New Zealand’s fastest growing tax agency, and has local tax experts on hand for users to engage with.

In terms of the gig economy, Fuller says if New Zealand continues to move in line with global trends, the number of Kiwis who are self-employed is set to rise over the coming years.

“Globally, the self-employed economy is predicted to grow by 50 percent year-on-year for the next few years, so we’re definitely seeing a huge rise in the number of people who are looking to earn independently.

“With the emergence of new gig economy services like Uber, Lime and Airbnb, we’re also seeing a whole new generation of independent earners being added to the hundreds of thousands of existing Kiwi contractors and freelancers.”

As for the company’s next moves, Fuller says there’s been interest for Hnry’s services overseas, so it’s exploring some ways it could take its Kiwi slant on self-employment out to the rest of the world.

“We have a large number of customers who work for overseas clients, receiving income from overseas in to their Hnry accounts, and we really want to help others take advantage of opportunities like this, helping people get the most out of being an independent earner by opening up the opportunity to earn income from both outside New Zealand, as well as closer to home.”

He says Hnry’s big, audacious goal all boils down to helping as many people as they can, as the flexibility of work life increases.

“Our team have all felt the pain of the financial admin first hand, and we want to help others to avoid it,” he says. “We’re committed to continuing to provide a service that’s accessible to anyone, at a price point that is fair and reasonable for everyone.”

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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