Brothers’ Truebill Pays Off, Truly
Entrepreneurial Terps Sell Financial Planning App for $1.275B
By Liam Farrell
Photo by Merrissa Humble/Truebill
After selling their website-building company, Webs.com, to Vistaprint in 2015, brothers Haroon ’01, Zeki ’01, Yahya ’06 and Idris ’10 Mokhtarzada turned their attention to solving what seemed to be a universal problem in the digital subscription age: How many things are people paying for that they don’t even use or remember? In Haroon’s case, it turned out that he was still shelling out $40 a month for a security system at a house he no longer lived in.
Six years later, their Truebill financial management system, which offers subscription management, tracks spending and even helps with bill negotiations, had reached more than 2 million people and resulted in 1 million subscription cancellations and $100 million in savings. In December, the Silver Spring, Md., firm was acquired by Rocket Companies for $1.275 billion.
“It definitely exceeded all of our expectations in a major way, not just in how big it got, but how fast it got there,” says Haroon.
The family connection to UMD began with their parents, Mohammad Younos Mokhtarzada ’70, M.A. ’74 and Ilhan Cagri Ph.D. ’05, who met in College Park and returned to Maryland after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The couple always wanted their children to attend UMD, where they got Webs.com off the ground from Zeki and Haroon’s dorm room.
Truebill was initially based in San Francisco. But in 2019, the family’s longtime and renewed East Coast ties—Idris’ wife, Sara Rahnama ’06, joined the faculty at Morgan State—along with having some remote employees already in the D.C. area and obtaining economic development grants from Montgomery County prompted a shift of its center of operations. From a strategic standpoint, Idris (at center above, with Haroon, left, and Yahya, right) says the move to Maryland was also an attempt to stave off the “brain drain” of local talented techies by providing a nearby, competitive experience for anyone who might otherwise go to Silicon Valley.
“There’s this untapped market in this area,” he says. “We get to be a shining star.”
For now, they plan to stay on and work with Truebill and Rocket. And from being angel investors in more than 100 startups, giving to charities and funding their own entrepreneurship program at UMD (see below), the Mokhtarzada brothers also want to make sure their success is defined by more than just high-profile acquisitions.
“Our parents really made sure that ethos was cemented in us. We were very fortunate to be leaving (Afghanistan),” Haroon says. “When you have that opportunity, it comes with a lot of responsibility.”
Hatching the Future
The Mokhtarzada brothers are trying to make sure the next billion-dollar tech company also comes from UMD through their support of a new startup incubator on campus.
The Mokhtarzada Hatchery, located in the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, annually provides up to four teams of student entrepreneurs with grants of up to $10,000, workspace, and mentoring and networking opportunities.
From spare time to in-demand skills, Idris says, college students are perfectly situated for startups, and often require just a “little nudge that they need to get over that hump.”
Leave a Reply
* indicates a required field