Serial FinTech Founder Raises $ 20 Million For Ant Money To Make Microinvesting Even More Accessible – TechCrunch

Serial fintech entrepreneur Walter Cruttenden founded Acorns with his son Jeff in 2012 with the aim of helping low- and middle-income households invest and save responsibly. The pair wanted to make investing easier for the millions who are struggling to get started or keep investing.

Then, in 2018, Walter started a new business – Blast. With this company, he aimed to challenge traditional banking by offering personalized financial tools to players. In other words, Blast wanted to give users a way to save money while playing video games. (Cruttenden apparently acquired patents from Acorns in order to start this business).

Now that 2021 draws to a close, Cruttenden’s latest fintech, Ant Money, announces that it has raised $ 20 million in funding (a mix of seed capital and previously unannounced Series A) and acquired Blast via an equity merger. action.

Cruttenden founded Money from ants, a micro-income startup, with Mike Gleason in March 2020. Gleason, who previously founded and sold consumer brands, had also previously partnered with Walter to start a data monetization company called Ant Transaction Machines. He is CEO of Ant Money.

“By creating another company called Ant Transaction Machines and working with Blast, we realized that if we created a common platform, we could move forward faster as part of our larger mission, which was to help people. to open their first investment account, ”Gleason mentioned.

This common platform is (obviously) Ant Money. Gleason describes the startup as “a global and broader vision that now involves three applications and a platform.” Its current applications that drive investment accounts launched around the same time last year: ATM and Learn & Earn.

The merger brings together three applications – ATM, Blast and Learn & Earn – under the umbrella of Ant Money. The company insists that the move is not a consolidation. Each application will continue to exist and operate on its own. Destroy will continue to be gaming oriented. AT M focuses on enabling users to earn micro income. Learn and earn focuses on improving financial literacy. And all three are aimed at helping users open financial investment accounts.

ATM is specifically an application designed for users to earn micro-income to save money or invest in the stock market through SEC-approved “advisers” or integrated financial tools. Ant Money claims that users can earn $ 100 to $ 1,000 or more per year with the ATM app depending on their level of engagement.

The ATM app started off with a “monetizing your data” angle, but Ant has since softened that up a bit because, according to Gleason, it doesn’t sell or even share any data at all.

“What we What we’re doing is basically creating a way for investors to participate in rewards programs. So instead of opening an investment account and saying, ‘Hey, here’s some rewards,’ we actually go out and say here’s the income from the rewards or the ad and then invest that, ”Gleason said.

Before the merger, the Ant Money applications (ATM and Learn & Earn) had more than 500,000 users acquired in the last 12 months. Of these 500,000 users, 100,000 have investment accounts.

“We are able to go now and offer investments to more and more of those 500,000 users,” Gleason said. “Our goal is to end next year with one million investment accounts and over 3 million users.”

Ant Money works with “very large” companies (some with over 100 million customers) that offer cash backs or rewards or discounts on making their SDK (Software Development Toolkit) available to you. ‘they can integrate it into its investment platform.

“When we think of Ant Money, we think of ourselves as the ‘Investment Claim’,” Gleason told TechCrunch. “Affirm came out with buy now, pay later, and it’s integrated everywhere. At Ant Money, we go out and integrate what we have already created and built as a way to open investment accounts. I think it’s a very big differentiator for us from our competitors.

When I first discovered Ant Money, my first thought was, “Is this a competitor to Acorns?” Or is it more Robinhood? “

It’s actually positioned “somewhere between Acorns and Robinhood,” according to Gleason.

Tassels round off the change, and that goes into ETF buckets to diversify. There is no individual choice of actions. Robinhood gave the choice.

“And Walter really created Robo-Bumpers, which is a hybrid model where funds are put into ETFs and then the investor can allocate up to 50% of those individual stock selections from our pre-curated list, ”Gleason said. (A half of the portfolio includes five of the “world’s largest and cheapest ETFs,” according to the company, and the other half allows customization of up to ten individual stocks.)

Image credits: Walter Cruttenden / Ants’ money

Coinbase could also be seen as a competition, as it has leveraged the ‘Learn & Earn’ concept within its platform to help educate investors. And then there’s, which also brings education and other information to investors.

“I think we are in the middle of it all but I think we have a big advantage in terms of being able to open investment accounts. with very low customer acquisition costs, much lower than our competitors, and on a large scale, ”said Gleason. Unlike Acorns, Ant Money does not target any specific income bracket. Users may be as young as 13, but so far the startup is gaining a lot of popularity with young investors – in the 18-22 / 23 age bracket.

Ant Money currently has 55 employees and plans to use some of its new capital to increase its workforce and continue to acquire new customers.

Interestingly, the company’s revenue model is a mix of adtech and fintech.

Ant Money obtains revenue from advertisers indirectly as well as through a monthly subscription for its educational component. And finally, some large companies or nonprofits sponsor content or courses. Gemini, for example, offers sponsored crypto courses.

“We really want to make this all easy, straightforward and straightforward for our investors,” said Gleason.

James Cross, managing director of Franklin Templeton’s Franklin Venture Partners, believes that integrating investment features into apps that already pay user rewards or other incentives is “a fantastic way to help young investors get started.” and an innovative way for Ant Money to build a large customer base with relatively low customer acquisition costs. His company led the round, with participation from Steelpoint Capital Partners, Walter Cruttenden, RX3 Ventures and SteelBridge Laboratories.

Gleason declined to say how much Newport Beach, Calif., Ant Money paid for Blast, but noted that part of the Series A capital was issued to Blast holders.

In addition to founding several fintechs, Walter Cruttenden also founded Roth Capital Partners and is the former head of the investment banking arm of eTrade. Today, he is the chairman of Acorn an Ant Money.

Refusing to be interviewed due to a period of quiet as Acorns is on the verge of going public, Cruttenden said in a written statement that he hoped Ant Money, which helps people generate small sums of money, money to seed investment accounts, “can foster new and growing accounts, and provide increased financial security for millions of people.

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