If you regularly have 50 cents left over from your daily coffee purchase, you could be doing more with it than simply tossing it in a jar with all your other shrapnel.
The fintech app, Acorns, which officially launched in Australia on Wednesday — its first market outside the U.S. — aims to help people start investing with only small amounts of money, and without high commissions and prohibitively large minimum account balances.
The free Android and iPhone app, which was founded in 2012 by Jeff Cruttenden and his father, Walter Cruttenden, aims to open up investing to young people and those who might be intimidated by the process.
The company chose Australia as its international starting point because of the country’s similarities with America, Colton Dillion, global company director of Acorns, told Mashable Australia. “We have similar investing and saving [habits] … and the readiness of the market for the Acorns product appeared to be about the same,” he explained.
The company began a beta testing phase for the app in December, and claims to have signed up 26,000 people as of launch day.
Acorns chose a rough day to kick off Down Under — the global stock market has been taking a serious beating in recent days and the outlook is decidedly gloomy. “Unfortunately, we picked this date awhile ago and we forgot to tell the stock market about it,” laughed George Lucas, managing director of Acorns Australia. He wasn’t too concerned, though: “We’ve already got 26,000 people signed up. They understand the market goes up and down.”
“If you ask Warren Buffet, … he says it’s always best to buy stocks when they’re at a discount, and they haven’t had prices this low since the beginning of 2014,” Dillon added.
Acorns can be approached in a number of ways. Using Acorns’ “round up” model, if users connect their banking details, the app will track their purchases, rounding up each transaction to the nearest dollar and investing the difference in a portfolio. “It’s a way to painlessly build up an investment account,” Dillon said.
They can also chose to add lump sums or make recurring deposits.
To keep things simple, users can only choose from five portfolios depending on the level of risk they’re comfortable with and their investment goals. “At Acorns, we like to say we’re making big investment decisions into small investment decisions,” Dillion explained.
There’s no minimum account balance required on opening an account, but you’ll need at least $5 to keep investing. Money can also be withdrawn at anytime with just a couple of swipes. For its part, Acorns charges A$1.25 per month for accounts below A$5,000, and 0.275% per year on accounts over A$5,000.
In May 2015, the stock-trading app, Robinhood, proposed launching Down Under, although financial experts suggested the startup might run into regulatory issues as it hoped to allow Australians to buy U.S. listed stocks, among other concerns.
According to Lucas, Acorns won’t run into the same hurdles. “Although the software comes from the U.S., the whole things has been ‘Australian-ised’ to make sure it fits in with Australian financial services regulation,” he said. The team took nine months to get ready for the Australian market, he added, and the data of Australian users will also be stored domestically.
Although apps like Acorns and Robinhood are going after the first-time, millennial investor, questions have been raised about whether young people even want to invest or whether the apps could become exploitative.
For Lucas, an app like Acorns can have a positive impact, introducing young people to financial literacy. “Because you’re not risking A$50,000 or A$20,000, because you can open an account for $5, people get comfortable following the market,” he said. “And also, you can get your money back at any time.”
When Visa bought Plaid this week for $5.3 billion, a figure that was twice its private valuation, it was a clear signal that traditional financial services companies are looking for ways to modernize their approach to business.
With Plaid, Visa picks up a modern set of developer APIs that work behind the scenes to facilitate the movement of money. Those APIs should help Visa create more streamlined experiences (both at home and inside other companies’ offerings), build on its existing strengths and allow it to do more than it could have before, alone.
But don’t take our word for it. To get under the hood of the Visa-Plaid deal and understand it from a number of perspectives, TechCrunch got in touch with analysts focused on the space and investors who had put money into the erstwhile startup.
The Libra Association — the government body of the eponymous stablecoin introduced by Facebook in late 2019 — has formed a new committee to guide the network’s technical development.
According to an announcement on Jan. 16, the Libra Association has voted to establish the five-member Technical Steering Committee which comprises leading experts from various firms in the fintech and blockchain industries.
The members are: Calibra core product lead George Cabrera III, Anchorage co-founder Diogo Monica, Union Square Ventures partner Nick Grossman, Bison Trails CEO and founder Joe Lallouz, and Mercy Corps director of emerging technology Ric Shreves.
In overseeing the technical aspects of the Libra network’s development, the committee will direct the technical roadmap for the Libra network, form working groups to prioritize selected avenues of research, guide the development of a codebase, and generally develop and engage the Libra development community.
The statement claims that the creation of a separate committee is in line with the Libra project’s goal of being decentralized and self-governing “independent of any one organization’s control.”
The committee says that it will publish its technical governance framework and other relevant documents by the end of the first fiscal quarter of 2020.
Independence from any one organization
Faceboook’s announcement of the Libra stablecoin and payments network, along with its corresponding Calibra wallet last year, made waves in the tech and cryptocurrency communities while globally, legislators and regulators wasted no time in scrutinizing the project.
The social media giant’s previous history with data breaches and mishandling of user information has been at the forefront of some regulators’ concerns. At a hearing before the United States Congress last summer, Calibra head David Marcus assured lawmakers — some more convingly than others — that Facebook would not have access to Libra users’ financial records and information and that such data would be kept separate from social platform’s user data.
Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of Ripple — the firm behind the XRP token — said that Libra will likely not receive regulatory approval before 2023, stating that the stablecoin’s debut may have gone over better if Facebook had not been at the head of the project.
Indeed, regulators have been grappling with how to classify the new asset. Last November, lawmakers in the United States introduced legislation that would regulate the coin under securities laws.
Following the bill’s introduction, the Libra Association quietly updated the coin’s whitepaper, with the biggest change being the removal of dividends payable to those early investors. Not only does the change remove a potential conflict of interest between the Libra Association members, and end-users of the currency, but could address concerns that Libra should be classified as a security.
One of the most valuable resources in the tech startup community is mentorship. Founders, tackling brand new challenges and adapting to a rapidly changing world, can sometimes feel like no one understands what they’re going through.
But alas, the Early Stage SF event in April will most certainly prove them wrong. Early Stage will bring together seasoned operators and experts across a wide variety of topics that fall under the broad umbrellas of funding, marketing and operations.
How do you secure funding? How do you get to your first yes? How do you identify the right investors? And the right lead investor? How do you negotiate a cap table that makes sense for you and your team? How do you get from seed to Series A? These are some of the questions our speakers will answer, and that’s just on the topic of funding.
We’ll also hear from experts in the legal arena, wizards of the tech stack, leadership coaches, brand design geniuses, growth hackers and more!
Each of these experts will lead 40-minute breakout sessions, including a brief presentation followed directly by a Q&A session with the audience.
How to Make Immigration Work For You – Sophie Alcorn
Dealing with a tricky visa situation? Troubleshoot the many snags that can affect early-stage startups that are trying to bring talent into the country, with top Silicon Valley immigration expert Sophie Alcorn.
How to Structure Your Fintech Startup – Rebecca Lynn
With the disintermediation of banks, and financial services more broadly, startups that are well-structured can really have major advantages entering those markets. From benchmarking growth metrics that matter to navigating regulatory changes, learn more about Canvas Ventures’ approach toward evaluating founding teams and equipping companies with what it takes to make the most of opportunities in fintech.
Time Isn’t on Your Side, So Timing Better Be – MG Siegler
We live in an era of app and services inundation. The problem for early-stage startups isn’t a lack of good ideas, it’s a lack of time that users have to try out such things, let alone implement them into their lives. M.G. Siegler will go through some ideas and trends that could be interesting entry points for startups to break through.
How to Avoid 1,000 Landmines – Garry Tan
When you’re starting your company, there are thousands of small, avoidable mistakes that can turn success into failure. Learn how to navigate around those and maximize your chance of success with key learnings from Garry Tan, founder and managing partner at Initialized Capital.
Early Stage SF will have approximately 50 different breakout sessions covering a variety of startup core competencies. The hope is that early-stage founders can come in with a blank notebook and leave with a semester’s worth of insights and information on how to tackle the challenges of the future.
Obviously, there is only so much time in the day, and it would be impossible for an attendee to participate in every single breakout session. But fear not! Transcripts from every breakout will be made available to attendees.
And there’s one more thing!
Our speakers have graciously agreed to spend part of the day at the show participating in CrunchMatch. CrunchMatch allows founders, investors, etc. to fill in information about who they’d like to meet — for example, a D2C startup founder might want to meet with brand design experts and e-commerce VCs — and set a time and place for a quick meeting right at the event.
Here’s the fine print. Each of the 50+ breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today. Pass holders will also receive 24-hour advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.)
So get your TC Early Stage: San Francisco pass today, and get the inside track on the sessions we announced today, as well as the ones to be announced in the coming weeks.
Possible sponsor? We have some very nifty ways to bring sponsors in on the show flow, so please contact us here!