Financial Solutions for Underserved Communities
August 11, 2020 | Scott Murphy
While the average American carries four credit cards in their wallets, a significant portion of the population is struggling to find a single payment option. A quarter of U.S. households are either “unbanked or underbanked,” including roughly 11 million people in the U.S. with dementia, special needs, or recovering from addiction who have no access to banking or financial services.
True Link Financial, an Alumni Ventures Group portfolio company, is providing payment cards, investment management, and other financial services to these underserved populations. Led by a mission-oriented founder, True Link has developed a business model that allows them to do well by doing good. The company is expanding access to key financial solutions to disadvantaged individuals while following a playbook that helped financial providers like USAA, American Express, and SoFi grow into massively valuable companies.
Customizable Payment Options
True Link currently has two main products. First, they offer prepaid, customizable debit cards that can be set to work at specific times and locations. For example, customers can use the card at the grocery store or the gas pump but not with telemarketers or at liquor stores. The program allows clients to remain independent and maintain their quality of life, while allowing their loved ones and caretakers to ensure they’re making responsible purchases.
Second, True Link offers investment portfolios specifically designed for retirees and people with disabilities. Clients can use their assets to pay bills, issue checks, or put money onto a True Link Card. True Link’s integrated system provides the same customization and protection features, while creating the opportunity to cross-sell to their debit card clients.
True Link has already experienced strong penetration within a growing market. The company’s focus on specific demographics provides numerous advantages. True Link is able to collect and implement insights from customers facing similar financial challenges, allowing the company to create a better product and increase retention and virality. With multiple product offerings, True Link is aiming to become the preferred vendor for the populations they serve across the entire financial stack (banking, investing, insurance, etc.).
Deep Experience in Venture
True Link Founder and CEO Kai Stinchcombe has spent the past 14 years working in C-suite roles at venture-backed startups, including founding roles at Aktana and Strategic Districts. Prior to launching True Link, Stinchcombe served as Head of Risk and Data Science at Lendup, which provides credit-building loans for people in short-term financial need. He co-founded True Link with COO Claire McDonnell, a Fulbright Scholar with VC experience at Bain and Innovation Endeavors.
Alumni Ventures Group was able to access a deal with True Link through an alumni connection established by Spike Ventures, AVG’s fund for the Stanford community. Spike Senior Associate Weston Moyer had built a relationship with a Stanford GSB alumni who serves as a Director at True Link. They notified Wes about their current round and recommended Spike contact Stinchcombe, who also earned a master’s degree from Stanford. AVG’s core funds frequently leverage alumni networks to access deals and build relationships with entrepreneurs and established VCs, which provides a unique, robust deal pipeline for our investors.
Our Deal with True Link
Spike sponsored Alumni Ventures Group’s participation in a $35 million Series B led by Khosla Ventures. The firm is a well-known Silicon Valley investor with roughly 180 exits generating $29.2 billion in value upon exit. Khosla’s lead partner on the deal is a 10x Midas List VC who invests heavily in fintech.
Several AVG funds also deployed capital in the round, including Castor Ventures (for the MIT community), Congress Avenue Ventures (for the U Texas community), Fission Ventures (for the Columbia community), Purple Arch Ventures (for the Northwestern community), Strawberry Creek Ventures (for the UC Berkeley community), Waterman Ventures (for the Brown community), Westwood Ventures (for the UCLA community), The Yard Ventures (for the Harvard community), and AVG’s Total Access Fund.