One-Liner Pitch: Acorns aims to let users invest with just their spare change.
Why It's Taking Off: The app, which is still in beta, automatically rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the difference in an investment portfolio.
When Jeff Cruttenden was 11 years old, his father asked him to pick one stock to invest in. He took some time to look through a few stocks and then went with his gut.
"It was a cheese company," Cruttenden, now 27, recalls. "It went completely bust."
For some households, this might be seen as an unusual exercise in parenting, but Cruttenden was always steeped in the world of investing. His father, Walter, led E-Trade's transition to online investing in the late 1990s with EOffering. Walter talked with his family about investing frequently, and some of those conversations apparently rubbed off on Jeff.
Jeff says he became an "evangelizer" for investing while in college, but found that even those who expressed some interest typically ran into one of a few obstacles: either they couldn't afford the minimum balance to set up an investing account, or they were deterred by the exorbitant commissions taken by some brokerages, or else they simply couldn't decide what to invest in.
|Jeff Cruttenden, co-founder and COO of Acorns|
In late 2011, Jeff began talking with his father about an idea to take advantage of the popularity of smartphones and create a platform that would be more appealing to those who've never invested. In essence, he wanted to help push investing into the smartphone era in the same way that his father helped push it into the online era years earlier. he wanted to help push investing into the smartphone era in the same way that his father helped push it into the online era years earlier.
The result of those conversations is Acorns, a startup founded by Jeff and his father, which came out of stealth mode on Monday after nearly two years. The Acorns app for iPhone and Android, both still in beta, automatically rounds up purchases from your credit or debit card accounts to the nearest dollar and invests the difference into a portfolio of index funds. There's no minimum balance and the fee is just 1%. Acorns will charge users $1 a month for the service, though it also will give users $5 when they first create their accounts.
"We're not setting out to change peoples' behavior," Jeff says. "I think the average person knows they should save or invest more, but it's difficult to make that commitment. We wanted to build something that could work in the background."
The app potentially gives users a way to earn more from their spare change, but as with any investment, there's also the potential you might end up with less over time than you would have if you just kept your change in a piggy bank. Those who sign up to use the app will be asked how risky they would like their investments to be.
Acorns recently closed a $5.5 million Series B funding round led by Jacobs Asset Management and has raised a total of $8.3 million to date. The startup, which is based in Newport Beach, Calif., currently has 20 people on staff and even has one Nobel laureate — economist Harry Markowitz — on its board.
The team plans to launch the Acorns app sometime in the second quarter of this year. For now, users can sign up to have their email added to the list.
View the official Acorns site Here