An “anonymously”-led startup called Millions has raised a $ 3 million seed round for its fintech company that’s currently giving away free money through its Twitter account. The concept, inspired by the likes of YouTuber David Dobrik, is partly aimed at attracting attention for the new company but is also setting the stage for a forthcoming business model of sorts, where brands could participate in giveaways more directly.
The idea of brand and cash giveaways is not a new one, of course. Outside of social media personalities and traditional sweepstakes like Publishers Clearing House, the mobile game HQ Trivia more recently had tried to integrate brand giveaways in an attempt to draw players to its live trivia games. But HQ Trivia couldn’t maintain an audience after the novelty wore off and eventually shut down, after also dealing with internal strife and tragedy.
Millions has a different idea. Instead of weekly live games, users follow the Twitter account @millions, which either does a drop of some sort or gives away money to its followers every month. This month, for example, the account is launching its “million dollar sweepstakes.” Users follow @millions on Twitter, visit Millions.app, the enter 6 numbers. If all 6 match, they win $ 1 million*. (See details below).
Next month, the startup will launch a game called “are you my number neighbor?” where users will enter their phone number on a website, and if it’s just a digit off from the phone number on the site, the user wins $ 100,000.
These stunts — apparently just giving away investor cash — are meant to raise brand awareness and acquire customers.
“If you think about customer acquisition costs — and this is a little bit controversial — people just give money to Facebook or Instagram, or Apple or Google. The money goes straight to a social network and not the people,” explained a Millions co-founder, who asked to remain anonymous. “They’re trying to get the people, but they’re not giving the people the money. The Millions way is really giving the people the money. We don’t need to run advertisements. We’re giving the money directly to the people, and hopefully, they follow our ecosystem, subscribe for updates, and they’ll see the future launch,” they said.
Ultimately, the larger plan for Millions is to transfer the customers it acquires through the games to the fintech play, which will also have something to do with winning money.
TechCrunch agreed to not reveal the co-founders’ name during a discussion to learn what the startup was up to, as they said they wanted to keep the game playful and anonymous for the time being. But we’re not breaking any agreements by pointing to what’s easy-to-access, publicly available data. We found the company, Mycard Inc. is referenced on the Millions website’s Terms as the legal entity behind this endeavour. That same company is on this SEC filing for a $ 3 million fundraise in December 2020. The filing lists two names: Kieran and Rory O’Reilly. These are the same names as the brothers behind gifs.com.
Investors in the startup’s seed round included Giant Ventures, 8VC, Supernode, Supernode, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Italic CEO Jeremy Cai, Allbirds co-founder and CEO Joey Zwillinger, Casper co-founders Neil Parikh and Luke Sherwin, MSCHF head of strategy and growth Daniel Greenberg, CEO of Deel Alex Bouaziz, CEO of Hellosaurus James Ruben, CEO of Beek Pamela Valdes, PM at Facebook (for the Payments Gateway team) Luis Vargas, co-founder of Block Renovations Koda Want, CEO of Nebula Genomics Kamal Obbad, plus some of the co-founders from Warby Parker and Harry’s, and other fintech angels.
A few investors also agreed to vouch for Millions on the record, and hinted at the MyCard product to come.
“This company is creating delight from what would otherwise be the mundane, everyday necessity of swiping a credit card. We invested in Millions because they will spark joy in people’s lives, and think the traditional points model of accumulating hard-to-use airline and hotel points is tired, and ripe for reinvention,” said Allbirds co-founder and CEO Joey Zwillinger.
“Millions is building an incredibly loyal audience through an unparalleled, engaging customer experience and the $ 1M giveaway is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come. These are some of the strongest founders I know and have truly captured lightning in a bottle,” said Italic CEO Jeremy Cai.
“I invested in Millions because the trend is clear – people love winning money.It’s clear that there’s something going on here. Millions is dedicated to giving away money in crazy ways and I’m happy to be involved,” said MSCHF head of strategy and growth, Daniel Greenberg.
Millions’ arrival, however, comes at a time when people are desperate for money due to the economic downturn driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of government assistance. The pandemic has exacerbated the class divide, leading people (including the Pope) to question whether capitalism has failed. It has fueled the “eat the rich” ethos behind the GameStop frenzy. And this situation has added a darker layer to otherwise do-gooder activities, like Dobrick’s stunts or Lexy Kadey’s TikTok “Venmo Challenges,” where she tips waitstaff and fast food workers hundreds or even a thousand dollars and films them breaking down in relief.
Millions’ co-founder acknowledges we’re in a time of need, but also argues that’s why the product makes sense.
“If you think about what’s going on in the world right now — with the pandemic and the 99% versus the 1% — people are looking for a) hope and b) money,” they said. “If you can combine a product that has two of those things, you’re giving people fun, excitement, and something to look forward to…I think that’s really inspiring.”
*Note: Like many sweepstakes, you’re playing for a “chance” to win. But in this case, $ 10,000 is a guaranteed Grand Prize win for one person. The Millions website lists the digital promotions company Realtime Media as being involved in helping manage the game. However, the insurance provider that insures the program is actually HCC.
Tresl’s flagship product, e-commerce intelligence platform Segment Analytics, is designed to give small brands on Shopify access to the same kind of analytics larger online retailers have. Founded by former LinkedIn data scientists, Tresl is currently exhibiting at CES’ Taiwan Tech Arena.
Segments Analytics analyzes a Shopify store’s data and then automatically sorts visitors into more 30 pre-built customer segments based on their browsing habits, spending and how likely they are to make repeat purchases.
This means that brands can identify specific groups of shoppers and use Segments Analytics’ suggestions for targeted campaigns without spending too much on data analytics, marketing or user acquisition. For example, one of the segments the platform identifies are people who have made one purchase already, but are unlikely to buy again unless they see an ad or promotion soon. Segments Analytics can be used for advertising across multiple channels, including email, Facebook and Google.
Tresl claims that brands using Segments Analytics have increased their clickthrough rates on abandoned cart flows (or reminders sent to customers who have unpurchased items) by 30% and grown sales by 40% month-over-month within one month of implementing the platform.
Segments Analytics is currently available through the Shopify App Store, with subscriptions starting from $ 79 a month.
Amount, a new service that helps traditional banks compete in a digital world, has raised $ 81 million from none other than Goldman Sachs as it looks to help legacy fintech players compete with their more nimble digital counterparts.
The company, which spun out from the startup lending company Avant in January of this year, has already inked deals with Banco Popular, HSBC, Regions Bank and TD Bank to power their digital banking services and offer products like point-of-sale lending to compete with challenger banks like Chime and lenders like Affirm or Klarna.
“Most banks are looking for resources and infrastructure to accelerate their digital strategy and meet the demands of today’s consumer,” said Jade Mandel, a vice president in Goldman Sachs’ growth equity platform, GS Growth, who will be joining the board of directors at Amount, in a statement. “Amount enables banks to navigate digital transformation through its modular and mobile-first platform for financial products. We’re excited to partner with the team as they take on this compelling market opportunity.”
Complementing those customer-facing services is a deep expertise in fraud prevention on the back-end to help banks provide more loans with less risk than competitors, according to chief executive Adam Hughes.
It’s the combination of these three services that led Goldman to take point on a new $ 81 million investment in the company, with participation from previous investors August Capital, Invus Opportunities and Hanaco Ventures — giving Amount a post-money valuation of $ 681 million and bringing the company’s total capital raised in 2020 to a whopping $ 140 million.
Think of Amount as a white-labeled digital banking service provider for Luddite banks that hadn’t upgraded their services to keep pace with demands of a new generation of customers or the COVID-19 era of digital-first services for everything.
Banks pay a pretty penny for access to Amount’s services. On top of a percentage for any loans that a bank processes through Amount’s services, there’s an up-front implementation fee that typically averages at $ 1 million.
The hefty price tag is a sign of how concerned banks are about their digital challengers. Hughes said that they’ve seen a big uptick in adoption since the launch of their buy-now-pay-later product designed to compete with the fast growing startups like Affirm and Klarna .
Indeed, by offering banks these services, Amount gives Klarna and Affirm something to worry about. That’s because banks conceivably have a lower cost of capital than the startups and can offer better rates to borrowers. They also have the balance sheet capacity to approve more loans than either of the two upstart lenders.
“Amount has the wind at its back and the industry is taking notice,” said Nigel Morris, the co-founder of Capital One and an investor in Amount through the firm QED Investors. “The latest round brings Amount’s total capital raised in 2020 to nearly $ 140 million, which will provide for additional investments in platform research and development while accelerating the company’s go-to-market strategy. QED is thrilled to be a part of Amount’s story and we look forward to the company’s future success as it plays a vital role in the digitization of financial services.”
FT Partners served as advisor to Amount on this transaction.
Working in over 70 medical centers around the globe, Israeli MedTech startup INSIGHTEC’s Essential Tremor treatment is approved for reimbursement by one of the largest national healthcare systems in the world.
Read more here.
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“If it smells, that’s how they’re going to receive it.”
While that claim would likely make most D2C founders cringe, for founder Chris Alston, it’s part of the magic of his company, Mov. The upstart, based in Los Angeles, connects fans to the game-worn apparel of their favorite athletes through a sweepstakes-style model. And in the market of sports memorabilia, authenticity (even if it includes sweat, blood and tears) is everything.
“We send it as is,” he said. “We want to make it a really special experience for the fans.”
Mov, launched just a few weeks ago, is more than a rebranded eBay or NBA auction site. The company, founded by Alston, his brother Brandon and Jacqueline Pounder, uses a sweepstakes-style model to raise money for a game-worn item. With each sale, 70% of money raised goes toward a cause of the athlete’s choice. The remaining 30% goes to Mov employees and operations. Causes currently listed on the website include Milwaukee Freedom Fund, Girls and Boys Club of Portland and With Us Foundation.
“Athletes wear these game-worn items, and our platform gives them a way to donate and make an impact without any extra time on them and their busy schedules,” Alston said. All an athlete has to do is ship their item to a Los Angeles warehouse after the game, and Mov will get it into the winner’s hands.
Like any sweepstakes model, there’s no purchase necessary to enter. Everyone gets one free ticket to win an item, whether it’s CJ McCollum’s Li-Ning Yushuai 13 sneakers or Pat Connaughton’s Equality jersey. However, if a fan wants to buy more tickets to increase their chances, they can do so for $ 1 to $ 2 a ticket.
“Typically with game-worn gear, it’s whoever has the most money,” Alston said. “For us, we’re allowing anyone to enter to win for one ticket, and so we’re decreasing the barrier to entry.”
Alston grew up surrounded by philanthropy and sports. His grandparents took their own school board to court, and helped lead desegregation efforts in Virginia Schools. His brother is a professional basketball player and Alston himself played college football at Columbia University. Eventually Alston dropped out of Columbia to pursue tech entrepreneurship.
With that background, it would have made sense that Alston landed on creating a product that combines charitable causes with athletes. However, the first iteration of Mov looked far different than it does today. The product started as a video e-commerce platform, basically creating a video version of eBay. After Mov had difficulty scaling its marketplace, he thought of new ways to define his market. He landed on the network of athletes that he and his brother know well — and the fact that a not-so-tiny NBA rule change had recently passed.
In 2018, NBA players were allowed to start wearing any sneaker color of their choice. While it might be a small deal to some, the ability to wear different kinds of sneakers quickly turned into players repping charities or causes on their gear during games. Alston saw Mov as a way to take gear that athletes either throw out or give away and repurpose it for a good cause.
The success of Mov, from both a charity and revenue perspective, depends on how many fans sign up for its service and eventually pay for a chance to win an item. While the founder would not disclose total users just yet, he finds optimism in how much money an item is able to make through Mov. For example, Pat Connaughton’s Jersey made $ 2,164 on Mov versus $ 560 on the NBA auction site.
“During this crazy time, crazy year, we’re really trying to maximize how everyone can give back,” he said.