Makayla, a single mother, stays up all night with her two preschool children so they will sleep while she goes to work. Ever since her car was stolen, she doesn’t have the money for daycare.
Tina and Richard struggle with the impact of Tina’s serious health issue: the loss of her income and the 400+ percent interest on the payday loan they took out to pay medical bills her health plan had denied.
Terri’s $300-a-month wage garnishment for student loans has her considering leaving her job as she just can’t make ends meet.
Engel had fallen in love and wanted to get married, but he was worried he couldn’t do that given his finances. He didn’t understand the financial system in this country when he arrived from Nicaragua a few years ago, and now he has debt across five credit cards and a credit score of 430.
Helping these families is why I became a co-founder of Brightside. And these families are not the exceptions in the US. The statistics are clear that they are the majority of working families. Families living paycheck to paycheck who have a financial shock every year, in good years. All of us here at Brightside are honored to be serving these families, and honored today to announce our Series A Funding Round.
I remember the evening when Shawn Leavitt and Michael Yang sat me down at a bar in Seattle after a dinner for the board of Accolade, a healthcare company I’d co-founded. It quickly became apparent that I was being pitched an idea — to create a business that would help working families navigate the financial system, as Accolade had helped families navigate the healthcare system. Shawn had an amazing and inspiring vision for those sweet spots that made “his” employee’s lives better and drove exceptional value for his company’s shareholders. And he was not afraid to make others uncomfortable when they were not onboard. A few days later, in a coffee shop in Philadelphia, he walked me through the compelling business case for employers to invest in really improving employee financial health, and I agreed to help him and Callum King of Comcast Ventures build out his vision of Brightside.
Shawn saw the lack of a good solution for employers to drive meaningful ROI from improving a population’s financial health. Like in physical and mental health, he saw that financial “wellness” companies exist to try to fill that role for financial health. Largely serving people who are already healthy and without solutions for those who are financially sick, financial wellness companies naturally don’t get significant engagement. He also saw that there were interesting point solutions that could help those living paycheck to paycheck, but they were dangerous because they did not look at the employee’s entire financial picture (and therefore other options) and, most critically, their business model was to make money off of these families, not improve their financial health. Shawn would never “sell access to his employees” to companies that, in turn, just wanted to sell loans that would make their financial health worse. He wanted a company that had high engagement from being a benefit people trusted and an integral part of the employee journey in the moments that mattered. One that would be safe because it would be holistic and on the side of the employee as they navigated the complex, scary world of financial services and point solutions. One that would be effective because it offered humans to deal with the complexity of employee’s lives and relentless in delivering outcomes.
Today we are announcing our $35 million Series A funding round, after spending the weekend marking three months since Shawn’s tragic passing. Brightside is delivering on Shawn’s vision, with thousands of stories like the ones above, all ones where we made a big difference in the lives of those families and proved we could improve their financial health. We’ve also proven that we can engage more than half of the families at any employer that looks like America and drive a Net Promoter Score of over 84 while doing so. That we can put $1,200 on average in people’s pockets when they work with us. And that the people that use us are 47% less likely to leave their employer, 14% less likely to take a hardship loan on their 401(k), and 40% more likely to start saving for the next emergency.
Andreessen Horowitz was my first choice to lead this funding round. I’d seen them in action supporting Accolade and their team understood our vision immediately and provided incredible thinking on FinTech. Adding the Cultural Leadership Fund to our investors is an honor, as their mission of enabling more African-Americans to enter the technology industry aligns well with our mission: improving the financial health of working Americans will mean reducing disparities in financial health and promoting diversity and inclusion at employers. We are also honored to have Semper Virens invest, and believe their partnership with us confirms that seasoned HR executives and consultants see the unique value of our solution. And we are excited to have our founding investors, Comcast Ventures and Trinity Ventures, continue to invest in Brightside.
But what matters most to me is that one of our amazing Financial Assistants found a program to subsidize most of Makaya’s day care costs and helped her finance another car. Another found a much better loan that saved Tina and Richard hundreds of dollars a month while getting their expenses to their priorities. With our help, Terri was able to just pay $5-a-month for 3 months and then the garnishment was lifted. And Engel is now in much better financial shape … and married.
All of us at Brightside are excited to help millions more families. And, in doing so, create the future of how working families access financial services.