Blog 16: BrightUp
Democratizing financial wealth building and personal well-being
Company: BrightUp operates a financial wellness platform intended to democratize financial wealth building and personal well-being. The company's platform partners with employers to deliver a comprehensive financial wellness benefit to their employees to grow their net worth and improve their self-worth as well as offer low-cost emergency loans that are repaid through paycheck deductions, enabling employees to be financially healthy and holistically wealthy.
HQ Location & Year Founded: Boston, 2020
Founder: Valerie Mosley, Founder and CEO, previously created Valmo Ventures to advise and invest in companies that add value both to investors and society. She has invested in and advises Fundify, The World's Platform Connecting Startups, Investors & Advisors, Quantum Exchange, the first quantum computer in the US, STEAMRole a career networking platform, TEquitable, a confidential platform to address harassment at workplaces, and more. She also serves on the boards of DraftKings, Eaton Vance's Family of Mutual Funds, Dynex (DX, a NYSE mortgage REIT), NY Common Fund's Investment Advisory Committee and Progress Investment Management Company (a privately held Fund of Funds). Valerie is a graduate of Duke University and holds an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
VC Investor: Kapor Capital
Where did the idea for BrightUp originate?
The story of BrightUp originates with a couple of personal stories from my family. While I have enjoyed a very successful career as an executive and Board member in the financial sector and asset management with prominent organizations such as Wellington, my late older brother turned out to have lived his entire life unbanked. I would have to occasionally lend him money to help him out and I always needed to send it via Western Union. I couldn’t understand why I hand to spend such high transfer fees compared to making a transfer through a bank.
Meanwhile, my sister who works as a nurse, took out a car loan a few years ago and was offered by the dealer to finance the car at a 13% APR, which felt outrageous to me. I stepped in to negotiate on her behalf and was able to talk them down to 9%.
There is a report from the Federal Reserve called “The Color of Wealth” that found that the average net worth of a white family in America is $147,000, while the same for a black family was $8. Yes, just $8. This kind of financial stress takes a toll on people. At BrightUp, we believe that all people deserve to be financial healthy and holistically wealthy. That is our motto.
What is the key problem that BrightUp intends to solve?
The wealth management industry focuses on people who have assets because that’s how they get paid. I grew up in inner city Philadelphia from age 5-12. When my father came out of the service and entered the private sector, he was given stock options that turned out to go up in value enough that we were able to move into a different neighborhood that had houses surrounded by grass. This opened my eyes to a different world. I want to make sure that more people get access to information, tools, and technology that allows them that goal of financial health and holistic wealth.
How are you most differentiated as a service?
We focus on creating a trinity of services through our platform that covers capital, content, and coaching:
Capital that is available to refinance high-cost debt through an algorithm that disrupts the FICO score that is profoundly unfair and nonpredictive of loan repayment ability. FICO credit scores explain only 6% of default. We offer an alternative pricing structure that looks at 150 different factors to establish creditworthiness.
Content that is relatable as better and clear information is one of the top requests that employees have as a work benefit.
Coaching to help people understand their financial picture and what strategies to take for their personal long-term objectives
We partner with employers as well as offer our services directly to consumers.
What are the company’s key accomplishments to date?
We have developed an “MVP” (minimally viable product), have our first customer in the city of Columbia, South Carolina, and we have developed an emergency loan offering that does not rely on a FICO credit score. Our platform’s employee adoption rate with our first customer is already 2.5 times what the benefits director expected.
What lies ahead in the product plans for BrightUp?
We plan on growing from offering emergency loans to full debt consolidation. We will offer a greater suite of content that will meet end users where they are. There will be a set of articles and information behind a paywall. We also plan to develop an asynchronous course of financial wellbeing. Everyone comes with their own problems, and we want to help solve these in a thoughtful way through our trinity of capital, coaching, and content.
What are the long-term strategic growth objectives?
Why is it that only wealthy people should get access to strategies that help them to become financial healthy? It shouldn’t be like this. With technology, tools, and compassion, we can solve this. We want to disrupt the wealth management industry by serving those communities that have been underserved or not served at all for far too long.
Much like the company OfColor that was recently featured in this blog, BrightUp is bringing an important arsenal to the mix of employee benefits that will have a meaningful role in bringing financial literacy and wellness to a broader, overlooked audience. Valerie has an impressive background as a financial services professional, which combined with her personal family history, lends itself to understanding the need of the communities that BrightUp will serve. Financial wellness tools are likely to become a staple of employer benefits and these are two of the organizations that are innovating with the right content and offerings at the right time.