22 March 2022 |

‘We’re Not Serving Crypto Because It’s In Vogue’: Acorns CEO



‘We’re Not Serving Crypto Because It’s In Vogue’: Acorns CEO

Acorns just added the option for its 4.6M users to invest up to 5% of their portfolio in bitcoin through the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), a bitcoin futures fund that went public on the New York Stock Exchange last October.

This makes Acorns one of the biggest fintech co’s to add crypto options (users have invested more than $12.5B with the app). 

With crypto apps seeing 100+ million downloads in Q421, user demand is clearly high. But Acorns says it’s staying away from the gambling hype of crypto trading. 

What the CEO Told Me

I caught up with Noah ahead of the announcement. Noah, right away, made the Acorns message clear — this is not trading or fueling gambling mentalities with crypto. Instead, this is about the power of active learning that is embedded in the UX of the app. 

“It’s important to understand that we’re not serving up crypto to our customers because it’s in vogue,” he said.

With the majority of Americans without a financial advisor, fintech apps like Acorns have filled a critical role – helping millions of people obtain the information and education they need to build wealth. 

This crypto offering, in a similar vein, is built off of an investing philosophy that a professional would give: 

“It’s rooted in the time tested principles of compounding, long term investing and diversification,” he said. “Not through the belief that one can effectively time the market. It’s about time in the market, not timing the market.”

Will a Utopian Crypto 🌎 Ever Exist?

As long as there is good and evil in this world, the answer is uncertain. Acorns is just the latest in a long list of fintech apps that offer crypto.

The industry right now feels conflicted — users are demanding crypto exposure, but fintech leaders are trying to protect users from the volatility of digital assets. Even the creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, is worried about crypto’s future. 

I believe communication of how blockchain technology can accomplish meaningful effects in the real world has been lost. And it’s on our industry to put the message out there that crypto is more than yacht parties or lavish events. 

Zoom outside the U.S., and you can see there are 1.7B people, or 31% of adults, that the traditional banking system has left behind, and women make up more than half of them. Blockchain technology has the ability to serve these people. 

But skeptics will say for years most of these ideas about blockchain and financial inclusion were mostly theoretical. True. But like any great change (like a complete overhaul of the traditional financial system), it takes time. 

Today, the theory is materializing with applications that are starting to show early results in tackling humanitarian problems. This article breaks down key areas where blockchain technology is creating tangible financial inclusion across the world including:

  1. Payment services. The United Nations has determined that in order to reduce global inequality by 2030, we need to reduce the cost of international remittances to less than 3%.
  2. Saving. The complexity and high operating costs of savings have allowed banks to do so with barriers to entry that leave many behind
  3. Credit. The blockchain project Grassroots Economics creates something called Community Inclusion Currencies, or CICs, that allows it to issue tokens backed by all of the actual goods and services in a specific community, such as the town’s water, food, or the work of carpenters or babysitters.
  4. Insurance. Etherisc and Acre Africa built a process that offers farmers weather index insurance that uses smart contracts (self-executing contracts on a blockchain) to trigger payouts when extreme weather situations affect crops.

These real examples are amazing no doubt. Looking at Ukraine, cryptocurrency has also provided a lifeline for Ukrainians whose banks are inaccessible. At the same time, regulators worry that it will be used by Russian oligarchs to evade sanctions.

Good and bad will always exist. Look at all the good and bad other innovations like the Internet or Social Media platforms have brought to our society. 

As innovators, we have to keep leading the way with good in our hearts. 


SEC Goes Green 🌿

TL;DR: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is planning to require public companies to disclose the risks that climate change poses to their operations and greenhouse gas emissions.  

The plan would also require companies disclose how they’re preparing to deal with those risks. Some large companies will have to provide information on emissions they don’t make themselves, but come from other firms in their supply chain.

What’s Up

Paul Clements-Hunt who coined the acronym ESG, said the finance industry has done little to account for environmental, social and governance risks: “It’s a whirligig, a frenzy, a marketing mania,” he called it. 

Today, investors are hungry to put their money and build wealth via sustainable practices. ESG investing (non-financial factors investors use to measure an investment or company’s sustainability, how they treat people both inside and outside the company, and diversity) has become a $17T market for a reason. 

Even SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said the proposal is in response to strong investor demand for more information about climate-related financial risks. 

The SEC will take public comment for 60 days, so it’ll take some time before we see any real action. But I see this as a big win for investors and climate fintech co’s.

Why It Matters

Transparency is key and with the climate crisis only getting more serve day to day, these requirements are essential. Push back will be from folks thinking this is beyond SEC’s jurisdiction. IMO, this is totally in the regulators’ realm.

The other push back will likely come from companies that don’t want to put in the work to scramble putting together a “plan” for the climate crisis. 

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce was super opposed to the proposal, saying that it requires companies to disclose information that might not have anything to do with a company’s business results. 

Well, she’s wrong.

Have we not learned over the last 2 years that everything on our planet is connected? Here’s one (there are many) article that outlines multiple reasons why companies that prioritize sustainable practices perform better in the long-term. My favorite point:

Sustainable practices = a more engaged work force, a more secure operating license, better customer bases, better relationships with stakeholders, greater transparency, a more collaborative community, and a more successful ability to innovate.

At the end of the day, this initiative should’ve happened yesterday (we’ve only got 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage). 


My Digital Money Drop Supports AAPI Art

TL;DR: Cryptocurrency trading company My Digital Money (MDM) has an exclusive NFT drop of Aswang, the first graphic novel NFT centered on Asian mythological creatures.

Aswang is an umbrella term for various shape-shifting creatures in Filipino folklore. The aswang is the subject of a wide variety of myths, stories, arts, and films throughout the Philippines.

ICYMI, My Digital Money (MDM) lets investors trade cash for cryptocurrency or convert their existing retirement accounts into Crypto IRAs. The NFT drop of Aswang will debut at Bitcoin 2022 in Miami. 

Why it Matters

MDM will offer new customers hundreds of original and exclusive NFTs to choose from, valued at 0.5 Ethereum each. The digital art was created by MDM Marketing Manager Fairlane Raymundo.

“This project has enabled me to combine my work life and my artistic life into one, and MDM is helping to make this possible on many levels”, says Raymundo. “Other comic book series have been modernized into mainstream films and TV shows and are now worth millions.

With my metacomic’s strong narrative throughline and focus on AAPI art, it has the potential to bring huge returns on an NFT investment.”

The NFT market, which mirrors the inequity of other financial markets, has a gender gap issue. Male creators represent 77% of NFT art sales, while only 5% go to women creators.

The MDM story resonates with me – not only because I’m Filipino, but because these are the types of stories we should be discussing to get the message of crypto, NFTs, and web3 to center around inclusivity instead of billionaire bros.

In a separate announcement, tennis star Naomi Osaka said she’s jumping into crypto craze as firms target young women. Osaka will produce content that “will focus on bringing women onto the platform and into the future of Web3.”

Drops like MDM  that share the culture of a female and AAPI artist give me hope for the future of digital assets. While bringing in more female public figures to bring more women into the fold also keeps me optimistic of the future. 


  • Robinhood ups fintech competition with new debit card launch
  • Tomo, a ‘PayPal for the mortgage industry’, lands $40M at $640M valuation
  • NYDIG, BlockFi, Pantera, Circle all targeted in HubSpot data breach
  • Corporate management startup Ramp confirmed that it has secured $550M in debt and $200M in equity, doubles valuation to $8.1B
  • Pusha T and Arby’s released a diss track to take down McDonald’s 
  • Riskalyze is a leader in gender inclusion among fintech companies, with 60% of the director-level and higher roles filled by women. Riskalyze’s board chair Laurie Schultz, is also Canada’s first female CEO to lead a technology company to unicorn status when she was CEO of Galvanize.