When former Bill Clinton speechwriter and political wunderkind Andrei Cherny launched Aspiration four years ago, the upstart fintech startup was one of Los Angeles' early entrants into a financial services market dominated by players from Europe and the financial capital of the U.S., New York City.
Fast-forward four years and the big New York fintechs are still around, but Cherny's Aspiration remains undimmed and has today disclosed a $153 million funding round to get even bigger.
Unlike other financial services startups that compete around a suite of product offerings designed to offer no-fee checking and deposits or upfront cash payments and short-term no-interest loans, Aspiration differentiates itself with a focus on sustainability and conscious consumerism.
The company first pitched the market with an investment management service like those from Betterment and Wealthfront, but one where customers could choose their own fees. It also guaranteed investments in sustainable companies and a portfolio that would not include fossil fuel companies or other businesses deemed to be less-than-friendly to Mother Nature.
The conscious consumerism is a through-line that knits together the other products in the Aspiration portfolio, including its Impact Measurement Score product that gives customers a window into how their shopping habits measure up with their desires to be more earth-friendly.
The company's just-announced $135 million cash infusion brings the total capital raised to $200 million, and was led by local investor Alpha Edison . Additional new and existing investors -- including UBS O’Connor Capital Solutions, DNS Capital, Radicle Impact, Sutter Rock, Jeff Skoll, Joseph Sanberg, Social Impact Finance, the Pohlad Companies, and AGO Partners -- also participated in the financing.
So far, 1.5 million Americans have signed up to use Aspiration's financial management and banking services, and the company has seen $4 billion in transactions pass through its accounts.
There's a whole suite of new services designed to help customers go green, too. The company launched a matching feature where the company plants a tree for every debit card purchase that its customers make, when they round up to the nearest dollar. And it's offering a premium subscription tier that includes debit cards made from recycled ocean plastic. The card offers higher cash back and interest rates and a feature that offsets the carbon emissions of every mile a customer drives.
Finally, Aspiration has inked partnerships with other socially conscious companies like Toms and Warby Parker, giving its customers extra cash-back rewards when they shop at those businesses.
“Aspiration has built deep, trusting customer relationships that are beginning to unlock latent demand for financial services among the tens of millions of conscious consumers,” said Nate Redmond of Alpha Edison, in a statement. “We are excited to lead a great group of investors to fuel Aspiration’s durable growth and lasting impact.”