Not long ago, Betterment's pitch that automated investing was going to catch on with investors fell on deaf ears. Now when you listen to Jon Stein, its co-founder and CEO, you can’t help but hear, “Told ya so.”
“We were really a voice in the wilderness,” Stein tells me. “We were saying, 'Everyone is going to be using automated investment services someday.' And nobody was really listening; nobody really believed us.”
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Betterment just raised $60 million in venture capital that Stein says they didn’t need, but sure, why not? There are plenty of people willing to fund them.
"We didn’t need to raise the money today," he says. "We have $20 million in the bank still available to use; however, we were getting a lot of interest from investors."
That $60 million infusion, mostly from San Francisco-based private equity firm Francisco Partners, brings Betterment's total VC funding to $105 million and pushes its valuation to nearly $500 million.
The online brokerage does not disclose its revenue, but claims to have more than 65,000 customers and roughly $1.4 billion in AUM, much of that from just the past year.
Some of that war chest is being devoted to expansion, as the brokerage launches new offerings. The latest is Betterment Institutional, a digital custodian platform targeting RIAs in partnership with Fidelity. Even before the new platform launch, Betterment counted nearly 100 RIA clients.
The online firm currently has 90 employees, and Stein expects that to grow to 120 by the end of the year. Key hires he notes will be more engineers, more product managers and more investment analysts to build out the firm's advice and optimization tools.
Stein is clear on what's next for Betterment. It's not just getting more funding, he explains to me. It's about claiming a larger cut of the business that belongs to the same people that didn't listen to him years before.
"The current state of fintech and the personal financial management space is an awakening that we have been under-investing in technology and innovations that are well aligned with consumers," he says. "There is an increasing awareness that we will have to pay down that debt in the industry."
A debt he's clearly been waiting to collect on. "I really only see opportunity," he insists.
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