Entrepreneur Amanda Peyton She’s always been “the friend who’s good with money,” whether as her high school treasurer at age 16 or today as the founder of Braid, a company that wants to make shared wallets more common among consumers.
“People are terrified of money, so I need to lean on it so it never scares me,” he told TechCrunch. “That’s when I had this lightbulb moment: All financial products are designed for people or businesses, so all the social money interactions we have are based on individual accounts.” The resulting separation can amplify the stress around money, especially when one person has to become the CFO of a household, family, or group of friends.
Founded in 2019, group financing platform Braid is trying to make transactions work for various entities, from shared homes to creative projects. It recently launched a new twist on consumer payment links: people can set up a Braid Fund around any endeavor (a fund for this summer’s trip to Italy, shared car gas expenses, or a kitty for put toward monthly book club snacks) and then send a link to friends who want to deposit cash. Then the money goes directly to the wallet and the creator can manage it alone or together with the participants.
More than 90,000 groups have been created since Braid first tested the product in January.
“The guiding question for us has always been, ‘How do we make sharing money not suck?’” Peyton said.
Despite the rise of services like Cash App, Venmo, Zelle, and Splitwise, as well as smaller multiplayer fintechs like Zeta, Braid doesn’t think shared wallets are yet widespread. It’s specifically designed to help groups of people pay for the next thing they do together, not split money after a meal or pool money for a gift one person is going out to buy.
Money is complicated, so I’ll put it this way: While some costs only need one person to deposit their card, others, like an ongoing savings fund to splurge on the bachelorette trip, could benefit from multiple people have the power to “spend” from a pool.
Crowdfunding gives the appearance of raising money, but it has its own kind of silos, Peyton said.
“After you raise all this money on GoFundMe, you have to send it somewhere else, and usually that’s someone’s bank account, so you don’t have to spend the money together,” Peyton said. “As far as I know, there is no debit card to spend the money.” Braid wants to be the place where you collect, manage and spend.
Peyton explained that she hopes her company can be the happy medium between the friend who is always ready to split the bill at the end of dinner and the one who gets overwhelmed calculating and splitting the tip. Ease of use is important: each pool has its own account number and bank number, so participants can directly deposit a portion of their paycheck into one pool each month. Each group also comes with its own physical or digital debit card, and interchange fees are where Braid earns its main source of income.
Transparency on goals and money limits is a side effect of using Braid, which is important to the founder and, in her opinion, is not in the larger fintech landscape at the moment.
There are, of course, technical challenges in pooling people’s money.
As you scale, money gets more complicated. How do you get a cohort of people to trust each other if they all have access to the same amount of money? What happens if someone takes the money raised for charity and spends it on a new car? Or perhaps consider a less fraudulent and more awkward scenario: you and your friends are pooling money for a trip. You find out that everyone has a secret group chat set up to make fun of you. Needless to say, you want to get your cash out (and your loyalty too).
Braid is starting out by helping friends, not strangers, raise money, an approach that may have saved them from some of these tensions.
“We’re processing at this point like seven figures a month in payment volume and it’s not as big an issue as I thought because I think the social consequences of taking money that isn’t yours are very serious,” he said. “You can take all the money, but you will lose all your friends.”
Still, the founder noted that bad actors could become a bigger problem as the company grows. Shared money creates myriad challenges: regulatory restrictions, technical dynamics of how to move money, and of course the aforementioned consumer behavior. Braid, in anticipation, has put in place specific features to address some concerns, such as creating options to limit spending limits for individual contributors, access to a debit card, and viewing spending history for all to see.
This nuance is why he thinks companies like Venmo and others can’t afford to do social fintech as an add-on. “I’m not interested in a super app; I’m not interested in becoming a top-tier main card, am I? We want to address these use cases of people who need to do things with money together.”
While Venmo may not start creating a crowdfunding app, the idea of decentralized power and community ownership has grown thanks to cryptocurrencies. It was also proven: a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, raised millions of dollars, and then a mistake allowed a thief to steal $50 million in virtual currency.
Peyton believes that crypto mania is still largely good news for Braid, even though the fintech does not fit into the web3 category.
“Honestly, I’m so excited that there’s such a kind of mindset dedicated to how can we help people do more in groups, and more generally, how can we make interaction and collaboration easier and more powerful? ” she said. In the future, Braid wants users to be able to finance their funds with any type of capital. For now, Peyton doesn’t see any benefit in branding Braid as a web3 company.
“I don’t know if this is a controversial point of view or not, but DAOs are everywhere, right? A firehouse, a DIY co-working space, a studio,” she said. “I don’t want to say traditional, although maybe they call me that, but I think the payment opportunities for mainstream consumers are huge.”
Notably, the company was first co-founded between Peyton and product engineer Todd Berman, who left in 2020 to join a marketing and advertising platform. That same year, Braid raised its first and only formal funding round to date, a $9 million seed round from investors including Index and Accel.
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