Empowering the Vulnerable with Financial Tools — Claire McDonnell, Co-Founder of True Link
In this episode, Miguel Armaza sits down with Claire McDonnell, Co-founder and COO of True Link Financial, a company that aims to make life better for people with disabilities, vulnerable elders, individuals in recovery, and their families and professional support networks. At True Link, she focuses on growth, product, operations, and customer experience.
There’s no doubt True Link is a transformative firm that is making the world a better place by serving and meaningfully helping some of the most vulnerable members of society.
The company has raised over $50 million from a list of impressive Investors, including Centana Growth Partners, Khosla Ventures, Initialized Capital, QED, Radicle Impact, Y-Combinator, Alexis Ohanian, and many more!
Claire is the ultimate entrepreneur. As far as she can remember, Clair has always been the kind of person who looks out into the world and when she sees a problem, usually looks if anyone else is working on it (so she can join them) or if she can start solving it herself.
Upon graduating from Columbia University in New York City, Claire moved to San Francisco to pursue her dream job as a Management Consultant in the social sector at The Bridgespan Group. After four great years, she had the opportunity to join Innovation Endeavors, Erich Schmidt’s Venture Capital firm, as an entrepreneur-in-residence and founded her first startup — a wellness app for young people. Although this first venture did not go very far, it taught Claire some key lessons and lead her and her Co-Founder, Kai Stinchcombe, to land on what would eventually become True Link.
Having experienced firsthand the financial challenges her grandmother with dementia went through, Claire had a sense of the kind of financial caregiving and financial protection that is needed to help out the most vulnerable members of society. Moreover, Claire saw an opportunity to tackle a hard and unsolved problem that was not just another app to order food or another FinTech for millennials. This was an opportunity to make a real difference in the world and solve a really bad problem for a lot of people.
The company offers products to three different customer groups.
- True Link Card for Vulnerable Elders — focuses on empowering older people with additional financial independence and autonomy, while preventing them from overspending and helping them avoid fraud. It also allows their caregivers to use their card on their behalf in a safe manner. In Claire’s own words, “we give the family member who’s acting as a financial caregiver, a way to prevent those transactions and stop the problem while preserving as much autonomy and independence for the vulnerable individual as possible.”
- True Link Card for People in Recovery — aimed at assisting people along the road to recovery from addiction-related struggles. This product allows them to pre-set purchase limits and prevents them from using the card in certain businesses or locations. As Claire explains, “behind every relapse is a financial transaction that could have been prevented. And so we’re not going to prevent someone from relapsing, but every speed bump you add, every support you put in place is just giving a person that much more time to make a different decision.”
- True Link Protection Visa Prepaid Card — designed to help people with disabilities and their caretakers navigate the bureaucratic complexities to meet the paperwork requirements of insurance and government programs. Claire explains, “record-keeping requirements that are fairly stringent when you’re being audited for Medicaid eligibility. And you need to maintain that (…) So a lot of what our payments and investment products can do is provide the record-keeping for that benefits eligibility.”
Entrepreneurship is risky and there is a very real chance your company will not succeed. This is why Claire reminds aspiring entrepreneurs to pick a problem they are truly passionate about, “you might spend five, even 10 years of your life on a company, and it could still fail. And that means that you should do something that you will be proud of, even if you don’t succeed.”
Finally, when it comes to female founders, she tells us that what has been the most helpful for her has been befriending other female founders and building large and strong networks of people you identify with to learn and absorb from them. Finding and building that community has been essential not just for True Link, but also take care of herself and getting the most out of her journey.
Claire is co-founder and COO of True Link Financial, a venture-backed fintech company that makes life better for people with disabilities, vulnerable elders, individuals in recovery, and their families and professional support networks. At True Link, she focuses on growth, product, operations, and customer experience. Before True Link, Claire helped build and lead organizations in the private and social sectors — she worked at Bain & Company’s social sector affiliate The Bridgespan Group and Teach for America, founded Awardly, a wellness app, and served as a Runway Entrepreneur at the venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors. Claire was a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina and holds a BA from Columbia University.
About True Link
Vulnerable older adults, people with disabilities, and those recovering from addiction — fifty million Americans in total — need more from their financial institutions. Whether it’s protecting seniors from fraud, helping people with special needs preserve lifesaving medical benefits, or preventing an impulsive cash withdrawal or purchase that could lead to relapse, families turn to True Link when they need a financial partner who can help them navigate life’s challenges. Serving people in all fifty states, True Link has offices in San Francisco, Denver, and New York, in addition to distributed team members throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.truelinkfinancial.com.
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