Teamwork Makes Dreams Work

David Roos
Working Your Core
Published in
7 min readDec 23, 2020


How fintech communities can create upward mobility and financial prosperity


Our country’s division became even more prominent in 2020. Physical isolation was exacerbated by increasingly divergent ideologies. My hope is that we also remember this year for the growth of positively-reinforcing digital communities. In 2020, communities became infinitely more accessible. For me, annual family reunions turned into monthly zoom cocktail hours, poker nights were joined by friends across the country, and co-workers in different cities guided me through the beginnings of a new job.

Companies with pre-existing digital communities doubled-down on their efforts and were rewarded. Peloton, a workout bike that unites fellow cyclists, witnessed its stock rise 343% over the last nine months. Strava, a community of athletes, has attracted 2 million new users each month across 2020. Amongst startups, On Deck, a community of operators looking to help each other build new companies, and Career Karma, an edtech company lending career support, grew in popularity.

The strongest communities help individuals in search of a common goal achieve a valuable future outcome while providing a renewed sense of trust and belonging. From a business perspective, the most successful communities combine a low customer acquisition cost with a high user lifetime value, through their ability to grow organically and drive increased engagement via network effects.

When individuals are striving for financial security, communities can not only create business value, but can also be incredibly valuable to the end user. Strong communities have been proven to lead to less poverty and greater upward mobility. In the world of fintech, founders are increasingly seeking to boost user value with a community element to their applications. It’s exciting to see, but finding the right mix of social and finance can be tricky. Our hope at Core is that founders can construct financial apps that utilize the power of community to instill better habits and affordable products.

New rule for the holidays: talk about your salary

It is well known that Americans do not like talking about money. The majority are more comfortable talking about marital discord, mental health, addiction, race, and even politics as opposed to finances. 34% of cohabiting couples cannot correctly identify how much money their partner makes. Even schools shy away from talking money, with only five states having mandated financial literacy instruction and 53% of college students feeling more worried about managing their money than any other issue.

Yet, in certain circumstances, people do talk money, and increasingly the place to talk money is online. Across social media platforms, influencers, such as Madam Money, Clever Girl Finance, or Mr. Money Mustache, are encouraging new ways to budget, save, and invest. TikTok is becoming the place to go for daily financial advice from influencers such as @coupon_katie and @humphreytalks. These influencers have built communities off of trust. 40% of YouTube subscribers say their favorite influencers understand them better than their friends, and 74% of consumers trust social media to guide purchasing decisions!

On Reddit, “Personal Finance” and “Frugal Living” have over 15 million combined followers. In these forums, people share insights including “how to prioritize your spending” or “quick reminder to not give away your salary requirement in a job interview.” For better or worse, “Wall Street Bets” forum has another one million followers and mainly consists of people bragging about their personal stock market gains and losses.

Why is this important? Individuals educated on money, tend to have higher credit scores, lower defaults, and are less likely to use paydays loans. Status Money discovered that when users compared their spending and savings habits with peers, they subsequently decreased their spending by 15%. As such, when done correctly, the intersection of community and finance has a powerful opportunity to not only create a massively successful company, but also affect positive change.

In the payments sector, a blend of social and finance has worked across the globe

The first formal blending of social and finance began in payments, with WeChat in China. While WeChat’s origins are in communication, the app added payments capability in 2013, and in turn exploded in value. WeChat users spend ~2 hours a day on the platform. The company has leaned into this virality and created a digital sharing experience by encouraging users to gift “digital red envelopes” for the Chinese New Year and spread “lucky money packets” to group members. WeChat’s social virality was a major factor in gaining significant market share from Alipay.

Furthermore, in Africa, telecom company Safaricom is creating a social network payments platform, Bonga, by adding a social component on top of its massive mPesa payments network. The app allows users to chat with friends while sending, receiving, and requesting money. In the U.S., Venmo has been the poster child for how to create virality as they generate excitement over a typically mundane activity. The ability to like payments, send emojis, and incorporate inside jokes sparked increased usage even as rent, pizza, and beer remained quite boringly the most popular terms. Splitwise, similarly, created payments for multi-transaction group events. By nature of the product, users were encouraged to add others to the app, sparking millions of users to download the app.

In the U.S., the next wave of fintech communities will be in investing and financial management

While social feeds demonstrated the power of virality for payment apps, the next frontier for communities will be in investment and financial management apps. Financial apps are striving to compete for user attention with marketing budgets significantly increasing due to a crowded market. The rising competition makes acquiring new users cheaply ever more challenging and, therefore, building a sticky and organic community has never been more important.


Social investing is catching a wave of excitement from established startups, such as SoFi’s social investing feature, to upstart investment apps, including Public, Commonstock, and Dojo. These companies include social feeds where investors can post new trades and comment on others traders’ positions. Their goal is to encourage collaboration in stock market trading and increase trading activity.

As these companies redefine stock market engagement, the hope is that they will play a role in sustainable and safe trading. Are traders taking advice from experts or novices? Is the advice standardized across income brackets or personalized based on wealth? Are losing trades publicized as much as profitable ones? Actively trading single stocks carries much more risk than passively trading, as do trading options as Robinhood has proven. My hope is that these communities encourage education before action, index buying over individual stock buying, and sharpe ratios over outright profit. At Core, we believe that the most sustainable, and valuable, companies create outsized positive value for the mass market. While these social investing companies have the opportunity to do so, they need to do so thoughtfully.

Banking and personal financial management

Most people find it more exciting to talk about how you spend money than how you save it. However, Americans are definitely still interested in saving. In fact, Americans more frequently google search how to save as opposed to how to invest (Figure 1), and as previously mentioned, the most popular influencers are talking about financial management. Through camaraderie and trust, positively-reinforcing financial communities have the chance to change the narrative, advocating that it’s just as cool to save and budget as it is to spend.

Figure 1: Google trend shows people want to save

The concept of positively-reinforcing banking communities, however, will not be brand new, as social savings programs are popular throughout African communities. In these communities, members make deposits every week. At the end of each month, one member has the opportunity to take out a loan from the saved deposits to fund large scale projects, such as starting a business, or use the saved deposits as insurance in the case of emergency. Social nudges from the rest of their members encourage repayment of the loans.

Contrastingly, in the U.S., no one has yet to successfully create a viral and social banking or financial management platform, with community at its core. Early-stage startups, however, are beginning to build such products. Invest Sou Sou powers socialized savings through a Facebook-like social feed. Status Money compares your financials with peers (anonymously) to provide insights and recommendations. Yunit and Zirtue encourage you to lean on friends and family to hit savings goals or safely borrow. One and Braid create “pockets” that allow multiple users to spend out of the same account. Yotta Savings encourages users to save through a compelling prize-linked lottery product with a referral program that rewards you with tickets for building the community. These companies all have a financial management product that is enhanced with community, yet I believe they can expand even further into the Opportunity Zone (Figure 2), creating more banking features that are relevant to the mass market and more community elements that strengthen camaraderie and create a truly viral product.

Figure 2: The Opportunity Zone

At Core, we are excited for a company to enter the Opportunity Zone, capitalize on community as a moat, embrace social nudges and innovative banking models, maximize modern customer acquisition strategies through influencers, and, ultimately, bridge the gap to financial security. The time is right for positively-reinforcing fintech communities to enhance upward mobility.



David Roos
Working Your Core

VP at Core Innovation Capital. Interests include Crypto/FinTech, politics, and venture capital. Still recovering from the 49ers 2020 Super Bowl loss.