For tax year 2020, there were 167M+ tax returns filed; 151M were filed electronically. While technology has slowly made its way into tax preparation, it’s been done largely in closed ecosystems. Further challenges include major tax preparation software providers H&R Block and TurboTax opting to recently exit the IRS’ Free File Program. Looking to capture this lost opportunity is April, a tax preparation infrastructure solution that works with banks and fintech companies to provide them with the backbone to handle their users’ tax needs as well as directly with consumers via their existing financial relationships (banks, apps, etc). Leveraging machine learning, open banking, and APIs, April’s platform integrates with financial institutions to automate tax preparation – no more shuffling around for bank statements and other documents. The company has successfully translated the tax code into a digital format that offers APIs that will fuel a new wave of innovation for developers and financial service providers by making tax-as-a-service a new offering, which ultimately leads to a more curated, personalized efficient, and optimized experience for filers. AlleyWatch caught up with April Cofounder Ben Borodach to learn more about how April is intent on changing the tax solution paradigm, the company’s strategic plans, and recent round of funding from investors that include Team8, NYCA Partners, Bolt by QED, Treasury, Euclidean Capital, iAngels and founders of several fintech unicorns.
For the 60M+ Americans that are eligible for Medicare, navigating the 24,000+ options available is a difficult and arduous process without help. The open enrollment period also places a time constraint for selecting a plan to meet an insured planned coverage needs. Chapter is a Medicare advisory platform that uses a blend of technology and a trained team of advisors to decipher all plans at a microscopic level, ensuring that members are able to enroll in the plans that are best suited for their needs based on cost and coverage. Typically, Medicare advisors are incentivized by insurance companies to enroll members and naturally, these advisors steer members towards plans that offer the best compensation; often creating a misalignment. Chapter’s advisors are all full-time employees that are not compensated directly based on commissions. Combining this dynamic with plan data that Chapter’s technology generates, members are confident that are receiving unbiased and impartial recommendations. AlleyWatch caught up with Chapter CEO and Cofounder Cobi Blumenfeld-Gantz to learn more about how Chapter eliminates confusion for the millions signing up for coverage through Medicare annually, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding from investors that include Addition, Lee Fixel, Narya Capital, Susa Ventures, Maverick Ventures, XYZ Venture Capital, Core Innovation Capital, and Health2047 Capital Partners.
2021 was certainly the year of the meme stock. January of last year played host to one of the most memorable short squeezes in stock market history as a group of Reddit-based retail investors collaborated to create a significant rally on GameStop stocks which saw their price climb some 1,900% from its price at the beginning of the year. Subsequent meme-based surges for stocks like AMC looked to cement that speculation, rather than fundamentals, now has the power to deliver growth. However, with analysts beginning to believe that the meme bubble has finally burst, is it game over for 2021’s biggest phenomenon?
The next iteration of the internet is here. Web3 is a decentralized online ecosystem built on the blockchain that’s free of any corporate control. However, the transition to this new paradigm requires technical know-how and infrastructure. Thirdweb is a newly-launched infrastructure platform that seeks to build the future of the internet with its easy-to-build platform for NFTs and Web3 apps. Whether it’s DAOs, games, marketplaces, tokens & currencies, and drops, the platform is equipped to allow creators to seamlessly build robust products without knowledge of code and engineering degrees. All projects are deployed on-chain, providing ownership and control; the platform supports a number of blockchain protocols including Ethereum, Polygon, and Avalanche with plans to add Solana and Flow shortly. The platform is free to use and only earns revenue by taking a percentage of royalties for NFTs sold in marketplaces, aligning interests between thirdweb and its users. AlleyWatch caught up with thirdweb Cofounder Steven Bartlett to learn more about how thirdweb is poised to power the mass adoption of Web3, the company’s expansion plans, and recent round of funding from investors that include Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Hoover, Shaan Puri, Imran Khan & Qiao Wang, Soona Amhaz, Greg Isenberg, Packy McCormick, and Christian Angermayer
I think a more expansive view of the metaverse is helpful to see the evolution that is well underway. I see VR as the most immersive metaverse (per the graphic below), but I think you enter the metaverse once you start engaging with your mobile phone or any other device that brings you in to a computer-generated digital realm.
Despite the pandemic disrupting global economic activity, stocks, for the most part, have surged from the catastrophic March 2020 lows. With lockdowns keeping people isolated at home, worrying about their economic futures, many took to day trading and short-term trading, fueled with stimulus and pandemic unemployment assistance. Others joined in on the fun because they were bored. This unprecedented shift led to the creation of retail trading blocs that for the first time in history represented formidable competition to established hedge funds and professional money managers. Remember Gamestop and AMC? The number of shares traded by the customers of large brokers rose from 700M shares a day before the pandemic to 2.9B per day earlier this year. Stocktwits is the pioneering social platform for investors and trading to come together to discuss, learn, evaluate and generate investment ideas. Credited with devising the social dollar-sign hashtag or “cashtag” to represent tickers ($), the platform founded back in 2008 in the midst of a different financial crisis, surged in popularity during the pandemic with traders and investors using the platform for forums, research, trading rooms, quotes, news, and sentiment analysis. Stocktwits now has over 5M active monthly users for its freemium product that offers a number of enhanced features for paid users including proprietary research and access to subscriber communities. AlleyWatch caught up with Stocktwits CEO Rishi Khanna to learn more the company’s mission to build a global hub for investors, strategic plans, and latest round of funding from Alameda Research Ventures and Times Bridge.
GPARENCY, founded by Ira Zlotowitz, is a commercial mortgage origination platform that connects borrowers directly to lending institutions for a flat fee. They just closed $15M in funding in what they describe as the largest Seed round for a commercial real estate company.
After much anticipation, we are beginning to see real-world use cases for the blockchain as it transitions from abstract, theoretical concepts into practical applications that have the potential to change the standard order. The promise of decentralizing finance by uncoupling transactions and activity from legacy banks to the public via blockchain is driving innovation towards a more efficient system that’s inclusive and not riddled with predatory fees. Algofi is building a fast, low-cost decentralized lending market on the blockchain using the Algorand blockchain. The company, founded by two colleagues at Citadel, believes their platform will be able to offer transaction fees for less than $.01 as compared to $15 for other providers. Crypto depositors can earn high-yield rates on their funds while borrowers can easily access funds with competitive rates for their trading needs. Algofi plans to launch its lending and stablecoin protocol on the Mainnet later this month and introduce new banking features next year as it moves towards becoming a full crypto-native digital bank that’s completely decentralized. AlleyWatch caught up with Algofi Cofounder John Clarke to learn more about the decentralized finance and companies like Algofi are driving a catapultic shift that will redefine finance as we know it, the company’s strategic plans, the emergence of Brooklyn as an enclave for Blockchain innovation, the company’s recent round of funding from investors that that inclue Union Square Ventures, Arrington Capital, Pillar VC, Y Combinator, Formulate Ventures, and Shine VC.
With customer acquisition costs soaring, building loyalty among existing customers is of critical importance. Well-designed loyalty programs offer a number of benefits for brands including increased share-of-wallet, improved referrals, and increased trust for future purchases. Imprint is a fintech and rewards infrastructure platform that allows brands to seamlessly deploy their own branded payment solutions as well as rewards programs. For years, branded payment options were exclusively for large companies that offered co-branded credit cards with legacy card issuers (e.g. airline credit cards). With Imprint, companies large and small can design their own tailored payment options (either through a branded card or even a branded payment button) and rewards programs in less than a week. With the savings in credit card fees from bringing their payment infrastructure in-house, merchants are able to offer engaging rewards programs without incurring additional cost. Customers get 5% back from their favorite brands and a minimum of 1% for other purchases while brands are able to save up to 90% of their payment processing costs. AlleyWatch caught up with Imprint CEO and Cofounder Daragh Murphy to learn more about how Imprint modernizes and optimizes the payment experience for both brands and customers, the company’s strategic plans, and latest round of funding from investors that include Kleiner Perkins, Stripe, Thrive Capital, Affirm, Allen & Co., James Corden, and Lloyd Blankfein.
The pandemic has changed the way that most organizations approach their businesses with a rapid acceleration in digital adoption across most industries. Beauty and wellness businesses are no different. Customer engagement aided by technology is absolutely necessary as is a streamlined workflow. Gloss Genius is an all-in-one platform for beauty and wellness business owners to launch, operate, and maintain their businesses. The platform offers a suite of services that handle common tasks such as scheduling, payments, client engagement, and analytics. Users of the SaaS platform have a holistic view of the entire business through the centralized solution replacing the paper and pencil paradigm that many in the industry have been reliant upon. Understanding this, GlossGenius offers a white glove onboarding service to get its customers up and running and comfortable using the software, which ultimately provides them the flexibility to work on growing the business without getting caught up in the day-to-day minutiae. AlleyWatch caught up with GlossGenius CEO and Cofounder Danielle Cohen-Shohet to learn more about the genesis of the business, the company’s future plans, and latest round of funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners.
Investors are increasingly taking Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations into their analysis when evaluating the merit of potential investments as well as for reporting purposes once an investment has been made. ESG factors can have a significant impact on risk as well as growth implications. There is a myriad of resources for understanding sustainability for public companies but private companies have been overlooked. Novata is a new technology solution focused on bringing transparency related to ESG for private companies. The platform provides private companies the ability to create a free ESG reporting framework, allowing them to showcase their efforts to key stakeholders. Investors are able to access a fee-based platform for comprehensive ESG data on private companies, providing analysis, reporting, and benchmark figures against both private and public companies. AlleyWatch caught up with Novata CEO Alex Friedman to learn more about how the company came together through a combination of non-profit and for-profit leaders, future strategic plans, and recent round of funding from investors that include Ford Foundation, S&P Global, Hamilton Lane, and Omidyar Network.