Sugar Wallet is a New Zealand fintech founded by Devrath (Dev) Soni and Sophia Ritchie with a mission to make investing “ridiculously easy” for everyone.
“In APAC alone, there are 143 million who can afford to invest but continue to save primarily through the bank,” Soni said.
“One of the reasons for this is because platforms are too complex and time-consuming for the average person who has lower financial literacy.”
The pair started the idea by talking to hundreds of people, including professionals, doctors and even the unemployed, and concluded that helping people make investing a “habit” was how Sugar Wallet could help them improve their financial well-being .
Fast forward just six months, and the team of four has built a platform that helps new investors automatically invest a percentage of their salary into one of three simple mutual funds in under five minutes.
It’s a simple platform for beginners that feels familiar, safe and simple, so they can finally get started.
The team has partnered with established fund managers to ensure their users have access to industry-leading asset classes – but without the jargon of ETFs; Stop loss and APY.
“Our users tell us that before Sugar Wallet, they simply put off building good money habits, and registration has solved this,” said Soni.
Sugar Wallet has already experienced “viral” growth in just a few months in the market, with its early traction and metrics matching and in some cases surpassing same-stage metrics for platforms like Sharesies and Spaceship.
Now Sugar Wallet has been selected to join GD1 financed Phase one incubator which aims to produce 10 Kiwi technology ‘unicorns’ (aka ‘Kiwicorns’) by 2026.
“It’s not enough to copy”
Dev is no stranger to small businesses made big – having developed his bespoke clothing store, Devonché, to sell the most tailored suits in New Zealand within three years from a single store; serving news networks, All Blacks, Black Caps, BMW and others.
He also helped florist Flowerist achieve $100,000 in digital revenue in its first six months.
Co-founder Sophia Ritchie worked at Xero and Billy (a bill-sharing platform) as a software engineer and is also a serial entrepreneur.
However, growing a technology start-up was a completely new challenge that required an unanswered focus on what Soni calls ‘problem discovery’.
“I’ll never forget a last-minute chat I had with an experienced unicorn operator, who asked me: What problem are you solving?” he said.
“We were about to go full steam ahead with emulating a foreign app, but that afternoon, after hearing myself describe my high-level thinking, it all seemed very shallow. That conversation was the key to charting the course back to ‘problem detection.'”
It is not enough to copy something that works well abroad, Soni realized
“If you’re in a regulated market, building market by market, like fintech – you need to understand the local market – local sensitivities and the unique issues that your ideal target audience faces locally for you can think about scaling a global business and see if the audience internationally has the same problem, he said.
“Time spent thinking through the hard questions is critical.”
Since then, the duo has sought out mentors who repeatedly ask the tough questions; and can give advice from lived experience.
“There’s a lot of wisdom available online, but founders need advice on how to apply that wisdom to their particular startup. There’s tremendous value in tapping into the experience of someone who’s already walked that path,” Soni said.
“What Mahesh Muralidhar, CEO and Phase One Ventures founder, has created early stage startups that are a step above the kind of formulaic “know-how” out there. The incubator’s mentors all have tremendous credibility and can provide real-world experience and advice that challenges our naive assumptions. Many of them have been involved in taking companies from $0 to a billion dollars in revenue – that expertise is rare in New Zealand.”
Sugar Wallet’s angel investors include executives and ex-operators from international fintech and B2C giants: Robinhood, Transferwise, Public.com, Canva and NZ Rich-Lister William Smale, with team experience spanning Xero, Pocket full, Thero, NetWealth, Pushpay and EzyVet/VetRadar.
“We are solving a very real problem for everyday, financially inexperienced people; and we’re excited for them to partner with us to build habits that will literally change their future. That is why we exist – to make investments sweeter,” said Soni.