Digital banking start-up Cogni joins the ranks of companies jumping on the crypto bandwagon. The mobile platform, founded in 2016 as part of the accelerator program of Barclays (which is operated by Techstars), was launched with the aim of offering personalized banking products adapted to the lifestyles of 18 to 35 year olds. , CEO and Founder Archie Ravishankar told TechCrunch.
Now, Cogni has raised a $23 million funding round led by Hanwha Asset Management and CaplinFO with a new mandate — bringing web2 and web3 services together on a single platform, Ravishankar said. Solana Ventures, FTX Ventures, Ship Capital, Thirty Five Ventures, ROK Capital, Bluewatch Ventures and Alsara Investment Group also participated in the fundraising.
The company last raised a $1.7 million seed round in November 2018 before its official launch, then raised a $5 million expansion round last year, according to Ravishankar.
“When we started, crypto wasn’t on our agenda because we really wanted to create a financial platform that fit people’s lifestyles. When crypto and blockchain became people’s way of life in 2021, that’s when we decided it was much more attractive to build on web3 than on web2,” Ravishankar said. .
The company currently offers basic banking services such as free deposit accounts to its customers through a borrowed banking charter, like many other neobanks including Chime. It also offers two lifestyle-focused products – discounted digital gift cards for popular brands such as Adidas and Sephora that it sources through an aggregator and a feature that calculates carbon emissions from a person based on their transactions. Ravishankar said the company serves “tens of thousands” of customers in the United States, although he declined to share a specific figure.
The first crypto-related product it plans to launch is a multi-chain wallet, which Ravishankar says will be released in about two to three months. The Cogni platform will also offer its users access to an exchange to trade their cryptocurrency through a partnership; Ravishankar said he had narrowed down the candidates for this offer to two major exchanges, but did not share which ones he was considering.
He noted that the company has yet to decide whether the wallet will be non-custodial, meaning users will hold and be able to access their own cryptocurrencies to transact directly. For reference, major crypto exchanges such as Coinbase offer both types of wallets, although Coinbase’s default product is a custodial wallet where users can trade crypto based on its price movements but cannot access directly to the currency they own.
Following the launch of the wallet, Cogni plans to offer a DeFi savings account on the Solana blockchain with the aim of offering higher returns than traditional savings accounts, a typical feature of DeFi products in their current state. Although the company has not officially chosen a partner for this product, it plans to work with its DeFi-focused strategic investor. ship’s capitalaccording to Ravishankar.
According to Ravishankar, Cogni’s pivot to web3 still fits with the company’s original goal of creating a bank that aims to capture the discretionary spending of younger consumers. Cogni will use its core banking services as an onboarding platform for customers and then build more “social and lifestyle services” related to crypto and web3 in the long run, he noted.
The neobank market and the area of web-based banking3 are highly competitive. Cogni’s pivot to web3 is likely an attempt to stand out among digital banking competitors, each offering their own interface and set of niche products tailored to specific demographics, while ultimately performing the same basic functions as traditional banks.
On the crypto side, there are many independent providers of DeFi savings accounts, standalone crypto exchanges, and custodial and non-custodial wallets in the market today. Ravishankar believes Cogni will be able to stand out by offering all of the above on a single platform that also offers traditional banking services. He also pointed to Cogni’s user-friendly interface and focus on customer service as potential advantages in this crowded field.
Most Americans are “looking for a plug-and-play solution from the legacy system to web3,” Ravishankar said. “They don’t want to download multiple apps or get to know the jargon,” he continued, explaining that a simple, easy-to-use solution would likely be more desirable for users.
Cogni now has 24 employees in New York and San Francisco, and eight more across Europe, according to Ravishankar. The company had about 18 employees when it increased its round in 2018, then downsized during the pandemic before returning to its current size, Ravishankar said. It is focused on hiring new hires with a background in web3, both in the product and engineering teams, and also strengthening its compliance team to prepare for new product launches, he said. added.