x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Bono’s VC firm to make first fintech investment

U2 singer's Rise Fund is to invest in Acorns Grow, which offers digital wealth management services

Irish U2 musician and philanthropist Bono, is the cofounder of the Rise Fund, a venture capital firm. Jacques Demarthon / AFP
Irish U2 musician and philanthropist Bono, is the cofounder of the Rise Fund, a venture capital firm. Jacques Demarthon / AFP

Financial technology startups are grabbing a greater share of capital from investors. Now Bono is getting in on the action.

The Rise Fund, a venture capital firm cofounded by the U2 lead singer, is making its first known bet on a fintech business by backing Acorns Grow, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified. Acorns offers a stock-investing app tailored to people with small amounts of disposable income.

A spokeswoman for Acorns declined to comment, and the Rise Fund didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bono helped start the Rise Fund last year with private equity firm TPG, raising $2 billion to focus on commercial projects capable of having a social or environmental impact. Bono isn’t the first celebrity to make a bet on Acorns. Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and basketball star Kevin Durant are also backers.

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Acorns is part of a growing list of startups offering digital wealth management services. Some 2.7 million people use the app to put spare cash into exchange-traded funds managed by Vanguard Group, BlackRock and others.

The Irvine, California-based startup has more than $500 million in assets under management, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The average account balance for each client is much lower than other digital wealth startups by design. Acorns clients have less than $500 on average compared with about $43,000 for Betterment.

Analysts have expressed scepticism about whether Acorns can ever become profitable managing such small amounts per customer. Venture capital backers have said Acorns could someday market higher-margin products to a large customer base. The startup has begun taking steps to do that. Late last year, it acquired Portland-based Vault, which lets customers automatically invest part of their paycheck into a retirement fund. Acorns has said it plans to use the technology to offer an individual retirement account.