TrustEgg, the Y Combinator-backed startup which will allow anyone to set up a trust for their children without expensive legal fees or detailed financial know-how, is finally moving towards launch by opening up access to their beta list today. The startup, like many of those in the financial services space, has faced a number of regulatory hurdles which has caused slowdowns, as well as the loss of co-founder Gabe Krambs, who still advises and sits on the board but no longer participates in day-to-day activities. (He had to “get a real job” to pay the bills.)
That being said, TrustEgg’s founder, Jeff Brice, who has been obsessed with the idea of democratizing access to trust fund creation for seven years now, says that TrustEgg is ready to begin collecting sign-ups in order to make its public debut.
Although opening a beta list before a public launch isn’t anything new in Internet startup space, in TrustEgg’s case, it will be the determining factor in whether or not the service is actually ever allowed to launch. The beta list will demonstrate to potential investors (talks are ongoing) the traction dictated by consumer demand. But TrustEgg can’t post its regulatory requirements and receive its charter before it can prove it has commitments from investors. “The division of banking that we’re going through can’t offer any kind of endorsement or say that things are good to go, or then they would be liable,” explains Brice. “It’s something that we’ve called, ‘what comes first, the chicken or the TrustEgg?’” he jokes. While the regulatory battles aren’t entirely over yet, Brice says that from his end at least, it’s now time to build that beta list because he’s “pretty much ready to go.”
Brice’s background includes five years experience in banking and, notably, two years spent working at a trust company. He says he was first inspired to create TrustEgg seven years ago when his niece was born. “The whole family was in the hospital, and I saw her whole social savings network was right there,” he says. “I thought, this is the time we should be talking about her future, even though she’s only 30 minutes old.”
This idea later became TrustEgg, which is a simple to use online trust account designed to be set up in just 60 seconds. A parent signs up their child and can then send out a link to family or friends which would allow them to donate into the account whenever they wanted to going forward. The company will host its customers’ trust accounts in South Dakota, a state that’s more welcoming to this type of business, and these accounts will be mid-risk, mid-range funds from Vanguard with no minimum requirements. “We’re not trying to beat the market,” says Brice, “we’re just trying to get you into the market.”
In the U.S., which is where the company is based (Brice is moving to California this week), trusts are often associated with the affluent because they typically require weeks of setup and thousands in legal fees, both at the time of creation and then later on an annual basis. This is above the reach for most Americans, so parents tend to save for their children through more traditional means like savings accounts or they even tap into their checking accounts, 401Ks and IRAs, when need be.
In addition, Brice cites a couple of key competitors in the market TrustEgg is after: 529 plans, which are complicated and fragmented and “a mess,” says Brice, noting that some of the prepaid plans are even underwater right now. There’s also the Gerber plan, which counts on parents’ trust in the “Gerber” brand name. Gerber, which pairs term life insurance with a savings account, overcharges, Brice explains. You’d be better off doing it yourself, he advises, but parents don’t really know what else to do. Plus, there’s something to be said for ease-of-use, which none of these offer, but which TrustEgg aims to achieve, if all goes well.
Brice thinks that there will be demand for such a service, noting the success of the government-led trust plan in the U.K. He said when he first started working on TrustEgg, he didn’t even realize that the U.K. had this option, but after looking into it further, saw how incredibly successful it has been. “It’s probably the most successful finances services product ever,” says Brice. “In five years, it went from 1 in 5 families saving for their child’s future to 3 in 5.”
Now, the hope is that U.S. parents will want a similar option – except one that’s not offered via the government, but through TrustEgg’s financial services product. The product could be sold through banks in the future, too, says Brice. Interested users can now help push this product closer towards launch, by adding their names to the sign-up form here.