UNest, a fintech startup that provides financial planning tools for parents saving on behalf of their children, announced today that it raised $26 million in Series B funding led by The Artemis Fund. Existing investor Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures participated alongside new investors including Franklin Templeton, Launchpad Capital, AltaIR Capital, OneWay Ventures, Unlock Venture Partners and Square co-founder Jim McKelvey. Franklin Templeton’s head of U.S. marketing, Jennifer Ball, will join UNest’s board.
The round brings UNest’s total funding from investors to $40 million. It plans to use the proceeds to launch new features, including UNest Legacy, which will allow parents to buy individual stocks and cryptocurrencies in the accounts they manage for their children.
Currently, UNest users, who are parents typically in the 30-35 age range, can only invest in ETFs through the platform. UNest Legacy is expected to launch in the second quarter of next year in response to user demand for more control over their holdings and access to crypto in particular, CEO and founder Ksenia Yudina told TechCrunch.
UNest plans to partner with Franklin Templeton to introduce ESG portfolios to its users early next year, Yudina said. The company’s expansion into providing individually managed account offerings and educational content about investing reflects a broader demand from investors to actively manage their holdings based on their personal goals and values.
The Series B news comes on the heels of a high-growth year for UNest. It registered as a broker-dealer, acquired two companies and added 300,000 users to its platform in 2021, bringing its total user count to 400,000. UNest plans to serve 1 million users by the end of next year, Yudina said.
Yudina said UNest is also evaluating long-term expansion opportunities in Europe as well as new B2B opportunities such as partnering with companies to offer UNest accounts as part of their benefits packages, a feature for which she said users have expressed strong demand.
Yudina, who has both a CFA and an MBA, started building the Los Angeles-based company in 2018 after working as a financial planner for high-net-worth clients. She was motivated to build a solution that would help families save to prevent taking on excessive debt, like she herself did to fund her own education.
UNest launched its core product, an app available on iOS and Android, in February 2020. The company originally offered tax-advantaged 529 college savings plans to parents, but now provides custodial accounts to its customers instead, which allow parents to save for a more flexible range of goals on behalf of their kids, Yudina said.
Yudina said the main hurdle for many parents to effectively save for their children’s expenses is a lack of awareness and financial literacy regarding the solutions available to them. That’s where she sees UNest making an impact through its user-friendly platform.
“It’s very simple. It takes only five minutes and no paperwork. [Another advantage we have is] branding and marketing, and the ability to make it social, involving friends and family,” Yudina said.