Kiwi fintech Sugar Wallet turns everyone into an investor in less than 5 minutes
Sugar Wallet is a New Zealand fintech co-founded by Devrath (Dev) Soni and Sophia Ritchie with a mission to make investing “ridiculously simple” for everyone.
“In APAC alone, 143 million people can afford to invest but still save mostly through their bank,” Soni said.
“One of the reasons for this is that the platforms are too complex and time-consuming for the average person with low financial literacy.”
The couple pitched the idea by talking to hundreds of people, including business owners, 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 four-person team has built a platform that helps new investors automatically invest a percentage of their salary into one of three easy investment funds in less than five minutes.
It’s a simple platform for newbie investors that feels familiar, safe, and easy, so they can finally get started.
The team has partnered with established fund managers to ensure their users have access to cutting-edge – but jargon-free asset classes like ETFs; Stop loss and APY.
“Our users tell us that before Sugar Wallet, they were just procrastinating to build good money habits, and signing up solved that problem,” Soni said.
Sugar Wallet has already seen “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 such as Sharesies and Spaceship.
Now Sugar Wallet has been selected to join the GD1 finance Phase One Incubator which aims to produce 10 Kiwi technology “unicorns” (aka “Kiwicorns”) by 2026.
“It is not enough to copy”
Dev is no stranger to small businesses getting bigger – having already grown his bespoke clothing store, Devonché, to sell the most bespoke suits in New Zealand in 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 tech startup was a whole new challenge requiring an unrequited focus on what Soni calls “problem finding.”
“I’ll never forget a last-minute conversation 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 mimicking a foreign app, but that afternoon, after hearing myself describe my high-level thinking, it all seemed very superficial. been essential in charting our course towards “uncovering the problems”.
It’s not enough to copy something that works well abroad, Soni realized
“If you’re in a regulated market, building on a market-by-market basis, like fintech – you need to understand the local market – the local sensitivities and the unique issues faced locally by your ideal target audience before you can think of scaling a global company and seeing if international audiences have the same problem,” he said.
“The time spent thinking about the difficult questions is essential.”
Since then, the duo have sought out mentors who repeatedly ask the tough questions; and can offer advice drawn from lived experience.
“There is a lot of wisdom available online, but founders need guidance on how to apply that wisdom to their particular startup. There is immense value in tapping into the experience of someone who has already walked this path,” Soni said.
“What Mahesh Muralidhar, CEO and Founder of Phase One Ventures, has created for early-stage startups is a step above the stereotypical “knowledge” type. The incubator mentors all have immense credibility and can provide real-world experience and advice that sees them challenge our naïve assumptions. Many of them have helped grow businesses from $0 to $1 billion in revenue – this expertise is rare in New Zealand.
Sugar Wallet’s angel investors include executives and former operators of international fintech and B2C giants: Robinhood, Transferwise, Public.com, Canva and wealthy New Zealander William Smale, with team experience spanning Xero , Full pocket, Thero, NetWealth, Pushpay and EzyVet/VetRadar.
“We are solving a very real problem for ordinary, financially inexperienced people; and we’re thrilled they’re partnering with us to create habits that will literally change their future. That’s why we exist – to make investing more enjoyable,” Soni said.